Farewell Al Groh, We Knew Thee All Too Well

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst INovember 29, 2009

Dear Al,

Hey it's me, Ben.  You might remember me from earlier when I asked why you hate me.  I'm back!  Well, this time I wanted to tell you something.  I am ashamed.

There are so many reasons why I am ashamed, too many for this simple letter to list, but I really do not need to.  All anyone has to do is look at your game against Virginia Tech to understand why Virginia fans feel terrible.

This was your swan song, coach, your last chance to make a statement and leave on a high note by knocking off a team that has embarrassed you your entire time at Virginia.

You didn't.

Oh, you played well in the first half and some might confuse that with great coaching.  It wasn't.  The plays you called in the first half were the exact same that you have called for the entire season. 

A season in which you won three games I might add.

This is a team you have beat just once in your nine years at Virginia, it looked like you did not even try to create a successful game plan.  In many ways, you kept your conservative strategy of "playing not to lose" as opposed to "playing to win".

The difference was that the players tried, the players poured their heart and souls out on the field and were able to bully their way past the Hokie defenders.

Well, for two quarters at least.

Then, after Chris Cook picked off Tyrod Taylor in the end zone, Jameel Sewell ran an option play and a bad pitch to Mikell Simpson led to a turnover that quickly led to a Hokie touchdown to make the score 21-13 and the rout was on.

Granted, usually eight point games do not foretell doom.  I mean this was a one-possession game with over a quarter and a half to go in the game.  However, Virginia players knew better.

The players quit.

How else can you explain why a 21-13 game turned into a 42-13 beat down in the course of 20 minutes?

As much as we like to praise the Cavaliers for battling through the 0-3 start, this team is not tough.  This team is not composed of fighters. 

The truth is, every time this season Virginia faced any sort of adversity, they folded up quicker than a lawn chair.  They pout, they hang their heads, and they look at each other with wide eyes and stone hands.

After that touchdown, the Cavaliers simply let Hokie running back Ryan Williams run into the endzone with barely a semblance of effort.  The defense's back was broken and the offense had no confidence to make things any better.

I could easily rip apart Sewell's bad pass, Ras-I Dowling's terrible coverage, the special teams atrocities that took place, or Nate Collin's dumb penalty but it all comes down to the same thing.

Virginia is not mentally tough.

A mentally tough team does not lose to William & Mary at home.  A mentally tough team does not lose 7-5 to North Carolina after upsetting the No. 4-ranked Florida State Seminoles in 2005.

Virginia did try in every game this season, until the going got tough.  Then Virginia started hanging their head, bemoaning their bad luck and poor circumstances.

I hate to tell you this Al, but that's a reflection on the coach.  The players may like you, they may feel bad that you're going, but they did not believe they could win that rivalry game. 

The second adversity strikes, your team used it as an excuse to pack it in and lose.

The moment things started to turn in the Hokies favor, every single person in Scott Stadium thought the same thing: Here we go again.

As the popular adage goes, whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right.

Virginia has to believe in itself again.  It has to have passion throughout the game and not just when the game has been decided and you feel like standing up for a teammate who was hit late.

The fans have to believe in Virginia football again, their heart has been broken again and again.  So much so that Scott Stadium was completely overrun with Hokie fans who greedily grabbed every apathetic fan’s ticket for the season finale.  While the Virginia athletics program may get money from these sales, they lose much more in respectability.

Watching the Cavaliers this season has almost been comical for it has followed a similar script each and every game.

Virginia plays well for a half until adjustments are made and then the Cavaliers become lost.  They need leadership and you, Al, are not providing it.

I know that you care deeply for the Cavaliers and the program.  As an alum, I know it kills you to see this program having the worst season in 27 years. 

However, your pride will not allow you to take the blame.  It will not allow you to admit to people that the lack of talent is your fault.  It is not circumstances or bad luck or even a voodoo charm.

Groh, it's been a long ride.  There were definitely some ups, but there were simply too many downs.  You did not deserve for your career to end like this, with Ryan Williams laughing on the sideline while a third-string Hokie running back is breaking tackles into the end zone, but it has.

I have felt every emotion under the sun with you.  I felt ecstatic with our run in 2002, I felt anticipation before the Florida State game in 2004 with our No. 5 ranking, I felt shock with our 52-14 shellacking from Virginia Tech in 2005 and I felt apathy after losing to Southern Mississippi this season.

At the moment, I feel anger.  Frustration that you have let our archrivals reach the level of prominence they have achieved.  Bitterness that the Hokies will have another 10-win season while we are suffering our third losing season in the past four years.  However, I know the anger will quickly fade when your firing is announced within the next 48 hours.

Goodbye Groh
; I hope you find happiness in retirement.  I cannot help but think a world without reporters and fans criticizing your every move will be a welcome joy in your life.

I can only hope Virginia football fans find a similar joy in their next coach.  Of course, I have wished that before.




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