White: Groh Era Ends at UVa
Courtesy: VirginiaSports.com Release: 11/29/2009
By Jeff White
CHAROTTESVILLE -- Whether the official announcement comes Sunday or Monday, Al Groh's tenure as football coach at the University of Virginia is over.
As expected, UVa has decided to dismiss Groh, 65, who has two years left on his contract. He'll receive a buyout of about $4.3 million.
Groh is a 1967 graduate of the University, where he played football and lacrosse. He coached Virginia's freshman football team in 1970 and the varsity's defensive line in '71 and '72 before leaving to become an assistant at the University of North Carolina.
His ninth season as head coach at his alma mater ended Saturday at Scott Stadium, where Virginia Tech humbled UVa yet again. The Hokies outscored the Cavaliers 28-0 in the second half and won 42-13.
Virginia (2-6 ACC, 3-9 overall) closed the season with six straight defeats. UVa finished with its most losses since 1982 and its fewest victories since '86.
UVa's 61,500-seat stadium was nearly filled Saturday, but only because tens of thousands of Tech fans bought tickets to the regular-season finale.
Attendance plummeted at Scott Stadium this season after the opener, in which Virginia suffered a shocking loss to William and Mary.
By staying away, Wahoo fans made clear their unhappiness with Groh's leadership of a program that under his predecessor, George Welsh, usually ranked among the ACC's elite. Moreover, the vacant seats had a significant financial impact on the athletics department.
Groh, the ACC coach of the year in 2002 and '07, posted a 59-53 record at UVa. The 'Hoos finished with a losing record in three of his final four seasons.
In ACC play, the Cavaliers were 36-36 under Groh. They appeared in five postseason games, winning three: the Continental Tire Bowl in 2002 and '03 and the Music City Bowl in '05.
Had Groh fared better against his school's biggest rival, his tenure at UVa might have ended differently. But in nine games against Tech as Virginia's coach, Groh went 1-8, the lone victory coming in 2003 at Scott Stadium.
The Hokies outscored the Cavaliers 258-133 in those nine games. In Tech's eight wins, its average margin of victory was 17.4 points.
Groh's fortunes turned abruptly. In the days immediately following Virginia's 30-10 rout of Clemson on Oct. 7, 2004, his future in Charlottesville could not have looked brighter.
The Cavaliers, who had won nine games in 2002 and eight in '03, were 5-0 and ranked No. 6 nationally that fall when they traveled to Tallahassee, Fla., for a nationally televised showdown with No. 7 Florida State.
With an opportunity to make a positive statement to the college football world, UVa stumbled. FSU embarrassed the 'Hoos, 36-3, and Groh's program never seemed to fully recover from that setback.
Beginning with that loss, Virginia went 32-36 in its final 68 games under Groh.
"We made a pretty good go of it for a little while," Groh said Saturday night. "Unfortunately, we didn't have enough to finish it off."
He was referring to his team's performance against Virginia Tech. He could have been talking about his tenure at UVa.
Virginia needs a name you know, and it should get it
November 30, 2009
The University of Virginia should not lack for accomplished, intriguing, and yes, diverse candidates as it searches for a head football coach.
Within the Cavaliers family you have a reigning national champion, recent ACC kingpin and architect of a remarkable urban renewal.
Outside the circle are those who might find an academic power with first-rate facilities and top-10 ambitions appealing. Among them: the designer of the nation's most prolific offense, the 2006 national coach of the year and a service-academy big whistle with ACC and NFL experience.
But Virginia fans, administrators and their new coach need to acknowledge the bare truth: This is not a top-25, let alone a top-10, gig.
Can it be, given the right hire? Perhaps. But history is discouraging.
Since joining the ACC in 1954, the Cavaliers have cracked the Associated Press' final poll eight times. They've never been among the year-end top 10, and they've authored just one 10-win season.
Contrast that to Virginia's primary competition for the state's abundant football resources. Virginia Tech is a bowl victory shy of its sixth consecutive 10-win season and 11th in 15 years.
The Hokies are headed to a 17th straight bowl and could vault into the final top 10 for the fifth time in 11 years.
Now consider the Cavaliers' depressed state. Deposed coach/poet laureate Al Groh leaves a program reeling from three losing seasons in four years, lowlighted by the 3-9 carnage that concluded with Saturday's 42-13 home loss to Virginia Tech.
Virginia has ranked below 100th nationally in total offense each of the last four seasons. The Cavaliers have dropped two consecutive games to Duke and this year lost to a championship subdivision team, William and Mary, for the first time since 1986.
George Welsh bequeathed a far better product when he exited after the 2000 season. Yet that search produced Groh, an alum whose resume was checkered at best — one 9-7 year with the New York Jets; five losing seasons in six at Wake Forest; 11 years as a highly regarded NFL defensive assistant.
This search should yield better, in part because Groh hired and developed quality staff during his nine seasons in Charlottesville.
Richmond coach Mike London, a Bethel High graduate, served as Virginia's defensive coordinator under Groh. He guided the Spiders to last season's FCS national championship and has them back in the quarterfinals this year.
Al Golden also worked as Groh's defensive coordinator. This year, he coached Temple, a long dormant program in Philadelphia, to a 9-3 regular season, the Owls' first winning mark since 1990 and best since 1979.
Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe is a Virginia graduate, and in 2006 his Deacons claimed the ACC title. Moreover, Wake followed up with winning seasons in '07 and '08, the program's first such three-year run since 1946-48.
Given the school's academic standards, minimal resources and fractional enrollment — its student body of approximately 4,300 is one-fifth the size of Virginia's — Grobe rates a coaching savant.
None of those three is certain to covet the job, but if pitched wisely, we suspect they would.
Others figure to be more difficult sells, and through intermediaries, Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage likely has gauged their interest, or lack thereof. Those coaches include Air Force's Troy Calhoun, a Grobe protégé who worked at Wake Forest; Boise State's Chris Petersen, the 2006 Bear Bryant Coach of the Year; and Houston's Kevin Sumlin, whose Cougars lead the nation in scoring (44.9 points) and total offense (583.3 yards).
Notice the lack of assistant coaches. While Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster have sterling reputations — Foster interviewed with Virginia in late 2000 — the Cavaliers of 2009 should not gamble on someone without college head-coaching experience.
The program is too needy, the stakes too high.
Virginia will, and should, explore African-American candidates such as London and Sumlin. Littlepage and his top lieutenant, Jon Oliver, are black and well aware of how few minorities serve as bowl subdivision head coaches.
The number this season is seven among 120 programs. Miami's Randy Shannon is the lone major-conference black head coach and one of two in ACC annals — the other was Wake Forest's Jim Caldwell, now leading the undefeated Indianapolis Colts.
"When you combine our aspirations with the institutional commitment to athletic facilities and resources," Littlepage said in a statement Sunday, "I believe that the job … will be attractive to some outstanding candidates."
It only takes one.
Who's next coach up at Virginia?
With the University of Virginia expected to announce Al Groh's departure as football coach later today, here's a story that will run in tomorrow's Daily Press:
Tony Bennett never dawned on media and fans as a candidate prior to his stealth hiring as Virginia’s basketball coach in March. Al Groh in 2001 was a similarly unexpected choice as the Cavaliers’ football coach.
Conversely, Virginia’s other high-profile searches of the past 15 years, those that produced Pete Gillen and Dave Leitao to lead the basketball program, transpired predictably.
With that .500 batting average in mind, here are capsule biographies of 11 coaches likely to have been vetted by school officials as they commence formal hunting – the process began through back channels in September – for Groh’s replacement.
Feel free to suggest other candidates or rate these.
Position: University of Richmond head coach since 2008.
Record: 25-4 overall, 11-1 this season.
Previous: Virginia defensive coordinator; Houston Texans defensive line coach; Virginia defensive line assistant and recruiting coordinator; Boston College, Richmond and William and Mary defensive assistant.
Highlights: Richmond won the 2008 national championship in London’s rookie season, was ranked No. 1 for much of this season and won its opening-round playoff game Saturday; 1979 Bethel High and ’83 Richmond graduate; London played defensive back at Richmond and captained the Spiders in 1982; he majored in sociology and served as a Richmond police officer before returning to football.
Upside: London has ties to U.Va., the state and the fertile Hampton Roads recruiting turf. Players rave about his commitment to them as students and young men. He’s sure to get a serious look.
Downside: For all his early success at Richmond, London remains inexperienced as a head coach and has not run a bowl subdivision program.
Last word: “He relates to players well and he knows when it is time to talk to you as a human being, as a person, and when to talk to you as a football player. That’s why I think he is so good. He is a family guy, he is a man of faith, and he is a great guy off the field.” — former Virginia All-America defensive end Chris Long in Spiders’ media guide.
Position: Temple head coach since 2006.
Record: 18-18 overall, 9-3 this season.
Previous: Virginia defensive coordinator; Penn State linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator; Boston College linebackers coach; Virginia graduate assistant.
Highlights: After an 0-2 start this season that included a loss to championship subdivision Villanova, Temple won nine consecutive games to become bowl eligible for the first time since 1990; four Mid-American victories in 2007 were more than Owls ever won in Big East; Golden was a two-year starter at tight end for Penn State.
Upside: Temple is poised for its first bowl since 1979. Eight seasons at Virginia, three as graduate assistant and five as defensive coordinator, give Golden beaucoup institutional knowledge.
Downside: Penn State might be the job he really wants. Does one winning season at Temple an ACC coach make?
Last word: “If anybody can get it done at Temple, Al can get it done.” — Penn State coach Joe Paterno in Temple’s media guide.
Position: Wake Forest head coach since 2001.
Record: 33-33-1 in six years at Ohio; 59-51 at Wake, 5-7 this season.
Previous: Ohio head coach; Air Force linebackers coach; Marshall and Emory & Henry assistant.
Highlights: National and ACC coach of the year in 2006, when Wake Forest won its first league title since 1970; Mid-American Conference coach of year in 1996; Air Force played in seven bowls during his 11 seasons (1984-94) as an assistant; 1975 graduate of Virginia, where he played offensive line and linebacker.
Upside: Grobe has worked miracles at Wake Forest with far fewer resources than are available at Virginia. He knows how to recruit and coach true student-athletes.
Downside: Cavaliers would prefer a younger hire, and poaching a conference rival’s head coach can be dicey.
Last word: “Among fellow coaches, there was no doubt that Jim Grobe was a special coach. He didn’t need a season like (2006) to validate himself. To the media, yes. To fans, yes. To fellow coaches, no.” — ESPN analyst Lou Holtz in Wake’s media guide.
Position: Air Force head coach since 2007.
Record: 24-14 overall, 7-5 this season.
Previous: Houston Texans offensive coordinator; Denver Broncos assistant; Wake Forest and Ohio offensive coordinator; Ohio and Air Force assistant.
Highlights: Air Force this season will earn its third bowl invite in as many years under Calhoun; Falcons were 4-8 the season before he arrived, 9-4 in his debut, when he was named Mountain West Conference coach of the year; Wake Forest had winning records in both of his seasons as coordinator (2001 and ’02); a 1989 Air Force graduate and former Falcons quarterback.
Upside: Calhoun has NFL cred and is a protégé of Wake coach and Virginia alum Jim Grobe. The service academy route certainly worked when Virginia hired George Welsh from Navy.
Downside: Might Calhoun have better options, short- and long-term, than Virginia? Could he recruit well in-state?
Last word: “Troy’s knowledge of both sides of the ball and the game of football are tremendous. As a person, this guy is off the charts. You guys see what he’s doing at Air Force. I’m happy for him.” — Texans coach Gary Kubiak to Colorado Springs Gazette.
Position: Cincinnati head coach since 2006.
Record: 33-6 at Cincinnati, 11-0 this season; 19-16 in three seasons at Central Michigan; 118-35-2 in 13 seasons at Grand Valley State.
Previous: Head coach at Central Michigan and Grand Valley State; defensive coordinator and graduate assistant at Grand Valley State; Assumption College assistant.
Highlights: Kelly has led Cincinnati to new heights, including this year’s top-five ranking and last season’s Big East title and Orange Bowl; he coached Central Michigan to the 2006 Mid-American title and Grand Valley State to Division II national championships in 2002 and ’03.
Upside: Kelly has been wildly successful at every step and level. He’s a hot name nationally and would make a big splash.
Downside: Is Virginia willing/able to pay a coach who’s making $1.5 million a year and is contracted through 2013? Kelly may be aiming higher than U.Va.
Last word: “He can have the worst team in college football believing they’re the best team. That’s the kind of guy he is.” — former Bearcats running back Mike Daniels in the school’s media guide.
Position: Boise State head coach since 2006.
Record: 47-4 overall, 12-0 this season.
Previous: Boise State offensive coordinator; Oregon receivers coach; Portland State and Pittsburgh quarterbacks coach; Cal-Davis assistant.
Highlights: The Broncos are one victory shy of their third unbeaten regular season in Petersen’s four years, a run that includes a 13-0 mark, No. 5 national ranking and Fiesta Bowl upset of Oklahoma in his rookie year. Innovative offense is Petersen’s calling card, and Boise averaged 41.3 points in his five seasons as coordinator. He played quarterback at Division II Cal-Davis.
Upside: Petersen inherited a top-flight program and lifted it higher, and since Virginia’s second-in-command, Jon Oliver, is a Boise alum, rest assured Petersen is/was on the radar.
Downside: One season at Pitt (1992) is the extent of Petersen’s Eastern experience. Boise is arguably a better job than Virginia, and other suitors may be more attractive.
Last word: “Pete is one of the rare, unique coaches in the profession that could fight the temptation to move on to a BCS conference school and stay there a little bit longer than the rest of us did.” – former Boise coach Dirk Koetter to Yahoo! Sports.
Position: University of Houston head coach since 2008.
Record: 18-7 overall, 10-2 this season.
Previous: Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator; Oklahoma tight ends coach/special teams coordinator; Texas A&M assistant head coach/offensive coordinator; Purdue assistant head coach; Minnesota receivers and quarterbacks coach; receivers coach at Wyoming and Washington State.
Highlights: Houston has averaged more than 40 points, 400 passing yards and 550 total yards in both of Sumlin’s seasons. The Cougars, who play at East Carolina on Saturday in the Conference USA title contest, defeated two ranked opponents last year for the first time since 1984 and bested Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl. As an assistant Sumlin, a former Purdue linebacker, coached in six BCS games, five at Oklahoma, one at Purdue.
Upside: Some wonder if Sumlin is the next Urban Meyer, an innovative offensive strategist who will thrive at a BCS conference program.
Downside: Certainly a longshot, given his west-of-the-Mississippi roots. Moreover, he may be waiting on a Big 12 job.
Last word: “That’s the thing that impresses me most about Kevin: He’s not insecure. Kevin’s smart enough to realize, the better people he puts around him, the better chance he’s going to have for success.” – Houston linebackers coach Leon Burtnett to the Houston Chronicle.
Position: East Carolina head coach since 2005.
Record: 37-25 at ECU, 8-4 this season; 34-23 in five years at Connecticut.
Previous: South Carolina assistant head coach/quarterbacks; South Carolina offensive coordinator; Connecticut head coach; Notre Dame offensive coordinator and receivers coach; Colorado State receivers coach; Florida State graduate assistant.
Highlights: East Carolina is poised for its fourth consecutive bowl bid under Holtz entering this week’s Conference USA title game. The Pirates won CUSA last season and also upset Virginia Tech and West Virginia. Holtz guided UConn to the 1998 Division I-AA playoffs in his final season there.
Upside: Virginia needs rebuilding, and Holtz has done that in each of his head-coaching stops, with fewer resources than the Cavaliers enjoy.
Downside: Holtz’s time working for his father, Lou, at South Carolina did not end well.
Last word: “If he indicates he wants to interview with another institution, I will wrap both hands around his throat and throttle him until he agrees to coach at East Carolina for the rest of his life. Well, at least that is what I would do if I thought it would work.” – ECU athletic director Terry Holland in a statement last season when Holtz was linked to Syracuse’s vacancy.
Position: Louisiana Tech head coach since 2007 and athletic director since 2008.
Record: 16-20 overall, 3-8 this season.
Previous: Miami Dolphins tight ends coach; assistant coach at LSU, Southern Methodist and Georgia.
Highlights: Dooley guided Louisiana Tech to 8-5 season in 2008 and its first bowl victory since 1977; he’s the only bowl subdivision head coach also serving as athletic director; son of former Georgia coach Vince Dooley; 1990 Virginia graduate who walked on to football team as wide receiver and caught 41 passes in his career; 1994 Georgia Law School graduate.
Upside: Dooley is family and has the support of many former teammates. He’s recruited at the highest level and worked seven seasons under Nick Saban at LSU and with the Dolphins.
Downside: This is the worst of Dooley’s three Tech teams, and he’s never recruited in Virginia.
Last word: “I love our coach. He is educating the community and the Tech family about thinking big.” — Pro Football Hall of Famer and Louisiana Tech alum Terry Bradshaw in school’s media guide.
Position: Connecticut head coach since 1999.
Record: 63-65 overall, 6-5 this season.
Previous: Georgia Tech defensive coordinator; Jacksonville Jaguars defensive backs coach; Boston College secondary coach; various assistant positions at Syracuse, including recruiting coordinator.
Highlights: Edsall, the brother of former ACC basketball referee Duke Edsall, transitioned the Huskies from Division I-AA to I-A and has them poised for a fourth bowl appearance in six years. UConn went 9-4 in 2007 and rose to 13th in the BCS standings. Edsall was a backup quarterback at Syracuse.
Upside: The October murder of cornerback Jasper Howard revealed Edsall as an inspirational leader whose efforts peaked with a double-overtime victory at Notre Dame.
Downside: Edsall’s contract runs through 2012 and pays him an average of $1.5 million. Is Virginia willing to up the ante?
Last word: “In the past, you haven’t gone to Connecticut looking for first-round and second-round type talent, and now you do.” — New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick in UConn media guide.
Position: First season as University of Miami offensive coordinator.
Record: 121-59 in 16 seasons as head coach at Massachusetts, Brown and New Haven.
Previous: Philadelphia Eagles offensive assistant; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterbacks coach; Massachusetts, Brown and New Haven head coach; New Hampshire offensive coordinator; Arizona Wranglers (USFL) offensive assistant; Brown wide receivers coach; Union College offensive coordinator.
Highlights: Under Whipple, Miami has its most productive offense since 2002. He was Ben Roethlisberger’s position coach when the 2005 Steelers won the Super Bowl, and he guided UMass to the Division I-AA national championship in 1998. Whipple never had a losing season in four years at his alma mater, Brown, and his 1992 New Haven team averaged 50.5 points.
Upside: Whipple’s won with entertaining teams at every stop. His Ivy League and NFL pedigrees appeal to true student-athletes.
Downside: Whipple hasn’t been a head coach since 2003 and has no natural recruiting ties to the region.
Last word: “One of the cool things that I think personifies his style and system was that he was ultra confident, more towards being brash about establishing what he wanted to do and how he was going to do it. What I mean by that is he told us from the start we were going to be potent and hard to stop and kind of instilled that into us.” — former UMass quarterback Todd Bankhead to a Miami blogger.
Posted by David Teel
Groh dismissed as Virginia’s football coach
By Michael Phillips
Published: November 29, 2009
Updated: November 29, 2009
» 2 Comments | Post a Comment
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- When Al Groh took over as coach at Virginia, his mentor, Bill Parcells, came in and asked him a question -- did he care what other people thought of him?
Groh responded that in matters of ethics and doing the right thing, he cared, but with regard to football decisions, he did not.
"Good," Parcells said. "You might have a chance."
Throughout his nine-year run, the New York native did things his way. He changed the culture, changed the dress code and ran an NFL-style program that made five bowl games.
Ultimately that success could not be sustained. Groh's contract was terminated yesterday by U.Va. Director of Athletics Craig Littlepage with two years remaining. Groh will be paid the remainder of the $4.33 million he was owed -- money that was raised independently of any state funds.
As the news spread yesterday, players flocked to Groh's office, where he said his goodbyes all day. At one point the line stretched from his door down the hallway.
Littlepage called a meeting of players, announcing that coaches Bob Price and Anthony Poindexter would remain on staff during the transitional period. Poindexter will interact with the defense, and Price will oversee the offense and recruiting.
The AD also solicited input from players on what they would like to see in a new coach. In a statement released yesterday, he promised a "national search" that will begin immediately. He stressed that the new coach would help athletes excel both on the field and in the classroom.
"There are a number of excellent coaches whose backgrounds and styles align with our goals and values," he said. "I believe the job of head football coach at U.Va. will be attractive to some outstanding candidates."
He gave no timetable for the search but noted that many possible candidates continue to be involved in postseason play.
Groh released his own statement, e-mailing reporters from his university address.
"I feel very fortunate," he said. "I am an ordinary guy who has been lucky to have been around some extraordinary players and coaches who put me in a position to enjoy many fulfilling games and seasons -- and that's the truth. I gave everything I had to the position and to each game."
As he chatted with those in the building and fielded messages from former players scattered around the country, he wore an Alabama cap. His son Mike, who served as offensive coordinator at Virginia for three years, is a graduate assistant with the Crimson Tide. Groh noted that he had never been to a national championship game, so he was hoping that Alabama would win the SEC title Saturday so he could go to one.
Groh, 65, gave an interview to a Charlottesville TV station, saying he had no plans, and that while he was not informed of any decision about the team during the season, "You pretty much get a sense when people don't want you anymore."
He cited Jon Gruden and Mike Shanahan as coaches who enjoyed success but came under fire when it was unable to be sustained.
"My coaching philosophy and method of building teams has trust and teamwork and bedrocks," he said in the e-mail. "We were poised to solidify our position as a top team. Instead, as that trust and collaboration deteriorated, I could see this day coming."
A U.Va. grad, Groh worked to transform the program into an NFL-style organization under the model Parcells was using. He implemented a 3-4 defense, which is still extremely rare in the college game, and annually sent several players to the NFL draft, many of whom credit their success solely to him.
But it was the collegiate touches that often made him a target for criticism. He worked to get students to wear orange to games instead of the traditional shirt-and-tie look. He rarely made the rounds as a public speaker, instead choosing to spend that time in his office watching game-tape and preparing.
He only beat rival Virginia Tech once in nine tries, and he couldn't find a coordinator to produce a solid offense in the latter part of the decade.
Many of the senior players in particular stuck by Groh in the tumultuous final season, marked by rumors of a coaching change from the beginning. On Saturday, quarterback Jameel Sewell said that the game plans always were well-conceived and that the players regretted not being able to deliver more victories. Nate Collins echoed that thought when asked if the team had enough talent to win.
"There was more than enough talent this year," he said. "I just felt like we had a lot of distractions and things like that. But there's no excuse. I just feel like -- coaches don't win games, players win games."
For the younger players who hadn't grown accustomed to the coach's style, he could seem gruff and unapproachable. During the meeting yesterday with Littlepage, a handful volunteered that they'd like to see a more personable coach take the reins.
Sophomore wide receiver Jared Green said he was happy that Littlepage reached out.
"One thing I will say is that players were able to voice their concerns, and the criteria they would like to see in the process of picking a new coach," Green said. "Just things we feel we would benefit from."
Earlier in the day Littlepage had met with Groh to inform him of the decision. The coach had clearly anticipated the decision, reciting the poem "The Guy in the Glass" to players and reporters after Saturday's game against Virginia Tech as a final statement that he held to his core beliefs in running the program.
That method left an indelible mark on U.Va. football, and regardless of how fans view that mark, it's clear that to the end, the coach always did what he felt he had to do -- and he did it his way.
Groh not cut out to be college football coach
By Aaron McFarling
The past 24 hours have resembled an English literature class for many of us who follow Virginia football.
Rarely, if ever, have we gotten more out of a poem.
Al Groh's recitation of "The Guy in the Glass" in his postgame press conference Saturday sent us all to back to 10th grade, where we're told to interpret a piece, draw out the symbolism and discuss what it all means to us.
Here's one thing I gleaned from this homework assignment: The Cavaliers just got confirmation of Groh's fatal flaw, and that will be useful as they decide the next coach to lead this program.
Groh was fired Sunday. It's over, we knew it was coming, and (sadly) there's no more reason to poke fun at the Sultan of Circumstances as he exits Charlottesville with $4.33 million.
But athletic director Craig Littlepage would be foolish not to learn from this. He must seek a man who uses an approach contrary to the one Groh took for nine years at the helm -- the one encapsulated perfectly by the bizarre poetry reading.
"The Guy in the Glass," written by Dale Wimbrow in 1934, is a good piece with a noble message. Essentially, it argues that no matter what kind of successes or failures you encounter in life, the most important thing is to be able to look in the mirror and respect what you see.
One problem: This poem had absolutely zero to do with Groh's situation.
Nobody was assailing Groh's commitment, integrity, dependability or loyalty -- all attributes the coach said he saw when he gazed into the glass. We questioned his win-loss record, which was a lousy 3-9.
While it's nice to know that Groh has a high opinion of himself, the reality is this: Achieving success in college football requires going well beyond pleasing the guy in the glass.
Being a college football coach in 2009 is like serving as a host at a five-star Las Vegas casino: Your most important role is pleasing others.
You've got to please boosters and fans, whose money builds the facilities and pays the outrageous coaching salaries. That doesn't mean you have to value their opinion when you make decisions -- most times, you might be better off not listening -- but you have to at least make them THINK that you care what they're saying. You've got to shake hands, smile and schmooze even when you don't want to.
Disingenuous? Sure, but necessary. And if the guy in the glass doesn't like that, the guy in the glass should become a position coach and not a head man.
You've got to please recruits, whose talents fuel your victories. You've got to win the in-state battles for strength and speed. You've got to tell these youngsters that they're awesome. You've got to grovel before their parents.
Demeaning to a man three times the players' ages? Absolutely. But if the guy in the glass doesn't like that, the guy in the glass should coach in the NFL, where somebody else picks the players for him.
And ultimately, if you gain national relevance by succeeding at the first two steps, you've got to please voters. After all, two-thirds of the BCS still comes down to polls. That means you need to play an interesting style of football as well as an effective one.
Unfair? You bet. But if the guy in the glass doesn't like that, the guy in the glass should coach a sport with a playoff system.
The most celebrated college football coaches of today -- Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, Pete Carroll, Brian Kelly -- all bring a strong element of salesmanship to their positions. They know the game, but they also know how to peddle their programs to the masses.
Groh didn't. One of his favorite quotes was that his job was to "just coach the team." His unwillingness to move beyond that scope led to his undoing, even if that approach still pleased the guy in the glass.
In other words, if Groh had looked deeply into the mirror 10 years ago, honestly assessing his strengths and weaknesses, he would have realized that he was never cut out to be a successful college football coach.
Littlepage's job is to find somebody who is.
Virginia fires Groh
Connoisseurs of football coaching trivia might have suspected Saturday that the end of Al Groh's Virginia coaching tenure was near.
The poem that Groh read to his players and then to the media, "The Guy in the Glass," was the same poem that Groh mentor Bill Parcells read to his players upon his exit as New York Jets coach in 1999.
As soon as he stopped reading, Parcells stepped away without saying a word, just as Groh did Saturday following a 42-13 loss to Virginia Tech.
Less than 24 hours later, director of athletics Craig Littlepage informed Groh that he "would not be retained," according to a news release.
Groh, who compiled a 59-53 record in nine seasons as UVa head coach, had two years remaining on his contract and will receive a $4.33 million settlement.
"There was not a coach in the college game who has worked harder than Al Groh in trying to build a football program," Littlepage said in a statement distributed by UVa's office of sports media relations. "Football is his life and he dedicated himself to the university and to our football program."
Littlepage let it be known that he would not be taking any questions until a later date.
Groh, who turned 65 this summer, played football at Virginia and later served as an assistant at UVa, North Carolina, Air Force and Wake Forest before serving as Wake's head coach from 1980-86.
He later spent 12 seasons in the NFL, mostly as an assistant to Parcells. Indeed, Groh was the Jets' linebackers' coach in 1999 and was in the room when Parcells read "The Guy in the Glass," to his players.
Groh succeeded Parcells as the Jets' coach and frequently referred to Parcells during his Virginia tenure. They had matching desk plates with the mantra, "Just coach the team."
And, apparently, that's how it was till the end.
Fourth-year Liberty coach Danny Rocco was an assistant on Groh's first UVa staff in 2001 and was on the sidelines Saturday at Scott Stadium.
"I called Al on Wednesday night to wish him good luck," Rocco said. "I was thinking about asking him for some tickets or passes but I never got around to it.
"Then, the next day, there was an article in the local paper that left the impression that 'this thing's probably over,' not that I didn't know that. But, when I read the article, I just had the feeling of, 'Know what, I've got to be up there,' just out of respect for Coach Groh."
Rocco said the subject of Groh's job security was never addressed.
"We never, ever, ever went there," said Rocco, who also communicates regularly with other members of the UVa staff. "There was never a meeting [with the staff] to indicate it was anything but business as usual."
But, nobody was surprised by the move. Virginia (3-9, 2-6 ACC) ended the season with six straight losses and its first nine-loss season since 1982, when the Cavaliers were 2-9 in their first season under Groh's Hall-of-Fame predecessor, George Welsh.
When Virginia opened the season with three consecutive losses this year, there was talk that Groh might not last the season.
"I think they did the right thing in letting it play out," said Shawn Moore, a star quarterback at Virginia from 1988-1991 and an analyst on UVa's pre-game radio show. "It's unfortunate that we're in this state, but I think everyone who is affiliated with the program is excited about the future.
"This is a huge decision for Littlepage and I hope he gets it right. A lot of people were caught off guard with Tony Bennett [as men's basketball coach], but I think everyone's been pleased with that decision so far."
Bennett was hired to replace Dave Leitao, who was fired two years after being named ACC coach of the year. Groh's firing came two years after his selection as 2007 ACC football coach of the year, the second time he had been so honored.
In between meetings with players and assistant coaches, Groh referred to Leitao in a brief conversation about his desire to make a statement.
"I thought it was kind of strange last year with Leitao," Groh said. "He was here one day and gone the next, and he never had the opportunity to say anything.
"I think it would be strange if I didn't say something."
Three hours later, a six-paragraph statement from Groh appeared in reporters' in-boxes.
"I feel very fortunate," Groh said. "I am an ordinary guy who has been lucky to have been around some extraordinary players and coaches who put me in a position to enjoy many fulfilling games and seasons -- and that's the truth. I gave everything I had to the position and to each game.
"My coaching philosophy and method of building teams has trust and teamwork as bedrocks. We were poised to solidify our position as a top team. Instead, as that trust and collaboration deteriorated, I could see this day coming."
Groh was seen wearing a University of Alabama baseball-style cap in his office Sunday. His older son, Mike, is a graduate assistant for the Crimson Tide after serving as the Cavaliers' offensive coordinator from 2006-08.
"I had the same feeling as I did last year," UVa wide receiver Jared Green said. "Last year, we lost [three coaches]. You just got the feeling that some sort of change was going to occur, [but] I wasn't expecting it this fast."
It was clear that Groh's popularity with Virginia fans had waned. Attendance at 61,500-seat Scott Stadium had dropped into the low 40,000s until a crowd swelled by Virginia Tech fans pushed Saturday's total to 58,555.
Many believed that Groh's inability to persuade top in-state players to come to Virginia was his downfall.
"Today was no shock," said Fork Union coach John Shuman, who has had two sons make scholarship commitments to Tech, the second after the Cavaliers failed to make an offer to the first. "The record speaks for itself.
"I think [Hampton High School coach and Groh critic] Mike Smith is happy. I think a lot of people are happy. We're sad on one end because we've grown close to the coaches."
One of Groh's assistants, Latrell Scott, played and coached under Shuman. The staff was told that only recruiting coordinator Bob Price and secondary coach Anthony Poindexter, the longest-tenured coaches, would work during the transition to new coaches.
"The ones I really feel badly for are the other coaches and their families," television analyst Sonny Randle said. "He'll [Groh] clip coupons for a little while, then he'll move on to something for sure, maybe in the NFL."
Randle, also a UVa alumnus, was fired in 1975 after only two seasons as the Cavaliers' head coach.
"To be honest with you, I feel badly for Al," Randle said. "I was in that position before. Whenever you've been fired or they run you off, boy, it hurts big time. But, when you're an alumnus, it hurts even more."
WOODY COLUMN: U.Va. needs to be on the mark with next hire
By Staff Reports
Published: November 30, 2009
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RICHMOND, Va. -- The University of Virginia wasted no time in doing what needed to be done yesterday, relieving Al Groh of his duties as the Cavaliers' football coach.
The Cavaliers' program practically is in freefall. No one questions the players' desire, tenacity or determination. The coaching staff never gave up.
But the talent level has fallen to an embarrassingly low level, even by the mediocre standards of the ACC. Fans stay away from home games by the thousands.
Groh, who will forever be remembered for his recital of "The Guy in the Glass" poem following Saturday's loss to Virginia Tech, will receive $4.33 million in a contract buyout.
No one should take pleasure in a firing. Losing a job is a difficult, humbling experience. But everyone who gets fired should be so fortunate to have Groh's severance package.
As the press release announcing Groh's dismissal stated, the athletic department receives no state funds. While that is a relief for taxpayers, it also is a shame the cash reserves of the athletic department and the checkbooks of well-heeled boosters must be tapped to cover another of these egregious coaching contracts.
A "national" search for Groh's successor will begin immediately. Athletic Director Craig Littlepage, who did not hire Groh, must make the correct selection.
Three of Groh's past four seasons ended with losing records. Without the proper leadership and direction, the program will fall into a hopeless downward spiral.
The Virginia administration also has to avoid saddling the athletic department with another outrageous contract. A four-year deal, with an option for a fifth year, is reasonable. And even if the new coach wins the national championship in his first season -- OK, that's the ultimate in hyperbole -- the contract should not be reworked.
The new coach does not have to be a "Virginia" man. He does not have to be someone with head coaching experience. He does not have to come from a BCS school.
He has to be someone who puts fans in the seats, not by talking a good game, but by coaching a good game. Fans will fill Scott Stadium again if the Cavaliers are winning.
"There are a number of excellent coaches whose backgrounds and styles align with our goals andvalues," Littlepage said in the release announcing Groh's dismissal. "When you combine our aspirations with the institutional commitment to athletic facilities and resources, I believe that the job of head football coach at UVa. will be attractive to some outstanding candidates."
Virginia can have a consistent Top 25 program.
College football is not rocket science, and the ACC is not the SEC. Winning eight games each season, with occasional nine and 10-victory seasons thrown into the mix, is not an outrageous idea.
Virginia has everything in place for success. The campus is beautiful. The football facilities are excellent. The university is one of the best academic institutions in the nation. The best and brightest players in the country should be intrigued by the prospect of playing big-time college football while earning one of the most prestigious degrees in the country.
Some Virginia supporters argue that the school's admission and academic standards inhibit the recruiting and retention of gifted athletes who are not intellectually inclined.
That is nothing more than an excuse for losing.
Virginia makes exceptions in its entrance requirements for athletes, just as it does for writers, artists and others with exceptional talents.
If a football player who is an underachieving student occasionally has to go to go elsewhere, it does not mean the program is doomed.
And every university the size of Virginia has programs where academically-challenged athletes can earn a degree, provided they are diligent students and take advantage of the myriad support services available.
Virginia can be a success in football again.
Littlepage took the first step yesterday. There is no margin for error in the next step.
Virginia fires Groh
Coach receives $4.3 million buyout
By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 30, 2009
Al Groh was fired as Virginia's head football coach Sunday following his worst season in nine years coaching his alma mater. The dismissal marked a disappointing conclusion to a tenure that started with promise after Groh left the head coaching job with the New York Jets following the 2000 NFL season to steward the Cavaliers.
Virginia's 3-9 finish marked marked its second consecutive losing season and third in four years.
Virginia Athletic Director Craig Littlepage said a national search for Groh's replacement would begin immediately, and that he would not comment on the coaching search until it is completed.
Possible replacements include two former Groh assistants: Richmond Coach Mike London and Temple Coach Al Golden. Virginia reportedly also is interested in Boise State Coach Chris Petersen. Former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville's name also has come up in speculation, as have Louisiana Tech Coach Derek Dooley, who played wide receiver at Virginia from 1987 to 1990; Harvard Coach Tim Murphy and Air Force Coach Troy Calhoun.
Groh, 65, was twice named ACC coach of the year, in 2002 and 2007. He finished with a 59-53 record at Virginia and is the second-winningest coach in school history behind his predecessor, George Welsh. Groh, who had two years remaining on his contract, is owed approximately $4.33 million.
"I feel very fortunate," Groh said in a statement. "I am an ordinary guy who has been lucky to have been around some extraordinary players and coaches who put me in a position to enjoy many fulfilling games and seasons -- and that's the truth. I gave everything I had to the position and to each game."
After Saturday's 42-13 loss to rival Virginia Tech in what proved to be his final game coaching the Cavaliers, Groh read a version of the poem "The Man in the Glass" when asked about his future.
"When I visited the guy in the glass, I saw that he's a guy of commitment, of integrity, of dependability and accountability," Groh added. "He's loyal. His spirit is indomitable. And he is caring and loving. I'm sure I will always call the guy in the glass a friend."
Although questions about Groh's future have been rampant throughout the season, Littlepage reiterated that the football team would be evaluated at the end of the year. Littlepage had until Monday to roll over Groh's contract for an additional season, but informed Groh of his decision on Sunday.
When asked before the season about the perception that he was coaching for his job, Groh dismissed the notion and said "it's not about me. It's about the team." But the season has increasingly became about Groh ever since a humiliating season-opening loss to division I-AA William & Mary. Virginia opened 0-3 before a three-game winning streak to even its record. But the Cavaliers did not win another game, and it became apparent toward the latter portion of the season that change was forthcoming.
"I know a lot more about the situation than probably anybody," Groh said on Nov. 1 when asked about his future with the Cavaliers. "Maybe someday I'll say what that is."
As the losses mounted, fan unrest turned into apathy. Virginia drew 54,587 for its season opener at Scott Stadium, but attendance declined steadily thereafter before picking up in the last two games, including a sold-out season finale against Virginia Tech in which a large contingent of Hokies fans raised the attendance. Virginia's home games averaged 47,986 spectators this season, down from 53,815 in 2008 and 59,824 in 2007.
When Groh was hired in 2001, Virginia President John Casteen spoke of ambitions for a national championship. Groh installed his 3-4 defense and instilled an NFL mentality. The Cavaliers ascended to No. 6 in the Associated Press top 25 poll in 2004, and three of his first four recruiting classes were ranked among the nation's top 20 classes by Rivals.com, a recruiting Web site.
But the program began to regress in recent seasons after losing assistant coaches to head coaching jobs, missing a handful of key players to academic and disciplinary issues, and failing to sustain high-level recruiting, especially in-state. The offense has struggled since Groh named his son, Mike Groh, as its coordinator before the 2006 season. In three seasons, Mike Groh's offenses were never ranked better than 101st in the country.
Mike Groh, who stepped down last December, was replaced by former Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon as part of a staff shakeup. Brandon, whose spread offense proved ineffective and was abandoned early this season, could not fix the Cavaliers' offense, which finished ranked No. 118 out of 120 division I-A teams.
Virginia also has been overshadowed by in-state rival Virginia Tech since the Hokies joined the ACC in 2004. Groh finished 1-8 in head-to-head matchups against Virginia Tech and has perennially lost the in-state recruiting battle.
When Groh was hired before the 2001 season, 16 schools in Bowl Championship Series conferences had vacancies. That number is likely to be smaller this offseason, which could make the Cavaliers' opening more attractive.
"My coaching philosophy and method of building teams has trust and teamwork as bedrocks. We were poised to solidify our position as a top team," Groh said in his statement. " Instead, as that trust and collaboration deteriorated, I could see this day coming. We arrived with a set of principles that we have tried to remain faithful to and we leave with those principles intact.
"Change can make things better or worse. I have every confidence that this will be a positive change for the Groh family and I look forward to my next game."
Fat Groh contract big error by U.Va.
November 30, 2009
Now that Virginia officially is in the market for a football coach, it seems fitting to recognize the man who ultimately set the wheels in motion and compromised the program. John Casteen, take a bow.
The university's esteemed president signed off on the inexplicable contract extension that doubled Al Groh's salary and sent the message that Virginia intended to play big boy college football.
Four years, and three losing seasons, later, the Cavaliers dismissed Groh. He receives a $4.33 million parting gift and probably was retained a year too long — again, products of the contract extension he was given in August 2005.
Granted, Groh wasn't going to be twice as good a coach when he made twice as much money. And it's absurd to suggest that he pulled his punches waiting to become part of college coaching's high-rent district.
Put another way, Groh was the same guy when he was making $2 million per year as when he made half that.
Somewhere along the way, however, Virginia officials decided that a few third-tier bowl appearances and a handful of NFL draft choices merited a salary bump commensurate with national-title contenders.
That's on Casteen and athletic director Craig Littlepage.
Did they honestly believe that a coach who was 30-21 at the time and just four games above .500 in a mediocre BCS conference — a league that, by the way, had just upgraded with the additions of Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College — was poised to elevate the program?
Did they really think that they had to overpay to retain a 61-year-old Virginia alum who wasn't looking to leave and who no one was pursuing?
Maybe it was an inflated sense of self-worth. Maybe it was an extension of an economy in which all property was overvalued.
As Virginia officials learned, market corrections are a bear.
Intended or not, Groh's contract extension always emitted a vibe that it was at least as much about the next coach as the current one.
When the inevitable departure occurred, forced or voluntary, Virginia wanted to be able to show the next batch of candidates that it was serious about football, that the school would pay for top-shelf talent and wouldn't lowball Groh's successor.
All well and good. Problems arise, though, when the split is messy and the contract is both lengthy and pricey.
Name the programs where a head coach served to the end of his contract and then turned over a quality, ready-to-win product to the next guy. Go ahead. We'll wait.
Point being that it rarely happens. If Casteen and Littlepage thought that Virginia would buck that trend, it was more naïve than you'd like from the men at the top of the organizational pyramid.
After four years, they also knew what they were getting with Groh: a principled fellow and a sharp football mind, to be sure, but one who was publicly imperious and didn't exactly elicit warm fuzzies from the faithful.
Winning overshadows a lot of shortcomings. Like it or not, appropriate or not, connecting with people outside the locker room matters in today's college football climate — particularly when a program doesn't contend for BCS bowls every year.
The Groh era would have ended with four consecutive losing seasons, if not for a phenomenal run of good fortune in 2007, when the Cavaliers won five games by one or two points.
Following the 2008 season, Groh only reluctantly made staff changes in hopes of upgrading an anemic offense, and perhaps saving his job.
If Littlepage and Casteen thought that staff moves made under duress would magically reverse program results, that doesn't speak well of their ability to read their personnel or the landscape.
If they retained Groh for one more year simply because he was too expensive to fire, or for other equally calculated reasons, that doesn't jibe with the athletic department's stated goal of competing for championships in all sports.
Again, not exactly inspirational leadership.
The last paragraph of Virginia's statement about Groh's dismissal is telling and almost amusing. It mentions the terms of his contract and that the athletic department is solely on the hook for the $4.33 million settlement. It concludes with the sentence: "The department does not receive any state funding."
It reads a little like: No biology professors were harmed in the making of this contract, and Christmas Club donations are welcome.
Much will be expected of Virginia's next football coach. Have the men in charge been held to an equally high standard?
All but two assistants also relieved of duties
By Jay Jenkins
Published: November 30, 2009
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The clock is ticking.
Before Virginia coach Al Groh was allowed to meet with his assistant coaches on Sunday, the school announced that the coach was fired.
He was not alone.
Virginia also fired offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon, special teams coordinator Ron Prince, offensive line coach Dave Borbely, running backs coach Wayne Lineburg, wide receivers coach Latrell Scott, linebackers coach Bob Trott and defensive line coach Chad Wilt.
All were told that they had 48 hours to remove their belongings from the McCue Center, sources confirmed.
It left secondary coach Anthony Poindexter, a six-year coach at UVa, and recruiting coordinator Bob Price as the only coaches under contract.
That all came Groh was terminated on Sunday following the Cavaliers’ 3-9 season, one that ended with a 42-13 loss to in-state rival Virginia Tech.
In odd fashion, the graduate assistants were also fired, individuals that were not funded fully during the most recent season, sources said.
At least one former player can relate to what will transpire for the returning players.
“I played under coach George Welsh, so the coaching change is something I went through,” said former fullback Brandon Isaiah. “When he retired it was a crazy thing. It is a hard thing because you never know what to expect as a player during that process.
“I know the feeling and it will be a tough time for those players that are coming back. When a coach leaves you start wondering, and it will drive you crazy.”
After sending out a mass text Sunday afternoon, Virginia officials informed the returning players of the team that a meeting loomed at 4 p.m.
At that time, athletic director Craig Littlepage and associate athletic director Jon Oliver addressed the players and answered questions.
Groh was not present, having vacated the McCue Center previously.
While most Cavaliers knew it was coming, the grueling episode lasted around 45 minutes and left more questions than answers.
Just spoke to Al Groh - Doug Doughty | Roanoke Times
When I called Al Groh on his cellphone several minutes ago, I expected his voice mail to pick up.
Instead, Groh, himself, picked up on the second or third ring. He said he was meeting with assistant coaches and players but hoped to have a statement later in the day regarding his dismissal after nine seasons as Virginia football coach.
"I think I've had my say," said Groh, referring to "Guy in the Glass," the poem he read to his players and the media following a 42-13 loss to Virginia Tech on Saturday.
"But, I thought it was kind of strange last year with [Dave] Leitao. He was here one day and gone the next, and he never had the opportunity to say anything.
"I think it would be strange if I didn't say something. Hopefully, I can get together with [sports information director] Jim Daves and we can do this one time."
Groh said he would be reluctant to have a teleconference.
Statement from Al Groh
Nov 29, 2009
I am privileged to have represented this fine University – a school from which my two sons and I have earned degrees. I hope I have represented it well.
I feel very fortunate. I am an ordinary guy who has been lucky to have been around some extraordinary players and coaches who put me in a position to enjoy many fulfilling games and seasons – and that’s the truth. I gave everything I had to the position and to each game.
I have coached Hall of Fame players, worked alongside Hall of Fame coaches, and coached in two Super Bowls, but my time as the Head Coach of the Virginia Cavaliers has been my most memorable coaching experience. What I will remember the most are the players’ faces in the locker room after some of the great wins we had over legendary programs like Penn State, Florida State, and Miami; rivals North Carolina and Maryland; and in bowl games. I sincerely appreciate the efforts of all the coaches and players who have been a part of our program – I am indebted to you. I hope the players feel that one of their most positive college experiences was playing for Al Groh.
My coaching philosophy and method of building teams has trust and teamwork as bedrocks. We were poised to solidify our position as a top team. Instead, as that trust and collaboration deteriorated, I could see this day coming. We arrived with a set of principles that we have tried to remain faithful to and we leave with those principles intact.
Change can make things better or worse. I have every confidence that this will be a positive change for the Groh family and I look forward to my next game.
To all the members of the Virginia football family: I love you and God bless you.
Jared Green reacts to Groh’s firing
Nov 29, 2009
Come back at 7 p.m. for reaction from U.Va. players, updated live as they discuss Al Groh’s departure as head coach. Refresh for updated info.
Looks like the call has just one participant tonight, Jared Green. His thoughts:
The meeting (today’s team meeting) was needed. It was good because we got together as a family, and the praise — we all got to express our different feelings towards what was going on and where we’d like to move in the future.
Littlepage ran the meeting. Groh wasn’t there. Coach price is going to be doing some of the recruiting, and coach Dex will stay.
One thing I will say is that players were able to voice their concerns and the criteria they would like to see in the process of picking a new coach. Just things we would benefit from a new head coach.
His (Groh’s) office was open, I guess it was an opportunity for some players to go into his office and chat with him. Line from Al’s office to concourse area. I guess players got to say whatever was on their heart.
I’ve only talked to receivers today outside of that meeting. Dontrelle, Kris and Matt Snyder. So year, we are a tight group. I’m tight with the receivers and I believe we’re going to be increasingly just a more and more polished group and contribute more and more next year.
White: 'Hoos One Win from College Cup
Courtesy: VirginiaSports.com Release: 11/29/2009
By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- The Streak is at 1,017 minutes, 34 seconds and counting.
Is it any wonder UVa is headed to the NCAA men's soccer quarterfinals?
The second-seeded Cavaliers have not allowed a goal since Oct. 17, when they whipped Virginia Tech 3-1 in Blacksburg. They scored only once Sunday afternoon, in the 46th minute, but that was enough to eliminate Portland at Klöckner Stadium in the NCAA tournament's third round.
UVa junior Diego Restrepo has been in goal for all 61,054 of those scoreless seconds.
"It's nice," he said. "I don't want it to end."
Next to test ACC champion Virginia's impenetrable defense will be Maryland. The Wahoos (16-3-3) host the defending NCAA champion Terrapins (15-5-2) at 7 p.m. Friday, with the winner advancing to the College Cup.
These ACC rivals already have met twice this season. They played to a scoreless tie Oct. 31 in College Park. Then, at the ACC tournament, UVa edged Maryland 1-0 on Nov. 11 in Cary, N.C.
"We're playing for one game to be in the College Cup," George Gelnovatch said. "At this point, when you get to the quarterfinals, you're getting a good team. There's no one sneaking through to the quarterfinals.
"We have a lot of respect for Maryland, and we're looking forward to having them at our place Friday."
This is Gelnovatch's 14th season as head coach, and he's guided the 'Hoos to the final four twice. This is the seventh time UVa has reached the NCAA quarterfinals under Gelnovatch.
"The College Cup is what sometimes you're measured by," he said Sunday. "Fortunately we're at home, we know our opponent very well -- as they do us -- and we have a week to get ready, as opposed to a day at the ACC tournament. So that'll be good."
Virginia opened the season Sept. 4 with a 3-0 win over Portland in Oregon. The rematch, played in unseasonably warm weather before a crowd of 3,389, was much tighter.
An offsides call nullified an apparent goal by UVa's Neil Barlow in the first half. Early in the second, however, sophomore Tony Tchani passed ahead to classmate Shawn Barry on the right flank.
Here's redshirt freshman Ari Dimas on what happened next:
"Shawn Barry made a run up the right flank and played a great ball across the face of the goal," Dimas said. "I was making a run to the far post and didn't have much of an angle, so I was just trying to direct it on to the frame. Luckily the keeper was sliding to his right, and his momentum carried him, and I got the ball to the [goalie's] left."
The ball, seemingly in slow motion, rolled across the line to give Dimas the first goal of his college career.
"In the locker room [at halftime] we talked about coming out hard, not letting them get the ball, coming out with lots of intensity and passion," Dimas said, "and we wanted to get the first goal early to kind of take them out of the game."
The goal had the opposite effect on the Pilots (12-6-5). Portland, with the wind at its back, dominated most of the final 45 minutes. The Pilots outshot UVa 10-4 in the second half, and they had seven corner kicks to only two for Gelnovatch's club.
"The first half we had the wind, and that's why I thought we were attacking better," said Restrepo, a transfer from the University of South Florida. "But in the second half, as you could tell, they started being more direct, so the wind was helping them a lot. And the sun was brutal out there when they were playing long balls, because you couldn't see."
Gelnovatch said: "The second half with the wind, they became very direct, and to their credit they were very good at it, just putting balls in behind us that carried into the wind, that had us twisting and turning and were tough to deal with."
Fortunately for the Cavaliers, they had Restrepo in goal. In recording his 14th shutout of the season, he finished with six saves. They weren't all routine as UVa's unbeaten streak reached 13 games.
"You ask for one of those in a big game," Gelnovatch said, "one of those big saves that keep you winning ... We got two big plays [from Restrepo] today."
It's been ages since Virginia surrendered a goal. Does Gelnovatch worry about how his players will respond should an opponent score again?
"I've thought about it a lot," he said. "What if you go down a goal, and do you talk to your team about it beforehand?
"But the thing is, we've been there. [Early in] the season we were down a goal at Washington, on the road, and we were down a goal at Virginia Tech, which is a really tough place to play."
UVa won both games.
"We're young," Gelnovatch said, "but I've still got enough older guys on the field, including Diego, that if we get scored on -- I hope we don't -- we'll be fine."
Cavaliers advance to NCAA quarterfinals
By Whitey Reid
Published: November 30, 2009
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Just like in playoff hockey, a red-hot goalie can make all the difference come NCAA tournament time in college soccer.
On a picturesque Sunday afternoon at Klockner Stadium, in front of a crowd of 2,279, Virginia net-minder Diego Restrepo proved that in spades.
UVa, thanks to several outstanding saves by Restrepo, defeated Portland, 1-0, to advance to a quarterfinal showdown with Maryland on Friday at Klockner.
The Cavaliers, who haven’t been to the College Cup since 2006, are now just one victory away.
“The College Cup is kind of what you’re measured by,” said Virginia coach George Gelnovatch. “It’s a huge measuring stick to make it.
“Fortunately we’re at home and we’ll know our opponent very well, as they do us. I’m looking forward to the game and I know they are. We have a week to get ready.”
Portland (12-6-5) outshot Virginia, 16-12, and held a 9-3 edge in corner kicks, but just couldn’t push one past Restrepo, the transfer from South Florida.
The game was a rematch of the team’s regular-season meeting on Sept. 4 in Portland — a game that Virginia won
Just 67 seconds into the second half, Virginia (16-3-3) scored what turned out to be the game-winner. In transition, midfielder Ari Dimas took a cross from Shawn Barry and one-timed a shot into the net. Portland defender Logan Emory tried to sweep it off the goal line, but was a fraction of a second late.
“[Barry] played a great ball,” Dimas said. “I was making a run to the far post. I didn’t have much of an angle, so I just tried to direct it onto the frame.
“Luckily, the keeper was sliding to the right and his momentum carried him and I was able to get it to the left and it was able to get [in the goal] before it got cleared.”
In the first half, Virginia had the better play. The Cavaliers nearly took the lead in the 14th minute when Neil Barlow put one past goalie Austin Guerrero, but he was ruled offside.
Guerrero kept Portland in the game with a number of impressive saves, the best of which came in the 36th minute when he made a diving stop of a Barlow blast.
In the stanza, Portland had some of its best chances. Less than two minutes into the contest, a streaking Ricardo Carrillo took a pass from Ryan Luke. Carrillo, from deep in the right-hand side of the box, fired a shot that was stopped by Restrepo. Then, with under three minutes remaining in the half, Drew Chrostek was robbed by Restrepo from point-blank range.
In the second half, Portland’s best chance to tie things up came in the 74th minute when Collen Warner got a great chance, but he too was turned away by Restrepo.
“I had a tight angle,” Warner said. “When I got the ball, it was a quick combination with Jared and we just tried to play a little 1-2 around my guy.
“Once I got in the box, I was just trying to make something happen, and once again their goalie came up pretty big with a big save.”
Gelnovatch seemed relieved to be advancing to the quarterfinals.
“The second half, with the wind, they became very direct,” Gelnovatch said. “And to their credit, they were very good at just putting balls in behind us that had us twisting and turning and were tough to deal with.”
Luckily, Virginia had Restrepo. The redshirt junior finished with six saves.
“I told him after the game that he made two [great saves],” Gelnovatch said. “You ask for one of those in a big game, and we got two big plays today.”
Cavaliers Host Penn State In Big Ten/ACC Challenge On Monday
Courtesy: VirginiaSports.com Release: 11/29/2009
CHARLOTTESVILLE-The Virginia men’s basketball team hosts Penn State on Monday (Nov. 30) at John Paul Jones Arena in the first game of the 2009 Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Monday’s game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and tickets are available. The game will be broadcast on the Virginia Sports Radio Network and will be televised by ESPN2.
UVa enters the game with a 4-2 record after splitting two games in the Cancun Challenge in Cancun, Mexico, Nov. 24-25. The Cavaliers lost to Stanford 57-52 before defeating Cleveland State 76-65. Virginia rallied from a 10-point second half deficit in the victory over Cleveland State.
“You’re going to face adversity so you have to be able to handle that and not just crack,” UVa head coach Tony Bennett said after the Cleveland State game. “Against South Florida and Stanford we didn’t answer the challenge. That was a good sign tonight. I was happy for the guys.”
Penn State also enters Monday’s game with a 4-2 record.
Virginia had five players score in double figures for the second time this season in the victory over Cleveland State. Sophomore guard Sylven Landesberg scored a game-high 20 points, while junior forward Will Sherrill had a career-high 18 points. Junior forward Mike Scott scored 15 points, junior guard Mustapha Farrakhan had 11 points and sophomore guard Sammy Zeglinski added 10 points.
Landesberg also had five rebounds, five assists, one steal and just one turnover in 38 minutes of playing time against Cleveland State.
Sherrill was 7-9 from the field, including 4-5 from three-point range, and scored 15 of his points in the second half against the Vikings. He also established career highs with seven field goals, four three-point field goals, three steals, two assists, one blocked shot and 24 minutes played.
Sherrill talked about his performance after the Cleveland State game.
“When I was thinking about coming to Virginia this is the way I hoped it would turn out,” Sherrill said. “Tonight was a big win for us because we faced some adversity. We were down at halftime. I’m thankful I was able to come in and give us a lift. My teammates were able to find me when I was wide open in rhythm and I was able to knock them down. The shots were falling.
“This has to be the start of something for us as a team. Hopefully I keep playing well, but just for us as a team it has to be the start of something where no matter what happens we keep fighting and we stay together. It’s one win and we’ve got to build on it. There are a lot of things we need to do better, but it’s a great feeling right now.”
Scott had a game-high eight rebounds and three assists against Cleveland State.
Virginia shot 52.8 percent (28-53) from the field against the Vikings, including 58.8 percent (10-17) from three-point range. The Cavaliers shot 66.7 percent (18-27) from the field in the second half. It’s the third time this season UVa has shot higher than 50 percent from the field in a game.
Landesberg and Scott are both averaging in double figures in scoring for the season. Landesberg leads the Cavaliers with an average of 16.2 points a game and Scott is averaging 12.5 points a game. Scott leads UVa in rebounds with an average of 9.0 rebounds per game and he is shooting 57.4 percent (31-54) from the field. Farrakhan leads the team in assists with 14.
Virginia has a 5-4 record in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and the Cavaliers are 4-0 at home in the Challenge. Last year UVa lost 66-56 at Minnesota in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Penn State has won its last two games, defeating Davidson (59-57) and Sacred Heart (87-75). In the victory over Sacred Heart on Nov. 25, the Nittany Lions shot 63.8 percent from the field.
Junior guard Talor Battle leads Penn State in scoring, rebounding and assists with averages of 18.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists a game. He was a first-team All-Big Ten selection last season and is a preseason candidate for the 2010 Wooden and Naismith awards. Other double figure scorers for the Nittany Lions are junior forward David Jackson (11.2 ppg.) and junior forward Jeff Brooks (10.3 ppg.).
Ed DeChellis is in his seventh season as the Nittany Lions’ head coach. A graduate of Penn State, he led the Nittany Lions to the National Invitation Tournament Championship last season.
Virginia leads the series with Penn State 5-2 and the Cavaliers have won the last four games in the series. UVa has won all three games played in Charlottesville in the series. The Nittany Lions haven’t played at Virginia since the 1977-78 season.
After the game with Penn State, the Cavaliers return to action on Dec. 7 at Auburn. That game is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. Eastern time.
Tucker Returns to Practice
Nov. 29, 2009
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- He won't play Monday night against Penn State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, but senior Jamil Tucker is again practicing with the UVa men's basketball team.
Tucker, a 6-9 forward, went on a leave of absence from the program early this month, during which he didn't practice or play with the team. He returned to practice Friday, the day after the Wahoos (4-2) returned from the Cancun Challenge.
No word yet on when or if Tucker will be cleared to play in games.
Without Tucker, UVa had only four post players in Cancun: 6-9 senior Jerome Meyinsse, 6-8 junior Mike Scott, 6-9 junior Will Sherrill and 7-0 sophomore Assane Sene.
Tucker averaged 7.4 points and 3.8 rebounds last season. For his career, he's shooting 40.7 from 3-point range.
-- Jeff White
Virginia faces PSU in ACC/Big 10 Challenge
By Whitey Reid
Published: November 30, 2009
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For Virginia basketball fans, one of the frustrating things about the annual ACC/Big 10 Challenge has been the fact that the games have never really been against any of the so-called Big 10 blue bloods.
The powers that be have typically scheduled UVa to play bottom-tier teams. Even the year after Virginia won a share of the ACC regular-season championship in 2007, the Cavaliers were assigned to play Northwestern (and won by 42 points).
This season, however, you probably won’t get very many gripes from fans about the scheduling. Ditto for Virginia coach Tony Bennett. The likes of a Michigan State or an Ohio State is the last thing Bennett wants to deal with in Year 1 of his rebuilding program.
But that’s not to say Bennett is overjoyed to be playing Penn State tonight in this year’s installment of the Challenge.
“They have a terrific guard and just a solid team,” said Bennett, alluding to Nittany Lions guard Talor Battle, a first-team All-Big-10 selection last season. “I think they’ve struggled in a game or two, but they certainly have a lot of experience back and success [back] from last year.
“As with any team we play, we’re never in a spot where we say, ‘We can just coast in this one.’ We have to be so ready to play — to handle their guard, to handle their size, to rebound.”
Penn State, which won the NIT last season, has already lost twice — to Tulane and UNC Asheville. The Nittany Lions are coming off a narrow victory over Davidson.
Virginia, which has won all four of its home games in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge, is coming off a gritty win over Cleveland State in the Cancun Challenge. In that game, Virginia guard Sylven Landesberg had his best performance of the season (20 points, five rebounds, five assists) and walk-on forward Will Sherrill came out of nowhere to register career highs in just about every statistical category.
One of the disappointments in Cancun for Virginia was the play of sophomore center Assane Sene. The 7-footer, who looked like he hadn’t missed a beat when he made his season debut against Oral Roberts nine days ago, had just a combined two points and four rebounds in the two games.
“I think he’s still finding himself a little bit, finding his legs,” Bennett said. “As his career progresses, hopefully his
timing comes and his feel and all that.
“He didn’t finish a couple of shots and was out of place on some defensive assignments. My hope is that as he gets more comfortable and his ankle continues to feel better, that we’ll be able to see get more established in that rotation.”
After going 1-1 in Cancun, Bennett seemed cautiously optimistic about tonight.
“Hopefully being back home, we’ll play at a high level,” he said. “I just want to keep taking steps toward better basketball.”
Jamil Tucker has started practicing with the team but won’t be in uniform for tonight’s game. No word on when he’ll suit up for a game. ... The Cavaliers are
5-4 all-time in the Challenge, including a 4-0 home record. ... Tonight’s game is the eighth all-time meeting between Virginia and Penn State with the Cavaliers leading the series 5-2. The teams haven’t met since the 1984-85 season. ... The ACC has won all 10 previous challenges.