Bye Week For Groh, Hello To Tuberville?

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst ISeptember 24, 2009

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 20:  Head coach Tommy Tuberville of the Auburn Tigers watches his team take on the LSU Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 20, 2008 in Auburn, Alabama. LSU defeated Auburn 26-21.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

The good news for Virginia football fans is that their team will avoid an eighth straight loss this upcoming weekend.

Why?  They won't be playing.

The bye week has come like a proverbial "mercy rule" for the Cavaliers as they lick their wounds, both physically and mentally, after the worst start in the history of Al Groh's tenure.

An 0-3 record is enough to depress any fan but considering the way in which they lost, spirits are an all-time low in Charlottesville.

Add to the laundry list of frustrations over the offense, defense, and special teams the fact that the actual playmakers on this team like quarterback Vic Hall is hurt and emerging running back Dominic Wallace just had season-ending surgery makes that sunken feeling even worse.

Undoubtedly, Al Groh has the hottest seat in college football right now and the question of whether or not the nine-year head coach at Virginia will be fired seems all but answered.

Even if Athletic Director Craig Littlepage will wait until the end of the season to finally end Groh's misery, the writing is clearly on the wall.  Names have already begun to bubble to the surface. 

While some may call this premature since Groh still is currently employed by the University of Virginia, Littlepage would be foolish not to be shopping around.  Granted, most years it makes little sense to start looking around in the middle of the season while most top candidates are still working and therefore cannot be officially contacted.

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Fortunately for Virginia fans, there is one guy out there who is currently unemployed and has already proven he looks good in orange.

Tommy Tuberville, the former Auburn head coach, will be the trendy name out there at the end of the season when the coaching carousel is in full turn. 

Tuberville certainly has some impressive credentials.  Over 14 seasons as a head coach, he has compiled an overall record of 110-60, including 11 winning seasons.  Considering he has spent all those years in the brutal SEC, Tuberville is not padding his coaching statistics.  The man is used to playing in the big game and he is used to winning it.

For example, Tuberville dominated the biggest game on Auburn's schedule, the Iron Bowl.  Against the Alabama Crimson Tide, Auburn went 7-3 during his time there.

His strongest team was in 2004 when his Auburn Tigers went a perfect 13-0 behind quarterback Jason Campbell and an impressive rushing attack featuring Carnell "Cadillac" Williams.

That season earned Tuberville the AP National Coach of the Year award.  However, after a 5-7 campaign in 2008 Tuberville unexpectedly stepped down from his position to the shock of many.  College football fans know that he still has a great deal to offer and at age 55 still has plenty of years to build a consistent winner. 

Now that some time has passed, will Tuberville be looking for a new gig in 2010?  Virginia certainly hopes so.  More importantly to the Cavalier fans though is convincing him to come to Charlottesville.

Despite the terrible season so far, the Cavaliers actually have a great deal to offer.

The University of Virginia itself is one of the most beautiful colleges in America, located  in the middle of a conference so mediocre that coaches know they have a chance to make a big splash early.

Programs like North Carolina and Georgia Tech have turned things around almost instanteously after their coaching changes.  Even Duke and Clemson are reaping early dividends to their new leaders at the helm.

Virginia has very good facilities that are also in the process of being revamped.  Even if the Cavalier culture is considered by outsiders as Zima drinking parties with brie, Virginia has had a stellar home record until the past two seasons when the fan base abandoned Al Groh.  The fans will follow if they have a leader they can trust.

The Cavaliers are also in a football recruiting paradise.  Although the Commonwealth of Virginia is certainly not a Florida or a Texas, the Chesapeake area offers great recruiting pipelines of talent.  

One of Groh's greatest flaws has been his inability to score high quality in-state talent.  It is also one of the reasons Virginia Tech has quickly become the dominant team in the ACC.  The Cavaliers cannot expect to raise their profile simply by trying to poach talent from other states. 

If Virginia is going to change that trend, they will need a name that brings instant recognition.  Tuberville does just that. 

Most importantly though is that Virginia has proven it can win.  Although the image of the Cavaliers has been smeared by losses to William & Mary and others throughout the past few years, one cannot forget the work of Groh's predecessor George Welsh.

Welsh took over a program that no one thought could be successful.  Many people saw it as a coaching graveyard with academic standards that were too high, an administration that was too rigid and a fan-base that was too apathetic.

Rather than listening to the nay-sayers, Welsh created a model for consistency that produced the glory years of Virginia football.

While he achieved many milestones like the two ACC Championships, the No. 1 ranking in 1990 and historic wins over Clemson and Florida State, Welsh's greatness is best summarized in one simple statistic.

For 13 straight seasons, Virginia won at least seven games every year. 

By comparison, Groh has three (soon to be four) losing seasons in eight years as Virginia's coach.  In Welsh's eighteen years, he had two losing seasons.

Welsh helped make Virginia one of the top 25 programs of the 1990s.  That kind of success can certainly be repeated again, but it will take a certain kind of coach.   

The truth is that no one knows whether or not Tuberville would be interested in coming to Virginia.  Very soon he may have his pick of the litter.

Perhaps Virginia would want to go a different direction, picking a young up and coming coach that can bring youth and vitality to the program. 

Still, if you were Craig Littlepage, wouldn't it make sense to give Tuberville a little call and say hello?


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