Al Groh's Return To the ACC Near?

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst IJanuary 10, 2010

CLEMSON, SC - NOVEMBER 21:  Head coach Al Groh of the Virginia Cavaliers watches on against the Clemson Tigers during their game at Memorial Stadium on November 21, 2009 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

It appears Al Groh will not go quietly into the night.

The Virginia alum and former football coach of the Cavaliers has been linked by the Atlanta Journal Constitution to the defensive coordinator position at Georgia Tech.

Yes, despite being 65-years-old, it appears that Groh is not ready for charity golf tournaments and sitting back in the suite with Bill Parcells to reminisce about old times.  He is far from calling it a career.

No surprise when you consider how things ended between Groh and his alma mater.

Groh never took the easy way out in this shaky relationship.  The former New York Jets coach was willing to jettison his own son as offensive coordinator and throw others under the bus to save his job for one more year.

He was willing to burn redshirts for cheap wins and made more than a few enemies on the recruiting trails, all of which hurt the program in both the short and long term.

It was clear that Groh made no apologies for how things ended at Virginia, either.  In his final press conference, he recited a poem called "The Man in the Glass".  It was a poem that solidified his image in the minds of many jaded Virginia fans—a self-absorbed egomaniac.

Granted, Virginia did not exactly treat Groh well either.  The boos and the empty seats helped make the decision for athletic director Craig Littlepage rather simple.  The administration took less than 24 hours to drop the hammer on their coach of nine seasons.

Suffice it to say, there are fences that need mending.

Nevertheless, this new development is certainly surprising.  I knew Groh would want a return to football eventually, but this is less than two months after his buyout. 

It might do the man some good to sit back and ponder some of things that went wrong at his last stop.  He probably needs a chance to recharge his batteries before the grind of another football season.

That may not happen now.

It is also surprising for Groh not to wait and see if an NFL job opens up.  Let's be clear, the NFL is where Groh belongs.  In the NFL, personalities do not matter.  He does not need to worry about making friends or trying to recruit players.

Groh still has ties to NFL colleagues, and he has shown a great ability to shut down star players when given time to prepare.  He constantly used anecdotes about his NFL days in interviews and press conferences, clearly showing his love of the game. 

It would not be far-fetched to see that, with the right talent, Groh could take an NFL team and put their defense near the top of the heap rather quickly.  He is a tireless worker and a tough-minded leader.

The college game is different though, and despite his credentials, Groh has never found much success in the ACC.  His career record at Wake Forest and Virginia is 85-93.

Of course, perhaps the most surprising thing about all of this talk is the destination.

The Yellow Jackets are coming off an ACC Championship and certainly appear primed to make a run next year as well.  Last year showed that, with a few breaks, Georgia Tech could go undefeated and bring respect back to the conference.

However, no matter how poorly things ended at Virginia, is he really going to take a job at a rival school in the same division of the ACC?

I know Tom O'Brien is famous for ditching the Boston College Eagles to coach the North Carolina State Wolfpack, but this is different.  Groh played for Virginia, his son was the star quarterback on the 1995 ACC Championship team, he coached nine years at this program, and has constantly pledged his loyalty to the Cavaliers.

If Groh takes this job, the message he is sending seems crystal clear.  He wants to show everyone that they were wrong in judging him as a failure.  He will be hell bent on proving that he can create a championship-level defense with the right talent around him.  

He could probably do this at a few places, but by picking Georgia Tech, he wants to rub it in the face of the entire conference.  Of course, if he takes the job, then he actually has to do that—the last thing Groh's legacy needs is another mediocre stint.

If I were a Georgia Tech fan, I would be excited.  Groh may not be a head coach, but he knows how to run defenses and his initial gameplans are pretty solid.  You would be hard pressed to find many more coordinators out there with as much experience or familiarity with the conference.

Still, I cannot help but feel this could make an ugly situation even worse.  Time may heal all wounds, but it seems clear that Virginia and Al Groh will not get over their divorce easily. 

Groh will return to football, if not in Atlanta than somewhere.  However, when he enters that new facility with a severance check and bitter memories in hand, I wonder if his new dream will be worth the price?