Al Groh to Georgia Tech?

It appears that Georgia Tech has fired their defensive coordinator. One of the candidates to replace him: Al Groh. I don't like the sound of that one bit. For all his faults, Groh is a talented defensive coordinator, and he'd give us headaches were he to go to another ACC school. Particularly Georgia Tech, where they already feature an innovative offense.

No, I don't like this idea at all.

Al Groh's statement

Al Groh released a statement this evening, in the wake of his dismissal as UVa's head football coach. It's below the fold, if you're interested: I am privileged to have represented this fine University – a school from which my two sons and I have earned degrees. I hope I have represented it well.

I feel very fortunate. I am an ordinary guy who has been lucky to have been around some extraordinary players and coaches who put me in a position to enjoy many fulfilling games and seasons – and that’s the truth. I gave everything I had to the position and to each game.

I have coached Hall of Fame players, worked alongside Hall of Fame coaches, and coached in two Super Bowls, but my time as the Head Coach of the Virginia Cavaliers has been my most memorable coaching experience. What I will remember the most are the players’ faces in the locker room after some of the great wins we had over legendary programs like Penn State, Florida State, and Miami; rivals North Carolina and Maryland; and in bowl games. I sincerely appreciate the efforts of all the coaches and players who have been a part of our program – I am indebted to you. I hope the players feel that one of their most positive college experiences was playing for Al Groh.

My coaching philosophy and method of building teams has trust and teamwork as bedrocks. We were poised to solidify our position as a top team. Instead, as that trust and collaboration deteriorated, I could see this day coming. We arrived with a set of principles that we have tried to remain faithful to and we leave with those principles intact.

Change can make things better or worse. I have every confidence that this will be a positive change for the Groh family and I look forward to my next game.

To all the members of the Virginia football family: I love you and God bless you.

Al Groh

Al Groh removed as head coach

After all the speculation and discussion, it's over:

Craig Littlepage, University of Virginia director of athletics, today announced that Al Groh would not be retained as head football coach, effective immediately. Littlepage met with Groh, who just concluded his ninth season, earlier today to inform the coach of his decision.

“There is not a coach in the college game who has worked harder than Al Groh in trying to build a football program. Football is his life and he dedicated himself to the University and to our football team,” Littlepage said. “We are grateful for his service and for his commitment to his players and his coaching staff.”

Groh, a UVa alumnus, was named Virginia’s head coach on Dec. 30, 2000. His nine Virginia teams compiled an overall record of 59-53 and participated in five bowl games, winning three of them. Groh was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year in 2002 and 2007, and the American Football Coaches Association Regional Coach of the Year in 2004. The Cavaliers have had losing records three of the last four seasons and were 3-9 in 2009.

A national search for a new head coach will begin immediately. An assistant coaching staff will be assembled by the new head coach and it will be the choice of the new coach to determine if any current staff members are retained. Littlepage did not specify a time frame for concluding the search, taking into account the fact that many of the possible candidates will be involved in postseason play. Littlepage said that he would make no further comments until the search has been concluded.

“Our goals for the UVa football program will remain the same. We will pursue winning and excellence in all facets of the University experience for our student-athletes, both on the field and in the classroom. There are a number of excellent coaches whose backgrounds and styles align with our goals and values,” Littlepage said. “When you combine our aspirations with the institutional commitment to athletic facilities and resources, I believe that the job of head football coach at UVa will be attractive to some outstanding candidates.”

Groh has two years remaining on his contract. He and the University have come to a financial agreement, which is the responsibility of the athletics department, that will pay him approximately $4.33 million. The department does not receive any state funding.

So long, Coach Groh. Thank you for your dedication and hard work. I know you wanted UVa to be successful at football even more than we fans did.

Now let all the speculation, drama, gossip, and rumor-fueled discussion about the next coach begin....

Ready for more turkey?

I hope you all got lotsa turkey on Thanksgiving...but I hope you've saved room for more! Go Hoos! It's been a miserable year, but it can be somewhat redeemed by a victory against Virginia Tech today. We all know that it's Al Groh's final game as Cavalier head coach. Perhaps the team will come out fired up to send Groh away on a winning note against their biggest rivals.

I believe....

The most frustrating aspect of the Al Groh era

From the Washington Post:

But there is another measurement that, if not impressive to the general fan, resonates with those in a Virginia uniform. Sixty-five Cavaliers have gone onto the NFL after playing for Groh, including 22 selected in the NFL draft during the past five seasons. Groh produces NFL talent at a rate uncanny for a coach who has not had a 10-win season, much less a coach who might be unemployed in two weeks.

While watching this week's Steelers game, they cut in to show a highlight of Jason Snelling scoring a touchdown for the Atlanta Falcons (he had two on the day). Then they came back to the game, and Heath Miller caught a pass for a long gain.

My Hokie friends are constantly asking how Virginia can be so terrible at football when they have players drafted -- and drafted highly -- into the NFL every single year. There can really only be one answer to that question, unfortunately.

There is, and has been, talent in the program. It's gotta be the coaching (or lack thereof).

On Saturday's Games

The differences between the football and basketball program were stark yesterday. The football team lost yet again, this time to Clemson. They did, however, give us all something to cheer about...briefly:

For one half of Virginia's contest against Clemson, the Cavalier offense did everything that Al Groh is not necessarily known for: trick plays, unconventional formations, and overall outside-the-box thinking. Jameel Sewell, Mikell Simpson, and Vic Hall all took snaps under center. A very un-Groh-like, nothing-to-lose risk gave Virginia an improbable touchdown going into halftime and the team ranked 106th nationally in scoring offense and 118th in total offense had 21 points and 233 total yards.

Unfortunately, the defense stunk all day long. Then, after a few very interesting possessions where Virginia went away from the absurdly pathetic playcalling that has marked Al Groh's tenure, the offense went back to the same old nonsense in the second half. As a result, it was three plays and out on almost every possession, it seemed, and Virginia meekly succumbed to their 8th loss of the season.

The basketball team, on the other hand, gave us a lot to be optimistic about yesterday in a 76-55 win over Oral Roberts. Mike Scott and Mustapha Farrakhan had good games, and Assane Sene played fairly effectively in his first game since returning from suspension.

The defense has been getting better every single game, which is refreshing (after some very poor defensive teams we've been forced to endure over the last decade). It's going to take even more time for Coach Bennett to install his offense, but the Hoos are improving every game on that end of the floor as well.

Wins over Rider and Oral Roberts are not ordinarily reasons for enthusiasm. Most good programs take these wins for granted. We can't think like that yet. How the Hoos are winning these games can't be taken for granted, given the state of the program.

I don't know where the program will end up, but there's no question that Bennett has started in the right direction.

I can't explain it

Every time I see Al Groh on the sidelines (in crystal-clear HD today, for the first time this season), I feel sorry for the guy. Yeah, he ran this ship aground, but his time is almost up, and I just feel sorry for him. Would love to see the Hoos finish out Groh's tenure with a couple of big victories.

Let's talk hoops

In the interest of trying to forget about football entirely, let's talk hoops for a minute. I have a big stack of Virginia basketball links that I've been meaning to post (and I want to stay positive, so no discussion of the Assane Sene suspension), but I went out of town this weekend and am just now getting around to it. Before the link roundup, however, a note about my expectations for the 2009-2010 men's basketball squad. The Good Ol Blog is running a poll, asking for predictions on the number of ACC wins Tony Bennett's squad will reach this year. I voted for 7, which seems to be a popular selection.

Seven wins would be a great result in Coach Bennett's first season. The team is predicted to finish next to last, which I think is absurdly pessimistic. We don't have top-four talent on this roster, but there's enough there for Bennett to fashion a competitive squad. I think the Hoos are going to finish in the bottom half of the conference, but they will have at least one big ACC upset, and they will be blown out of very few games.

More than that, I think they will be fun to watch (something we can't say about the football team, unfortunately). They are going to scrap and claw and fight to the end of every game. It's their coach's disposition (ask his Washington State players), and I really believe his players are going to buy into it.

I'm very high on Tony Bennett, if you haven't noticed. (Take that with a grain of salt, however; I was high on Pete Gillen and Al Groh, too).

Anyway, on to the links:

--The poll above was prompted by Dear Old UVa's interview with John Gasaway, of the ever-popular Basketball Prospectus (here is part one of the interview, and here is part two). Gasaway predicts that Virginia will go 8-8 in the ACC. That, my friends, would be a spectacular success, as far as I'm concerned.

--The Daily Press had a couple of outstanding articles on Coach Bennett this weekend, and they are both worth a read. This one focuses on the fact that rebuilding is in Coach's blood, and this one is a collection of items about Bennett that didn't make it into the main story. There is a ton of great stuff in there for UVa hoops junkies. Like me.

--Looking back at one of our favorite Hoos ever, JR Reynolds (some great video at that link). Although it's looking increasingly unlikely, I'm still hopeful that JR will get a shot at the NBA sometime.

--Shifting over to women's basketball for a moment, Monica Wright's name is on the finalists list for the Senior CLASS award. That won't be the last time we hear "Monica Wright" and "award" in the same sentence.

--Finally, it's behind the subscription wall, but The Sabre has this interview with Jeff Jones, the key to UVa's season, in my opinion.

This simply isn't fun anymore

Over at The Sabre, Kris Wright has hit the nail on the head:

What do you say when there's nothing left to say?

Unimaginative and inept offense. Check. Average at best defense that can't stop the run, misses tackles, and looks worse as it gets worn down. You've heard that one. Inconsistent, can't block, teetering on the brink of disaster special teams. Covered.

Al Groh, Beta Bridge, last straws, and all that? No need to belabor that point. It's all over but the announcement....

I just want to watch Virginia football the next three weeks and have fun.

Indeed.

There is much, much more over there, so I encourage you to read the entire thing (It's a Sabre Edge feature, but if you aren't an Edge subscriber...well, why aren't you? It's worth every penny.)

Kris is right. UVa football used to be fun. The thrill is gone now.

On Al Groh

As we prepare for what is likely to be a massacre in south Florida today, Jerry Ratcliffe has a piece in the Daily Progress about Coach Groh that is worth a read. One paragraph in particular sums up my thinking about the end of the Groh era:

If Groh is released by Craig Littlepage and John Casteen later this month, then let the man leave with his dignity. He’s one of yours, you know. He wore the orange and blue, left the NFL to come back and attempted to carry on George Welsh’s success. He even sent a son here to play and help beat Florida State.

I'll be honest: I want Al Groh removed as head coach of the Virginia football program immediately. That said, however, I'm not comfortable with hammering the guy.

Al Groh is a Hoo. He has worked very hard to make UVa a football power. No, he was not successful and he's going to be removed as coach because of his failures. He has been prickly at times, and said some things that he shouldn't have. At the end of the day, he has earned his pink slip.

But the guy is a fellow alum, and he cares every bit as much as I do about the University. That should count for something, shouldn't it?

On the next football coach

I guess there's no guarantee that UVa will have a new football coach next season, and I'm not going to get drawn into an argument about whether Al Groh should return in 2010. Groh is an alum and a hard worker, and I kinda like the guy...even if he's sorta run the ship aground over the last nine years. But ... From Old Virginia has been looking at some potential candidates to take over the program. Nothing wrong with being prepared, right?

Right now, FOV is looking at Charlie Strong, Florida's defensive coordinator. It's good stuff, as usual; go check it out.

Anyway, my favorite options for the next coach have always been Cincinnati's Brian Kelly and Richmond's Mike London. I would be thrilled with either coach. After thinking more about Charlie Strong, however, I'm nearly convinced to rate him on the same level as Kelly and Richmond. Any of the three would be very strong choices to lead the UVa football program going forward.

Hoos lay an egg

Well, that was ugly. The offense looked terrible, just terrible. The defense ultimately wore down because they were on the field so much, thanks to UVa's patented "Three And Out" offense. It added up to a miserable afternoon for the Hoos.

Unfortunately, it wasn't miserable for as many fans as usual:

As the lead expanded into the fourth quarter, the already sparse crowd of 43,616 - a season-low and the worst attendance since 40,100 fans showed up in a 1999 game against Buffalo - began to file out. An announcement in the fourth quarter with UVa trailing 27-9 said that fans may leave due to sever weather in the area and use their ticket for re-entry, but few fans likely took advantage. Rather than watch Virginia unravel at game's end, the few students that remained on the grassy hill behind the UVa end zone instead slid down a man-made mudslide, to the biggest Virginia cheers of the fourth quarter.

Wow, tiny crowd. I watched the game on television, and didn't notice the crowd being so small. Then again, when Raycom broadcasts a game, there's a lot that we miss (Raycom is a joke).

I guess the fans are voting on Al Groh's program with their wallets. It's a bad situation, especially for the players, who deserve support.

I'm as much to blame as others who didn't show up. I was a long-time season ticket holder until this season. I didn't renew because it's a 4.5 hour drive each way for me (with two young children), and that's too difficult a trip to make only to watch a football program that seems unprepared too often.

Okay, time to get ready for Duke. Anyone else worried about that game?

Next question, please

From the Daily Press, under the headline, "So, Virginia fans, do you want Al Groh to win or lose?":

That brings me to the Commonwealth. Are Virginia fans thinking the same way about Al Groh?

Do they want him to win or lose?

Since the 0-3 start (including an embarrassing loss at home to I-AA William and Mary), the Cavaliers have pulled out wins over North Carolina, Indiana and Maryland (a heck of a win streak in basketball, not so much football).

On Saturday, the Cavaliers face No. 11 Georgia Tech, which just knocked Virginia Tech out of the national title picture last week.

A statement game. A chance for the Cavaliers to get above .500 and make some national noise. A chance to further improve their head coach’s still shaky job status.

Groh is 59-47 in nine years at his alma mater. That’s three losing seasons (including last year’s 5-7 record) and a 1-7 mark against the real football powerhouse in the state.

Now, how big is this game for Groh? Difficult to say. It wouldn’t be a bad loss at all, but it certainly would be a huge win.

So, Virginia fans: Do you want the Cavaliers to win or lose?

A legitimate question many fans, I’m sure, are asking.

Ummm...no, that isn't a legitimate question. I can't cheer for Virginia to lose, even if it will hasten Groh's departure.

Yes, I think replacing Groh would likely be a good thing for the football program. He is an alum, he is a hard worker, and Groh really cares about football at the University of Virginia, but he just isn't getting the job done, unfortunately.

Still, I'm a Hoo. I want them to win. Period.

One Simple Request for Al Groh

Please, for the love of all that is good and pure, no more quarterback draws this weekend. Please??!!?!?!?! Has that play worked a single time this season? Then why does Groh and company continue to run it in every single short yardage situation?

101 yard kickoff return for TD!

Virginia’s Marquis Weeks just returned a kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown to put the Wahoos up 28-7 over North Carolina. This is going to be a fun team to watch this year. Al Groh really has the program headed in the right direction.

UPDATE: 56-24, Final. Good work, Hoos.