After introduction at Boston College, Jeff Hafley rushes back to finish job at Ohio State

Bill Rabinowitz
Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley walks off the field after the Buckeyes’ 34-21 win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 10. [Adam Cairns]

Jeff Hafley said he did not intend to leave Ohio State so quickly.

The Buckeyes’ defensive co-coordinator, who is credited for much of the defensive improvement that has helped Ohio State qualify for the College Football Playoff, was introduced Monday morning as Boston College’s head coach.

“I never thought that I would leave Ryan after one season,” Hafley said, referring to Buckeyes coach Ryan Day. “Quite honestly, that’s not what I planned on doing, but when this one opened, it felt special and it felt right, and that’s why I’m here.”

But he wouldn’t stay at Chestnut Hill for long Monday. After answering questions at the press conference accompanied by athletic director Martin Jarmond, formerly at Ohio State, Hafley returned to Columbus.

“I wish I could stay here and begin right now, but I have to go win a national championship,” he said. “I owe it to Ohio State, to coach Day and to all the players, and I’m excited. So I’m going to do that.”

Hafley vowed to be back in time for Monday afternoon’s practice as the Buckeyes prepare for the CFP semifinals at the Fiesta Bowl against defending national champion Clemson.

“I am literally flying back and am going to run onto a field and coach a football practice,” Hafley said. “I might still be in my (business) suit doing so.”

Hafley came to Ohio State from the San Francisco 49ers, where he coached with Day. Hafley and Greg Mattison are the coordinators of a defense that has allowed only 12.5 points per game and yielded an average of just 247.6 yards. Last year, Ohio State gave up 25.5 points and 403.4 yards per game.

Hafley, 40, quickly made his mark with the Buckeyes with his passion, schematic expertise and ability to forge relationships quickly with his players.

Hafley isn’t the first Buckeyes coordinator to balance coaching with Ohio State during a playoff run while preparing to take over a different program. Tom Herman did it five years ago as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator before assuming head-coaching duties at Houston. He’s now the coach at Texas.

“Some people are asking me how I’m going to do it,” Hafley said. “I see it as a blessing. I get a chance to fulfill a dream and go work for a national championship. And at the same time, when I’m done working on that, I get a chance to work on being a head coach, putting together a staff in a place I really want to be.

“My wife might get mad at me because I might see her very much or talk to her very much, and I might not sleep. But I see it as a great opportunity, not a challenge, and I’m just really excited to be able to do both.”


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