ACC Coaches by the Numbers: Al Groh Should Be on the Hot Seat

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst ISeptember 17, 2008

After the pathetic blowout loss to UConn, I was inspired to see just how Al Groh's tenure at UVA compares with other ACC coaches. I decided to look at the numbers and compare Groh not only to the ACC's most recently fired coaches, but how he also compares to two other ACC coaches on the hot seat (Friedgen and Bowden). The results speak for themselves.

Overall Winning Percentage

1. Larry Coker 60-15 (.800)

2. Ralph Friedgen 58-32 (.644)

3. Tommy Bowden 70-44 (.614)

4. Chan Gailey 44-32 (.578)

5. Chuck Amato 49-37 (.570)

6. Al Groh 51-39 (.567)

7. John Bunting 27-45 (.375)

8. Ted Roof 6-45 (.118)

The most basic of all the tools to assess effectiveness is the overall record. Groh has had a tumultuous tenure featuring two losing seasons and one season with over eight victories. Groh's percentage is only better than Bunting's tenure at UNC and the travesty that was known as Ted Roof.

Also, despite being close to Amato and Gailey, Gailey can claim a trip to the ACC Championship game and Amato had an 11-win season (something UVA has never accomplished in its history). Amato may have had Philip Rivers, but Groh has had tons of NFL talent, as well. Don't believe me, look at an NFL roster.

Groh had the 2002 Offensive Player of the Year in Matt Schaub (who beat Rivers) and yet his biggest out-of-conference victory to date is against West Virginia in the inaugural Continental Tire Bowl. The Wolfpack can claim a blowout victory over Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl with Amato and more than one victory against rival FSU.

ACC Record

1. Ralph Friedgen 33-23 (.589)

2. Tommy Bowden 42-30 (.583)

3. Chan Gailey 28-20 (.583)

4. Larry Coker 14-10 (.583)

5. Al Groh 31-25 (.553)

6. Chuck Amato 25-31 (.446)

7. John Bunting 17-31 (.354)

8. Ted Roof   3-33 (.083)

Coaches that want to stick around have to bring home the trophies, and that means an ACC championship. Groh has stuck around a few times in the ACC race, notably last season. However, they have always stumbled in the big conference games.

Whether it was VT in 2005 or 2007, FSU or Miami in 2004, Virginia proved each and every time it was not ready to compete with the elite teams in the conference.

There is really no excuse to be ill-prepared in games of this magnitude, but when Virginia is losing by a 52-14 score at home in a game that could send them to an ACC championship game, then something is definitely wrong.

Groh's biggest victory during his entire tenure, against FSU in 2005, was a contest with little national hype. It took everyone by surprise and, to follow it up, the Cavaliers limped to a 7-5 defeat to a hapless UNC squad. The loss derailed any hopes of a strong season and showed Virginia fans a consistent inconsistency that would frustrate anyone.

Record on the Road and in Bowl Games

1. Larry Coker 26-9 (.743)

2. Ralph Friedgen 22-20 (.523)

3. Chuck Amato 21-20 (.512)

4. Tommy Bowden 26-27 (.491)

5. Chan Gailey 19-20 (.475)

6. Al Groh 17-27 (.386)

7. John Bunting 11-25 (.306)

8. Ted Roof 2-24 (.077)

Being able to win on the road means that you have a tough team. It takes a great deal of intestinal fortitude to march into someone's home and steal a victory.

Groh's record, once again, speaks for itself.

For further evidence, look no further than last week's beat down by UConn. The Huskies may be good, but the Cavaliers should not be losing to any team not named the Trojans by a 45-10 margin.

Groh's biggest road victory during his seven years as head coach is either a victory over Clemson in the early Bowden years or last year's victory over Maryland. In the last two years, UVA has lost to ECU and Wyoming on the road in games where they were not even that competitive.

The Cavaliers gave the Wolfpack their first ACC win of the season on the road in a game they should have won comfortably. They also had a close call against Middle Tennessee State that could have deflated last year's miracle 9-4 season in which five games were won by one or two points.

Groh has had a decent postseason record of 3-2, but that does not excuse a road record that ranks 6th on this list that features three active head coaches!

Record Against Winning Teams

1. Larry Coker 34-14 (.708), 13-11 after joining ACC (.542)

2. Ralph Friedgen 31-27 (.534)

3. Tommy Bowden 27-37 (.422)

4. Al Groh 21-30 (.412)

5. Chuck Amato 20-29 (.408)

6. Chan Gailey 16-29 (.356)

7. John Bunting  11-42 (.208)

8. Ted Roof 3-31 (.091)

I know most people like to look at victories over ranked teams, but preseason rankings sometimes skew these results. I prefer to look at the record against winning teams. This means that a team is able to beat a proven winner.

Here, Groh does his best statistically in any of these categories. However, it is still a losing record and does not erase some of the bigger blowout losses that the No. 30 up there represents.

When the Cavaliers have done well, they typically can beat most of the middling ACC teams that end 7-5 and go to a bowl. It is the teams with speed and depth that have given Virginia fits during Al Groh's tenure.

He has lost the recruiting battles with Virginia Tech by alienating some of the high school coaches that once produced great players for George Welsh. His reputation as a former NFL coach has waned over the years, and the stringent academic requirements have not helped bring in some of the bigger studs.

Just take a glance at this year's team and you can tell the Cavaliers are S-L-O-W. Without that pop, Virginia will not reach that "next level" Groh spoke of when he first arrived to Charlottesville.

Rivalry Record:

1.Larry Coker (Florida, FSU, VT): 9-5 (.643)

2. Tommy Bowden (FSU, USC): 11-7 (.611)

3. John Bunting (Duke, NC State, UVA): 11-7 (.611)

4. Chuck Amato (UNC, FSU): 7-7 (.500)

5. Al Groh (VT, UNC, MD): 9-12   (.429)

6. Ralph Friedgen (UVA, VT, FSU)6-10  (.375)

7. Chan Gailey(Clemson, GA): 3-9 (.250)

8. Ted Roof (UNC): 1-4 (.200)

No coach can survive if he does not win the big games against the hated rival. This statistic is always a dangerous one when you consider Chan Gailey's rivals are far different than John Bunting's.

Virginia's slate lies somewhere in the middle—they are not facing national champions, but they are certainly challenged with ranked teams that will most likely go to bowls and can produce NFL talent.

Groh has done a good job of keeping ahead of the Tar Heels and has done better against the Terps. Still, Virginia fans only care about the 1-6 record against Virginia Tech.

Let's be honest, Groh could have every other record be exactly the same and if the number was reversed (6-1 UVA) he would be considered a God and they would be building a statue to him. Fans are tired of not just losing to VT but being blown out. 

Welsh did a very good job against Beamer, but Groh looks outclassed. His emphasis on defense winning games has depleted an offense that simply cannot do anything against the Hokies. That puts an unrealistic pressure on the Cavalier defense and, for four straight years, it has proven too much.  

I love UVA and it is because I want the program to be successful that I am writing this article. Coach Groh is a good person, but the team is moving in the wrong direction.

If the administration waits too long, the recovery time will be far greater than most of us would like to imagine. So I'm sorry, athletic director Craig Littlepage, but the numbers don't lie.


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