THE SPORTS DOCTOR- Gloom, despair: Littlepage to blame for UVA losses


My Daddy raised me on a diet of Hee-Haw and Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters. As an adult, I haven't found much use for Barbara, Louise, or Irlene (though "Sleeping Single in a Double Bed" is very catchy), but Hee-Haw's lessons endure: cleavage and cutoffs get the job done; don't stand with your back to a wood fence; and, for some people, there's only bad luck.

Remember that sketch? Every week it was the same: numerous drunken hillbillies sprawled around with jugs of moonshine and Beauregard the Wonder Dog, howling,

"Gloom, despair and agony on me-e!

Deep dark depression, excessive misery-y!

If it weren't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all!

Gloom, despair and agony on me-e-e!"

I wouldn't be surprised if Craig Littlepage had been humming that tune since Saturday. His basketball program is in the tank, he's millions behind on fundraising, and his football coach is incompetent and delusional. Who has better reason to lay around with Beauregard than UVA's athletic director?

Anybody with a lick of sense, that's who. Only one man could have averted UVA's pathetic yet well-deserved loss to William and Mary last Saturday, and it wasn't Al Groh. Most people agree Groh couldn't avert himself out of a paper bag– no, the man with whom the culpability lies better not be crying and moaning, because bad luck had nothing to do with Saturday's trainwreck, the 14-26 defeat by William & Mary.

It's time to quit speculating whether Al Groh will be fired and start asking when Craig Littlepage will hit the bricks.

You may think Groh is a good coach, citing his four consecutive winning seasons and his bowl game appearances. Or you might say he is terrible, focusing on his back-to-back losing seasons (the first in 27 years) and poor poll showings. Both views hold water, and that's why Littlepage needs to clean out his office as much as Groh. 

Either Groh is a good coach who refuses to give UVA his best, or he's an inept and dismal coach who's been lucky a few times. How either of those scenarios is acceptable to an athletic director, I can't figure, unless of course, Littlepage's capability is as questionable as Groh's. 

Take the Dave Leitao situation. After four years at UVA and two years after the ACC named him Coach of the Year, Leitao was out on his keister. The 2008-2009 basketball season had been the worst since '67-'68. To top it off, it was Littlepage's finest moment. Littlepage issued a statement in March that "improvements in football and men's basketball are a priority."  

And yet Groh stays, despite having lost 10 of his last 15 games, whining about being criticized, having a 5-7 record last year, and repeatedly recruiting academically ineligible players. As late as August, Littlepage was still staunchly behind him, saying in an interview with the Roanoke Times, "I fully support [Groh] as our coach... if you look at the totality of what he's done, he's certainly put together a good program." 

As this column is written, Littlepage has yet to state differently, despite the fact that as ESPN so eloquently noted, Saturday's game was "one of [UVA's] most embarrassing losses in recent history" and his head coach was insipid enough to say "it's just unfortunate that a few plays ruined the outcome for a lot of players."

"Unfortunate?" Again, Hee-Haw's lessons are timeless. Those hillbillies weren't unfortunate or unlucky; they were pathetic. Week to week, their situation never changed– they were always wretched and useless, and they always blamed their troubles on bad luck. Like Groh and Littlepage, they couldn't or wouldn't do what was needed to succeed.

Only UVA players and fans have a right to claim bad luck here. They have to take the lumps Littlepage and Groh keep handing out, though both men have proven their only consistency lies in their being inept in their respective positions. 

That calls for a little gloom and despair, don't you think?



What a well-thought out and on-point article.

Only problem is Littlebrain isn't going anywhere. They will NEVER get rid of him.

They will get rid of Groh. They will spend MILLIONS to make him go away a la Gillen and Leitao.

Littlebrain will remain untouched.

That's the way things work at UVa.

They love to treat the symptoms, not deal with the root cause.

They will not let Littlepage go because of the racism lawsuit the Board of Visitors will have to challenge and actually Jon Oliver has to take some responsibility in this since he tells Littlepage what to do up there anyway

Groh making 2 mil a year should produce a better product, fact is if it had not been for Chris Long in 2007 they would have had a losing record and that would make 3 straight losing seasons and that should do it at most schools and dont forget how many times they have beaten VT. Groh made a huge mistake allowing his son to be the OC that has put the program behind several years and recruiting Peter Laloch over Tyrod Taylor ?

Hillbillies pathetic? What is pathetic is you as a sports writer saying that you haven't found much use for the Mandrells. You are either ignorant or choose not to write about certain sports. Check out skeet, sporting clays, guns and ammo.

As much as I had to admit it, Craig Littlepage is a very ineffective Athletic Director. If the University cannot see that, than they will never right the ship called Revenue Sports. I agree that he needs to go. And since he has been allowed to stay around making these horrible decisions, the blame has to then rest on John Casteen. President Casteen has been a great president in many ways, but he has simply taken his eye off of the ball with regards to the Athletic Department. Thinking it was in good hands with Littlepage was a mistake. And if Littlepage stays on too much longer, the damage might be too much to reverse, at least in football.

Groh should have been fired years ago. I have been moaning about this for years that Groh in the past has done just enough to keep his job, but not enough to make Virginia good. Littlepage, however, has done a stellar job with everything but the revenue sports. Look up our record in pretty much every other sport. He has done an amazing job. Those of you so focused on football should also pay a little more attention to the other revenue sport. Tony Bennett is probably saving Littlepage's job right now. Virginia had the #11 recruiting class for 2010 before they landed another top 100 recruit this weekend. Littlepage needs to right the ship for football, but for now he's going nowhere, thanks to non-revenue and Tony Bennett's potential.

Hoo Fan is right about this. Littlepage made a great hire in Tony Bennett, and I believe that Casteen had more to do with the Leitao hire than Littlepage due to the Connecticut connection. Brian O'Connor was a tremendous hire by Littlepage as well. Now Littlepage needs to hire Turner Gill from Buffalo and make another great hire to right the ship!

No one in athletics has more integrity than Craig Littlepage.

The problems with UVa basketball and football may be bigger than Al Groh, Craig Littlepage, or John Casteen!

The Board of Visitors of UVa don't want to win. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars that boosters have spent on facilities in an attempt to win!

Still, in the meantime, it's time for a new football coach and a new athletic director, to at least put up the outer appearance that UVa wants to win in the sports that people pay attention to!

To win in football and basketball, UVa would REALLY have to spend big money. Scott Stadium is 40,000 seats smaller than the big schools UVa has to recruit against, Virginia Tech has an indoor football field, and UVa doesn't, the John Paul Jones arena, while nice, is 10,000 seats smaller than it would have to be to outrecruit schools like Kentucky and North Carolina, and to be competitive salary-wise, UVa would have to DOUBLE the salaries that it's head football and basketball coaches make.

So relatively speaking, compared to the big-time schools in college basketball, nothing has changed in 40 years in UVa football and basketball.