I know we’ve been a little Tech-loaded these last few days, but football season is not that far away. We’re not close enough for season previews (I’m saving that for training camp time), so I feel like we should dive into our own psyche a little to try and figure out just WHY we as Hokies love Al Groh and always want him in our lives. What makes me feel compelled to write this? Well I haven’t seen it addressed outside of DontFireAlGroh.com, and I feel like we might want to take a closer look at the negative effect that he has on our cross-state rival and the positive effect he has on our own program. I’m going to break it down into a few important categories that represent some areas where UVA and Tech cross paths and we’ll see a clearer picture on fanny pack man.
In eight seasons at THE University, Al Groh has amassed a record of 51-37, good enough for a 57.9% win percentage. Not bad, right? In comparison, Frank Beamer ran up a record of 41-47-2 over his first eight seasons in Blacksburg. Fans were carrying torches and pitchforks, screaming for his head after a 2-8-1 season in ’92 (Tech’s first in the Big East), but university administrators decided to stick with Beamer and his staff. This might lead you to think that Craig Littlepage’s (UVA’s Athletic Director) patience with Groh is warranted. Maybe it is, but there are other factors to consider when comparing each coach’s first eight seasons, and I think the most important difference lies in…
Strength of Schedule
Groh’s Biggest Out of Conference Games from 2001-2008: Wisconsin (2001), Penn State (2001, 2002), South Carolina (2002, 2003), Syracuse (2004, 2005), Pittsburgh (2006, 2007), Connecticut (2007, 2008), Southern California (2008). Looking at this group, UVA lined up some decent opponents over the last eight years, but none in their prime outside of USC (who slaughtered them 52-7) and Tech (who was OOC until 2004). Their strength of schedule seems to have declined over recent years, and they haven’t had a MAJOR upset (not counting FSU two years ago) during his tenure. On the flipside, Beamer’s teams played these guys over his first four seasons: Clemson (1987, 1988, 1989), South Carolina (1987, 1988, 1989), Miami (1987, 1988, 1989), Florida State (1988, 1989, 1990), Oklahoma (1990). Keep in mind that the Hokies were independent until 1992, so they had more opportunities to face tougher opponents, but they were well conditioned and tested going into conference play. Those teams listed don’t include UVA or WVU, who were rivals and often ranked, sometimes highly, as well as Pitt, Boston College, and Syracuse who became conference opponents and were often ranked as well. Beamer’s quality of competition, even early was very tough. He set a very high standard for his players from the beginning that they could compete with the best, and sometimes they did. Once Tech entered a conference, a benefit that Groh has had throughout his tenure, their recruiting improved and their win percentage followed. Groh’s has been up-and-down over his eight years, and doesn’t lead to a lot of positive trends for his program.
Groh has a knack for bringing in big names and big hype. On his Wikipedia page under “legacy” (reliable source, I know), it does not list wins, but this:
Since Groh's arrival at Virginia, 13 Cavaliers have been selected in the NFL Draft, while 19 others have signed pro contracts as free agents. During his first five years, Groh maintained a strategy of hiring young, ambitious assistants, and he hoped to build a network of protégés through the football ranks. His young assistants have gone on to become head coaches at other Division I-A programs (Ron Prince at Kansas State, Al Golden at Temple and Mike London at the University of Richmond) and assistants in the NFL (Bill Musgrave, previously with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Washington Redskins, now at the Atlanta Falcons, and Mike London at the Houston Texans before returning to Groh's staff and then taking the Richmond job.)
From D’Brickashaw Ferguson to Ahmad Brooks, Groh has brought a laundry list of talent into Charlottesville over the years. His biggest problem has been translating that talent to the college game. His is known for his stubbornness and unwillingness to change his pro-style defense, which has been great for sending talent to the NFL, but not for winning college games. While he does a great job of masking talent until the NFL combine, Tech’s players often overachieve, which shows the fanbase and the administration that our strength program and coaching staff is superior in almost every way. Unheralded recruits like Darryl Tapp, Jason Worilds, Brandon Flowers, Corey Moore, and others have gone onto do great things for the program without garnering NFL consideration like their UVA counterparts, but they helped carry the Hokies to new heights in the ACC, Big East, and nationally.
I know UVA considers UNC and Maryland to be big rivals, but let’s be honest, it’s the boys in Blacksburg they want to beat the most, and they haven’t done it since 2003. UVA has gone 1-7 against Tech since Groh came to the grounds. This is symptomatic of picking the wrong kind of talent, weak assistants and a poor development program. Groh has to turn this around (and quick) if he wants to stay in Charlottesville beyond 2009. He may have two ACC Coach of the Year awards under his belt, but he has no BCS appearances, no program defining wins and little respect around the state. THAT is the biggest reason why every Tech fan should love Al Groh.
And just for fun…The Dress Code
No college coach looks particularly cool screaming on the sidelines. Let’s be honest…Bud Foster makes me want to piss my pants when he screams at his players. He’s not out there for style or grace. However, it’s hard to go without noticing Mr. Groh’s personal clothing preferences. We all know that UVA fans love to wear blazers and ties to games (although not so much anymore), so why should we expect their coach to look any cooler than they do on game days? Groh’s regular sweatshirt (not hoodie, not windbreaker) has its sleeves pulled up until about November, which we all know is super-stylish. He usually chooses the uber-bland 1983-esque gray type, or the obnoxious, look-like-a-carrot bright orange variety (not to mention that it’s tucked in…). To cap off this modern fad, Groh pairs his sweatshirts with a lovely 42-year-old-soccer-mom-gone-horribly-wrong fanny pack. A fanny pack?! Really?!?! I just can’t say anything else about that.
In conclusion, if you ever find yourself frustrated with Stiney, Beamer’s conservatism, or even (shudder) Jim Weaver, just know that we could be stuck with this asshole on the sidelines...