THE SPORTS DOCTOR- On second thought: Groh's going not a blessing after all

Two years ago, AD Littlepage gave this man a contract extension. Now, UVA boosters must spend $4.33 million to buy him out.

When I lay down to take a nap Sunday afternoon, I thought UVA had a football coach. When I woke up, I found out they didn't. Did I mention Sunday was my birthday? Happy birthday to me. That's what I thought at first, anyway. 

Call it what you like: a resignation, a dismissal, a firing, a $4.33 million buyout, a "not retained." The fact is that after many painful and humiliating years, Al Groh has exited Scott Stadium.

Frankly, I despaired of this day's ever coming. Despite having lost three of his last four seasons and four of his total nine, Groh seemed to live a charmed life in Charlottesville. From contract extensions to student body silence, he always got what he wanted– and the heartbreak just kept coming.

There's no point in rehashing the specifics of Groh's dismal career as the University's head coach– that would be too easy, and it's been done to death all week. Suffice to say that during his nine years at the helm, Groh managed to take a respectable football team and turn it into a national laughingstock. But as of Sunday, that's neither here nor there. For whatever reason, the University's boosters, president, trustees, and athletic department decided that the time had come to let Groh go.

Though no one– not even the least enthusiastic fan– could argue that the right decision had finally been made, after the initial sigh of relief, there's little joy to be had about UVA's decision. 

Al Groh certainly did not handle himself properly as Virginia's coach– from his sweatshirts to his recruitment standards, he showed very little respect for the University he claims to cherish so much. But he hardly could have planned for his time as head coach to turn out so pathetically. Seeing that he's officially gone, we all can spare a little pity for the man who couldn't even exit gracefully.

Now that I've laid out a dish of the milk of human kindness for Groh to sop up, let's move on to the real reason UVA's decision leaves fans far from gleeful: the coaching search. According to the Washington Post, Virginia's athletic director, Craig Littlepage, is not officially naming any possible replacements, but reportedly the University is interested in Richmond Coach Mike London, Temple Coach Al Golden, Boise State Coach Chris Petersen, Louisiana Tech Coach Derek Dooley (who played wide receiver at Virginia)– as well as several others. Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster's name did not come up on the Post's list; apparently UVA grasps neither his ability nor the value of wooing him away from Tech.

At first the list seems pretty good, doesn't it? There's no mention of an NFL ne'er-do-well, and Steve Kragthorpe's name has been scrupulously avoided, thank goodness. 

But let's be honest. Will anyone really be surprised if Craig Littlepage and company decide to cast their net in Jim Zorn's direction– or even, heaven forbid, at Charlie Weis? When Virginia made the decision to turn George Welsh's conference-leading Cavs into a nationally competitive football program, they also decided to heave a good chunk of common sense out the window. 

That's the real issue at stake here for the University of Virginia. Waiting this long to "not retain" Al Groh proves that the UVA bosses' sagacity is insufficient to ensure good decision making when it comes to picking a new head football coach and his staff. 

How can one really believe the University powers that be would hire Mike London? To do so would make too much sense. Let's face it; Craig Littlepage is no Norwood Teague, VCU's athletic director and a fine hand at hiring new coaches.  

No, it's unlikely that Virginia will hire Shaka Smart's football equivalent. My initial sigh of relief at Groh's going has quickly been replaced by the stomach-churning realization of what Cav fans are most likely in for. 

Happy birthday to me. 


Juanita Giles lives in Keysville where she makes videos and updates her Sports Doctor site.