Groh Gone

Mediocrity: It Grohs on You
By Karen Blaha, reproduced under CC BY-SA license.

Al Groh is being paid $4.3M to please stop coaching UVA football, CBS-19 (among many others) reports. Just last night the university wrapped up a 3-9 season with a 42-13 loss to Virginia Tech, and Groh turns out to have wrapped up his nine-year career with UVA on the same night. This year was the team’s worst performance in his time here, although dissatisfaction him runs back a few years. Let the speculation about his replacement begin.

26 thoughts on “Groh Gone”

  1. That is the best news i have heard all day! I didn’t like the man. he was just arrogant. he didn’t win the big games. groh had a 1-8 record against Va tech. Groh Just had a choking mentality in the big games. I was telling friends that Groh should have been fired At THE END OF LAST SEASON. my question is What took The AD at UVA so Long to fire this man?

  2. $4.3 million. Could have been used instead to…

    * cover complete costs of 20 or so liver transplants at UVa Hospital

    * subsidize full annual tuition/board/expense cost for around 100 undergrads next year

    * reverse the $535K budget cuts imposed on the UVA Library this year with enough left over to cover 2/3 of the collections budget. Or buy 50,000 books. Or cover a year’s worth of salary benefits for about 65 Library employees.

    * [etc. etc. etc.]

    Yeah, I know. It’s *football*. It is extraordinarily important that the University of Virginia have a football team that is capable of beating the football team of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. It is extraordinarily important that the University of Virginia have a football team that will never again lose to the football team of Duke University. If I were a normal human being I would understand implicitly why this is.

    –Oh, and it’s going to be Chip Kelly from Oregon.

  3. VAF fully funds all sports without state/federal help, providing an education for many students that would not otherwise receive one. The hospital just needs to figure out a way to be fully self supporting without state/federal assistance. Really, does it take a brian surgeon to figure that out? Dont they have those?

  4. #1. I always wonder if those calling him arrogant (a) have ever met him, and if so (b) are members of the press. I’ve met him; he didn’t seem arrogant at all. Unless you were a member of the press or an overinvolved football fan who thought he could run the program better. Just my HO.

    #2. I don’t know what coach in America can win in the way that certain boosters want under the admissions & academic retention constraints Groh had to operate under. Those constraints are severe. I will be astounded if they can bring someone in who can operate under the same constraints as Groh but do significantly better than Groh.

    #3. Danpi is right; the 4.5 mil is not coming out of the UVa budget. That’s booster money. Those boosters might have the wrong priorities, but let’s be clear that those are not necessarily the university’s priorities.

  5. When I met him in person in 2005, I knew he needed to go then, and then he proved me right. FINALLY! Some of the worst personal chemistry I’ve ever experienced. He exudes arrogance and I’m not the only one who feels that way. He was so arrogant that he thought his system had to be used regardless of the talent he had to work with. What a jackleg!

  6. Whatever one might think of him, the reputation of the team has been nil, and that hurts at recruiting time. The real tragedy is that we continue to have Littlepage, who hasn’t made a good decision since he arrived, and now gets to err again…but we’ll see.

  7. “Littlepage, who hasn’t made a good decision since he arrived…”

    Spoken by someone who pays attention only to football and basketball.

  8. “Littlepage, who hasn’t made a good decision since he arrived…”

    Wow. I mean, WOW. For 2008-09 Virginia had the #8 Division 1 athletics program in the country. Littlepage hired and/or retained nearly all of those coaches.

    Littlepage did not hire Groh. Terry Holland and John Casteen did. Littlepage did not hire Leitao. John Casteen did.

    Speaking of Casteen, he’s also the genius responsible for the one thing that has hurt Virginia football above everything else: He’s the one (along with our beloved former governor and FORMER Wahoo, George “Macaca” Allen) who pushed hard as hell to get Virginia Tech into the ACC. That has killed Virgina football recruiting – all of a sudden high school football players have an in-state ACC choice: go to the college that will hold you accountable in academics, or the one that offers a Phys Ed major.

  9. Two questions:
    1. What exactly is it about UVA (besides the majors it offers) that make it so much harder, academically, for the players than any other school? I’ve posed this question on here before and been told that they have to maintain a higher GPA, but what exactly is that higher GPA? Do the UVA players come in with higher high school GPAs than the NCAA average, or ACC average, and if so, what is that GPA? SAT scores? People say UVA is harder; I’d like to see some numbers that back that up.

    On a side note, it’s always annoyed me that reporters (and by extension, sports fans) pay so little attention to the academic achievements of basketball and football players. I realize that exact GPAs and SAT scores probably aren’t released for confidentiality reasons, but dean’s lists, and high school honor rolls, are typically made public. Seems like it wouldn’t be hard to mention in a story “in addition to his high school football accomplishments, so and so was also listed on the Honor Roll for every semester since ninth grade.” I have to conclude that this information isn’t included because very few people besides me think it’s important.

    2. For the “Groh must go” crowd, what could Groh, or any other football coach, have done better to have resulted in a better record? I’ve never heard that he doesn’t work hard enough, so what will the new coaching staff need to do to improve the team’s outcomes?

  10. @Megan:

    I’m not sure that seeing numbers is going to prove anything about UVa. No one is going to show you the SAT scores and high school GPAs of incoming students, as individual scores or in an aggregate form.

    In my opinion, it’s precisely the thing that you want to set aside — the majors/curriculum at UVa — that creates the biggest challenge. There is no “easy” major at UVa — no matter what you choose, you are going to have to do some serious reading, write many long papers, be tested on complex and difficult material, etc. There’s no way around it. The faculty just aren’t going to create little end-runs around the difficult parts of the curriculum in any of the majors.

    Thus, with no easy major at UVa, it’s extraordinarily difficult for underprepared student-athletes who play one of the big-time sports (fb, men’s bb) to get through four years at UVa without suffering an academic suspension. If our admissions people are stricter than other schools when they consider admitting certain prospective student-athletes, it’s because our admissions people know what lies ahead, and if they don’t see what they consider to be evidence that a particular kid will be able to scrape by for four years, then they won’t admit the kid. That evidence might take the form of a certain GPA or SAT score, but admissions always looks at more than just numbers (and that’s in regards to all students, not just athletes).

    Re: your side note about academic accomplishments, you can find that information on the UVa sports website, in the player bios, if you want it. I suppose it’s true that sports reporters aren’t including this information when they report on a game, but then again they probably see their job as reporting on games.

  11. Thanks for the explanation, Cecil. I did not attend UVA and have always been given the generic explanation “UVA players have to get better grades” for why they were at a disadvantage recruiting and keeping top players. I thought maybe there was a specific “athletes must maintain a 2.5 GPA to be eligible to play” policy or something similar.

  12. @David Sewell
    I fully agree. It’s irrelevant to the big picture whether his paycheck comes from coffer 3 or treasury C, the point is UVA – and US society – has valued his services at that level.

  13. Megan, following up on Cecil’s answer is that UVA has higher requirements for its students to remain students than the NCAA does for athletes to remain athletes. The NCAA may require only a 1.8 GPA after two years of school and the declaration of a major, but many of the majors at UVA require a 2.5 or higher GPA. So while a second year athlete would meet NCAA requirements if they could declare a major, many departments at UVA won’t allow them to decelare a major, rendering them ineligible. In addition, UVA frequently requires more than the 24 credit hours annually that the NCAA requires. UVA’s College of Arts & Sciences requires students to graduate in four years (typically 120 credits), where the NCAA requires only 96 credits after four years.

  14. I agree with Big Al, Craig Littlepage is a great AD and we are very lucky to have him. Tennis, baseball, and many others have improved greatly under his watch. Tony Bennett is a great hire (He was the former NCAA coach of the year). Al Groh is not Littlepage’s fault. The money spent to retire Groh’s contract is frankly of no concern to anyone. It’s private money given by rich donors who want to get a a new coach and were willing and able to to do so. Anyone who thinks otherwise ought to remeber that it was private money and not tax dollars that built John Paul Jones Arena. It you didn’t donate and have enjoy this fanatastic place- a simple thanks you to those same donors will surfice.

    We are going to be a 2nd rate team as long as Frank Beamer is Tech’s coach. He will out recruit us and is program is one of the ACC’s best.

  15. UVA’s College of Arts & Sciences requires students to graduate in four years (typically 120 credits), where the NCAA requires only 96 credits after four years.

    Yes, but one does not need to graduate to play. Or to get your jersey retired and enjoy the adulation of fans.

    Anyone want to name that singular exception at UVa — a player who didn’t graduate yet had her / his jersey retired?

  16. Bloom, there’s a thing called progress-towards-degree, which you have to make in order to play. If you’re not making progress towards degree (i.e., taking enough credits to be on track to have 120 in four years), you go on academic suspension, and you can’t play.

    I’ll take a guess: Chris Long?

  17. After 3 years at Tech, Mike Vick had a total of 36 credits completed…

    My daughter had more than that after her first year.

  18. Cecil,

    Correct on both counts.

    1) Chris Long
    2) I’m totally familiar with the ins-and-outs of “this thing called progress towards degree” — including its abuses.

    I’ll also add that not all majors at UVa are considered equally challenging.

  19. Yeah, I seem to recall Long leaving school the spring of his senior year to work out in preparation for the NFL draft. I don’t really hold it against him.

    I would agree that not all majors at UVa are created equal(ly challenging). But I would assert that even the least challenging major at UVa is significantly more serious than one of the less challenging majors at, say, VT, or any of the other football-serious schools that our recruits might consider.

  20. Well I certainly hold it against him and anyone who advised him. He made a mockery of his scholarship and I think he should be required to repay those monies. Maybe it could go to a non-revenue-sports athlete who is serious about education.

  21. Ok, here’s my final offer. For only $227,000, I will agree to never coach the UVa football team in the first place. This is an extremely good deal. Not only did they pay Al Groh many times that sum to get lost, but I assure you that I would be an even worse coach than Al Groh was. Therefore I represent an even better value. I am a much worse coach who will cost far less to get rid of.

  22. “Maybe it could go to a non-revenue-sports athlete who is serious about education.” It is quite common for athletes to forego their last spring semester in favor of the pros. After their career is over, and sometimes during their careers, the finish school and go to graduate school. It’s a question, often times, of timing and financial incentives. It has nothing to do with being serious about education.

  23. I don’t seen an athletics scholarship (or any other kind of scholarship) as a contractual promise that the student will obtain a diploma. I see scholarships more in the line of opportunities; the student gets the opportunity to pursue a degree (in exchange for athletic labor, in the case of the athletics scholarship). Thus I don’t see the failure to obtain a diploma as a breach of contract, whether it’s an athletics scholarship or a merit-based scholarship.

  24. I’m sure everyone knows already, but on the off chance I’m not the last person to find out… the new UVa football coach is Mike London.

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