THE SPORTS DOCTOR- Grim season: Why Groh really must go
I almost didn't recognize Al Groh at his press conference this week. He was wearing a jacket and tie. He was also smiling. Get it while you can, Coach.
For several weeks I've been asking myself whether there is any need to invest in the 2009 Cavaliers. I've pored over the media guide, not just to find out how many Honor Society members there are on the team (not nearly enough), but to see if any hope lies amid the slick 208 pages. Everyday I've played "Where's U.Va.?" with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, making a game of finding their increasingly-well hidden references to Virginia.
I've studied the coaches, the recruits, and the depth charts. I've examined the ruddy cheeks and broad smiles of the support staff. I even took a moment to see if the girl with the fire baton (on page 48) had anything to share, and this is what I've found.
With five hours left to go in the auction, two tickets for UVA's season opener against William and Mary are now at $10. That's after two bids.
You may scoff- after all, it's just William and Mary, right, but there are no bites for two tickets to the game against TCU, though they start at $20. There are no bids for the Georgia Tech game, but the starting price is a steep $84. But when tickets for the November 7th game against Miami can't be given away for $27, I'd say I've found my answer.
There's really no need to break down UVA football this year. It's just not worth the time.
That may seem harsh, but rest assured it wasn't a decision I wanted to make. Faithful readers of this column know that as a sports fan, I am nothing if not eternally optimistic. What else can a Cubs and Cavs fan afford to be? But I'm also a realist, so while I hope for the best, I expect the worst.
It was the realization that I am not alone that really sealed the deal for me this season. At his latest press conference, for perhaps the first time in his storied career at UVA, Al Groh came within mere millimeters of telling the truth about his football program.
When faced with the question, "It seems earlier in your tenure you did not play many in-state teams... what went into the decision to start playing so many of these (in-state) teams again," though he buried his answer in a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, Groh said, "we thought that the best thing for all parties concerned."
He should have been ashamed to say it. While a preeminent institution of higher learning, William and Mary is a Division I-AA school (or whatever the NCAA is calling it now) and at best playing them should be a token gesture on UVA's part, not "the best thing." It should be, but it isn't. After years of humiliating losses and wasted talent, UVA no longer has the wherewithal to make a token gesture. In fact, UVA has become the recipient of the token gesture- the easy win, the homecoming opponent.
I'm not blaming the players. Through the years, good and bad players alike have been the victims of the same substandard coach. A coach who felt no compunction about answering (a week before the home opener, mind you), "I mean, I don't know. I don't know," when asked how his quarterbacks were progressing.
Al Groh can smile all he wants, but he can't deny that under his tutelage, the UVA football program is commands very little respect. According to most preseason polls, Virginia is picked to finish at the bottom of the ACC, and why not? U.Va. finished under .500 last season, with only Duke for company.
About this season, defensive end Nate Collins had this to say, "I feel like the last three years I've been here, they've been saying it's been a pivotal year and things like that, and I feel like it's no different."
He's got that right.
If there were even a germ of hope, just a ghostly sign of an upswing, wouldn't UVA's home opener be broadcast on something other AM radio this weekend? You might want to ask yourself that while Tech is playing Alabama on network television on Saturday night.