In Groh We Bust: Writing on the Wall for Virginia Football

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst ISeptember 5, 2009

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - AUGUST 30:  Head coach Al Groh  of the Virginia Cavaliers looks on during the game against the Southern California Trojans at Scott Stadium on August 30, 2008 in Charlottesville, Virginia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

How does one exactly put into words a loss to William and Mary?

Granted, Virginia football has had many poor performances in the Al Groh era, particularly in season openers.  The Cavaliers lost to the Tribe in 1986 with George Welsh, a Hall of Famer, roaming the sidelines, and I would say things turned out well. 

So even though it is surprising to see Virginia football falter with a 26-14 loss against William and Mary it is not unprecedented for the program.

However, this loss is different for the Cavalier faithful who must cope with a season that has started off on the worst note possible for the fourth straight year.

You would expect most loyal fans to throw things, drink excessively or curse until the cops are called when your BCS conference team is completely outclassed by a FCS program in your home stadium.  That's not the case for me though.

Obviously I am angry and disappointed in the poor performance.  All the fears we had about Vic Hall's arm, Jameel Sewell's consistency, and Marc Verica's decision-making turned out to be warranted.  Seven turnovers do not happen by accident.

That's right, a team that finished near the bottom of the ACC standings in turnover margin had seven turnovers to open the season.  Did I mention this was William and Mary and not the BCS buster TCU coming in next week?

Maybe we all owe former offensive coordinator Mike Groh an apology.

With the thought of a difficult season ahead, you would expect fans to feel fear or depression but the overwhelming emotion I feel is acceptance.

Acceptance that this was Al Groh's swan song after nine years at the helm as head coach of the University of Virginia.  A painful journey with some great moments and some big duds appears to be on its final leg. 

I know that seasons can turn around.  After all, in 2008 the Cavaliers had a horrific September to turn the corner in October and knock out both North Carolina and Georgia Tech in consecutive weeks to lead the ACC Coastal going into November.

In 2007, Virginia started with an equally unimpressive show in a 23-3 loss on the road to Wyoming before rebounding to reach the Gator Bowl with an NCAA record five wins by two points or less.

That was then, this is now.  While Virginia could turn things around and could even make their way into a mediocre bowl game, the time has come to face facts.

Fool me once Groh, shame on you.  Fool me nine times, shame on me.

This is your team Virginia fans.  The Cavaliers will always be a manic mess, providing a few upsets here and there and a few humiliating losses to boot.  Do we really want to live this Jekyll and Hyde existence? 

Virginia Cavalier fans deserve better and it is time to stop making excuses.

When Al Groh first stepped on Grounds to replace Welsh in 2001 after a stint with the New York Jets, he talked the talk of changing the culture in Charlottesville.  He made us put away the shirts and ties.  He banned the pep band and tried to create a Sea of Orange.

In return we were promised a national program that would compete not only for an ACC title but make it to a coveted BCS game.  Groh promised to take Virginia to the next level and at best the Cavaliers have been stuck at neutral.

Sure we can all make excuses until we're blue in the face, but the question is simple: Is Virginia better off than they were nine years ago?

The answer is no.  Despite all the NFL talent, we have no proof that Al Groh can make Virginia consistently compete at a national level. All the evidence points to the inconsistent consistency that has made Cavalier fans enraged or worse, apathetic, during this time period.

For the last few years, Groh has skated on such flimsy excuses.  Who are we going to get that's better?  What if he just had an experienced offensive coordinator?  Virginia just needs some time and experience.

Let's face it folks, pulling the trigger is scary.  Making a change is always an unknown commodity.  Obviously the Cavaliers could find a new coach that completely falls apart, but they could also strike gold and reach levels of success on a road that was paved by Welsh 20 years ago.

Change is scary because the result is unknown.  However, what we do know is what an Al Groh team is going to be.  A team that refuses to reach its full potential.  A team that cannot get out of its own way.  A team in desperate need of a leader.

Groh could stay at Virginia until he retired and he could get to a bowl game every few years.  He could maintain a .500 record in the ACC.  He might even make the sweatshirt a new fashion icon.

Ladies and gentlemen, Virginia football deserves better.  You know it, I know it and after tonight, even Athletic Director Craig Littlepage knows it.

The writing is on the wall and the word is mediocrity.

Groh has cheated the pink slip for the past few years, but no longer.  The clock has struck midnight in Charlottesville and time has run out for the Virginia alum.

It may be a sad ending boys and girls but it's a necessary one.