Hire Mike London!

I haven't had much to say about the search for a football coach, and I'm not going to say much more now...except that I think UVa should hire Richmond head coach Mike London as soon as his season is over. That, of course, assumes that London wants to leave his alma mater for the Virginia job, but he's a member of the Virginia family, too. Recruiting-wise, he'd be a slam dunk. Of all the available names, he's the one that makes the most sense for this program, right now. (Of course, Cincinnati's Brian Kelly would be a slam dunk too, but I still feel he'll end up at Notre Dame.)

So, I'm on the record: hire Mike London!

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....

Don't sell your tickets to this guy

I didn't renew my season tickets this year, for various reasons. As a season ticket-holder, I was always dismayed at the number of people who sold their Scott Stadium tickets to Hokies. So remember...don't sell your tickets to this guy:

Hokie

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.

On Football Expectations

Boardhost has a great post over at the Good Ol Blog about tempering expectations for the next football coach. I couldn't agree more. The program is in pretty sad shape right now, and the job is going to be tough enough for the next coach without the fan base expecting a national title contender year-in and year-out.

More Love for Tony Bennett

USA Today has a very nice article about Tony Bennett and the Hoos today. The excitement for the basketball season is increasing daily, and there are two primary reasons for that. First, we have a new coach and a new start. Secondly, with the football program circling the drain, fans are ready to move on to something else. I did have a dream last night in which Virginia beat Boston College this weekend on the football field, 40-0. I'm afraid that's just a dream.

Anyway, while we're (still) on the topic of hoops, some of our friends from around the Wahoo blogosphere have been doing great work previewing the season. From Old Virginia is going player by player; here is part one and here is part two. Good stuff, as usual.

Then, Brian over at Streaking the Lawn has posted parts one and two of a three-part series previewing what he's calling "Bennett Ball." I like it.

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.

Sad. So Sad.

I saw a guy wearing a Duke Football t-shirt today. I couldn't even make fun of him. That makes me profoundly sad.

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?

Bring on Miami

Am I the only one who is more concerned than usual about this weekend's football game at Miami? Forget the fact that the program has cratered; even if Virginia were to play well, I have to believe that Miami will be out for revenge. Remember that 48-0 drubbing that the Hoos dealt them in Miami's last game in the Orange Bowl? That was just two years ago, although it seems like longer than that. Anyway, From Old Virginia has this preview of this weekend's game, and The Good Ol Blog has the injury report. It's appearing increasingly likely that Marc Verica will be starting at quarterback, since Jameel Sewell is having shoulder problems.

I'd say it's even money that Sewell's absence will make the offense work better.

Okay, after all that, it's time to smile now. Watch this video (tip of the cap to From Old Virginia):

Wanna review the Duke disaster?

No, I don't really want to re-live it either, but the Wahoo blogosphere has some good post-mortems: --From Old Virginia hates football. --Over at The Good Ol Blog, David has up his latest "Things I Can Surmise" post. Good stuff, as always. --The Great Blog of Virginia says UVa football has walked the green mile for 2009.

Y'know, there is some talent among these Virginia bloggers. Makes me wonder why I bother.

So anyway, yeah, all that is depressing, but there is reason for hope: only ten days until basketball season tips off!

If you had told me...

If you had told me fifteen years ago (when I was a second-year at U.Va.) that there would come a time when we'd lose to Duke and William & Mary in the same season, I absolutely would not have believed it. Sigh....