Wednesday, October 1, 2008


BlogPoll is out. It is here. You should go read it, so you can say you knew it before it was all big and special and everyone jumped on the bandwagon and acted like they'd been there all this time.

Well. When you lose to Duke, people start wondering. When you lose by four touchdowns, and it's your slimmest loss margin all year, they go straight past "wondering" and right to WTFing. It sets off all kinds of historical fact-digging, like, Duke hadn't won an ACC game since 2005. Hadn't won a game by that much since 1998. Etc. etc.

Usually, the media is somewhat behind the fans when it comes to calling for the coach's job. This is no different - the Groh Must Go movement was sort of smoldering after 2006 but pretty much had its official coming out party after Wyoming last year, when Beta Bridge sported the message. The GMG proponents then laid low for the rest of the season, because long winning streaks make Fire The Coach guys look kinda dumb when they vocalize that message. But the movement is back, it has loads of new supporters, and it's now officially backed by the media. Paul Woody at the RTD writes what I'm pretty sure is the first real GMG article of the season. I don't necessarily disagree with the premise (the official FOV position, however, is brought to you by Eggo) but I crazy disagree with most of his reasons. Actually, he really only has two specific ones outside of "the team sucks and is getting worse", and these are: losing too many players to academics, and everything related to the Peter Lalich situation. Groh did not suspend Lalich, as Woody claims; it has all the appearances of an administration decision. Groh did not dismiss Lalich as Woody claims; it was definitely an administration decision, and Littlepage said so himself. (It's for this reason that I believe the GMG crowd has likely already got their wish and Littlepage is merely waiting for the opportune moment.)

As for the academic departures, much has been made of these, especially since we could really use a holy terror of a defensive end right now, and Jeffrey Fitzgerald was all set to be just that. I may not exactly know whether or not I want to see Groh fired, but I know this: Never, never, never blame the coach for the academic failures of his players. Woody's reasons for doing so are twofold. One, because he feels the team did not support the players enough in their academics, and two, for recruiting players who don't take their studies seriously in the first place. Listen. You want to keep any shred of standards and still field a competitive team, then you roll the dice every now and again. If you demand a Rhodes scholar before you send out the offer, you become Vanderbilt: a terrific school in far over its head in the SEC, doomed to bottom feed in the standings for all time. (This season notwithstanding.) And if you demand academic qualification at all costs, you become something far, far worse: Florida State.

What's nice to see is the team rallying around the coach, somewhat. At least, Marc Verica is. Verica steps only just a bit outside the typical realm of clichespeak, but any such foray is encouraging:

“It’s unfortunate to see,” Verica said. “I kind of wish people would have your back more, had your coach’s back because this program has done a lot of great things under coach Groh and for things just to be down at this point, to turn your back or to get down on someone, that’s not the right way to handle it.

“It’s easy to access blame and it’s easy to point fingers, but what I do know is that it’s hard to be accountable and to take ownership of things and Coach Groh does that. He is accountable to us; he is accountable to the coaches. He takes ownership of things and so do we.”

In this sense it is a good thing that these last two games have been on the road, because a 31-3 drubbing by Duke would have been received very poorly by 60,000 orange-clad partisans. One can only hope that at least the boos do not rain down on the team upon their entrance on Saturday night; these should be reserved for special occasions such as, "Hey, look, it's Mikey Groh on the big screen!" And, forgotten among the hype, is that "road" thing - we all knew beforehand this team historically plays poorly outside Charlottesville. This is traceable back to the coach too, but it's been balanced out by some terrific games at home.

So booing is not the answer, and fans, please don't. And don't be Mick from Bupkissville, who had a perfectly legitimate question for Groh's radio show, a question I'd love to know the answer to, but prefaced it with a giant Fuck You Coach and a You Suck Coach, causing Groh to ignore the query.

Groh's press conference yesterday betrayed little indication of the rising firestorm surrounding him; few to no questions (that were printed by UVA, anyway) came up about his status. The offensive line was brought up, as reporters tried to phrase questions in such a way as to get Groh to answer one that said "it sucks, doesn't it?" Groh suggests inexperience is a factor, and praises their pass-blocking. Indeed, the pass-blocking has been excellent. One sack per game is a very good number. This suggests to me that inexperience is not a factor at all. They have plenty of experience on the field; they could use some experience with the weight room, because they have yet to get any consistent push off the line of scrimmage.

Lastly, two notes of some import: One, Vic Hall may be replaced as the punt returner. He made terrible decisions in the Duke game, which led me to wonder what kind of decisions he'd make as a quarterback and if perhaps the coaches aren't right after all in playing him where athleticism is required and decision-making is not. Two, congratulations to basketballer Calvin Baker, who has earned himself at least one year of tuition-free attendance at the University.

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