Thursday, December 4, 2008

al's not leaving after all. duh.

So, despite the rampant rumors of last night, Al Groh is, of course, staying on as head football coach. This really should come as no surprise, though likely a disappointment to the legion of Wahoos praying for Tommy Tuberville. Further denial of rumors excludes the BOV.

As I've said before, I think Al deserves one final year to prove himself. I also think these are pretty clearly the sunset years of the Al Groh era, as evidenced by Littlepage overruling him on the Peter Lalich issue and booting the starting quarterback off the team. However, it's really a shame that the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately attitude is bringing out such vitriol among the general population. Groh not being fired has saved me the effort of writing the Al Groh Era Retrospective post I had half saved-up, but a little reflection for perspective's sake is in order.

Groh is, by my humble estimation, the second-best coach UVA has ever had. OK, sure: guys like Art Guepe had pretty good records back in the day. Guepe coached UVA to a 47-17 record in seven seasons, but then again, his 1950 schedule included the following teams: George Washington, Washington & Lee, VMI, the Citadel, and William & Mary. Color me slightly unimpressed. Groh has kept UVA football afloat and clean and followed in the footsteps of a legend doing it. This is not easy. Back in October I had a Q&A with the Georgia Tech blog The LegacyX4, and in it I pointed out the following:

But I think his [Groh's] greatest contribution has been to keep expectations high. He hasn't always met them, but we could have been North Carolina. That used to be a program. Then Mack Brown left and Carl Torbush came in; it is hard to replace a coach that's been wildly successful and Torbush wasn't up to the task, and UNC's expectations dropped to the point where six years of John Bunting seemed perfectly acceptable. Groh hasn't let that happen, and it would have been easy to do so when replacing a near-legend like George Welsh. When he leaves, which I think will be soonish, he'll leave behind a quality program and a quality legacy, but a small aftertaste of unmet expectations. Which I think is healthy for the program.
Perhaps Groh's greatest fault has been failing to live up to the 16-9 ACC record he put together in three years between 2002-2004. Since then it's been three years of mediocrity and one splash of whoa-where'd-that-come-from. But say what you will about 5-7, 3-5 - Groh's worst record in his eight years - and believe me, I don't enjoy 5-7, 3-5, but 2-10, 1-7 sure doesn't sound like fun either. That's Bunting's worst year in Chapel Hill; Heel faithful had to put up with three more years of that guy after he did that. Or maybe they didn't mind. Which is why I say that the aftertaste of unmet expectations is a fine service to the long-term health of the program in and of itself.

So I beg, I plead, I beseech the Wahoo faithful: Do not be that fanbase. Al Groh is a good coach. Not a great coach. A good coach, and he's made some mistakes along the way. (Hiring his son as OC qualifies in that category.) But there are about 45 Holy Grail jobs of head coaching: maybe 13-15 colleges, and an NFL team. Groh gave up one of those most coveted positions to come to his alma mater, and since then he's worked his butt off and squeezed a lot of results out of some marginal talent. (I loved watching Marques Hagans, but I don't delude myself that he was well suited to play quarterback without a lot of really good coaching.) Groh is getting one more year. Which he deserves, and which no amount of "I'm not renewing my season tickets" is going to change. Let's spare him the pitchforks and torches and the message board flaming and let the guy do his job.

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