Al Groh Has Virginia Playing Like It's 1970

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst ISeptember 29, 2008

The 1970s was the decade of drugs, rising gas prices, and a pathetic Virginia football program.

Some things never change.

George Welsh is in the Hall of Fame for a reason.

Welsh, a good coach at Navy, was sent to Charlottesville, Va. to what many had called the "coaching graveyard" of the Virginia Cavaliers.  Many wondered how he would fare after many bigger names had been humiliated trying to turn Virginia into a competitive ACC team.

UVA had been a perennial laughingstock before Welsh's arrival, known as "everybody's homecoming game"—and who could blame them?

In that decade, the Cavaliers had one winning season (6-5).  Even scarier was Virginia won as many games that season as it had in the last four years combined.

The Cavaliers ended 1977 being outscored for the season 280-56.

Let that sink in for a second: The Cavaliers scored 56 a season!

Obviously Welsh had hard work ahead of him, and what he created was a consistent winner: 12 bowl games, 13 seasons of at least seven victories, two ACC Championships, and the No. 1 ranking in the country.

However, Virginia fans wanted more.  They wanted a team that could reach the top of the ACC and make a run at a national championship.

So the Cavaliers went big, gently nudging Welsh aside after a 6-6 season.  Al Groh, a Virginia alum and former coach of the New York Jets, was a dream hire.  He brought NFL connections, a tough defense-oriented scheme and a dedication to reforming the "tie and sundress" crowd into a "Sea of Orange."

He came in talking about getting Virginia to the next level, and the contract he signed indicated a leap of faith by the administration.  Finishing second in the ACC in just his second year of coaching made people believe "in Groh we trust."

Well, Virginia has reached another level in 2008: the cellar.

The Cavaliers are bad—really bad.

Virginia will be lucky to win another game this season.  They certainly will not be favored after their 31-3 beatdown by Duke.

Being underdogs against a team that had lost 25 straight conference games is sad. Being blown away by them is far more disappointing.  The Duke fans did not even rush the field, perhaps forgetting what it felt like to win (a feeling Virginia fans might soon come to know).

Sure, Virginia had some opportunities, and sure, they have had terrible attrition, but excuses do little good to fans that have simply lost faith in both the coach and the overall direction of the program.

The Cavaliers are not improving this season—they may have actually gotten worse.

The truth is that it appears the team has quit.

It is horrible to think so, but watching the Cavaliers (which is difficult unless you are one of the 12 people in the country that get ESPNU) is like watching a team that already knows they will lose and seems to not care.  They have no fire, and they have no passion.

There is only one solution: Hire a new coach now!

With so many young players, the time is now for a new voice to invigorate the intensity and determination for winning that can change a stagnant culture before it is too late.  The veterans look like they are waiting for Matt Schaub or Wali Lundy to come in and resurrect this offense, but that simply is not going to happen.

It would be easy to give Groh another year and let him rebuild a team that lost its two top quarterbacks, its top two defensive linemen, and cannot keep its backfield healthy.  If Groh finally fires his son, a man who has brought Virginia to the bottom 10 in offense every year he has been offensive coordinator, it would be easy to accept that compromise.

However, doing so would just be promising Virginia fans a closer look at that 1970s era of disillusionment and apathy. That nine-win season just one year ago was a mirage of close victories and stellar work from an all-time great in Chris Long.

Long is gone, and soon Groh will be too.

It's now or never Virginia—time is not on your side.