Virginia fires Al Groh as head football coach

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By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 30, 2009

Al Groh was fired as Virginia's head football coach Sunday following his worst season in nine years coaching his alma mater. The dismissal marked a disappointing conclusion to a tenure that started with promise after Groh left the head coaching job with the New York Jets following the 2000 NFL season to steward the Cavaliers.

Virginia's 3-9 finish marked its second consecutive losing season and third in four years.

Virginia Athletic Director Craig Littlepage said a national search for Groh's replacement would begin immediately, and that he would not comment on the coaching search until it is completed.

Possible replacements include two former Groh assistants: Richmond Coach Mike London and Temple Coach Al Golden. Virginia reportedly also is interested in Boise State Coach Chris Petersen. Former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville's name also has come up in speculation, as have Louisiana Tech Coach Derek Dooley, who played wide receiver at Virginia from 1987 to 1990; Harvard Coach Tim Murphy and Air Force Coach Troy Calhoun.

Groh, 65, was twice named ACC coach of the year, in 2002 and 2007. He finished with a 59-53 record at Virginia and is the second-winningest coach in school history behind his predecessor, George Welsh. Groh, who had two years remaining on his contract, is owed approximately $4.33 million.

"I feel very fortunate," Groh said in a statement. "I am an ordinary guy who has been lucky to have been around some extraordinary players and coaches who put me in a position to enjoy many fulfilling games and seasons -- and that's the truth. I gave everything I had to the position and to each game."

After Saturday's 42-13 loss to rival Virginia Tech in what proved to be his final game coaching the Cavaliers, Groh read a version of the poem "The Guy in the Glass" when asked about his future.

"When I visited the guy in the glass, I saw that he's a guy of commitment, of integrity, of dependability and accountability," Groh added. "He's loyal. His spirit is indomitable. And he is caring and loving. I'm sure I will always call the guy in the glass a friend."

Although questions about Groh's future have been rampant throughout the season, Littlepage reiterated that the football team would be evaluated at the end of the year. Littlepage had until Monday to roll over Groh's contract for an additional season, but informed Groh of his decision on Sunday.

When asked before the season about the perception that he was coaching for his job, Groh dismissed the notion and said: "It's not about me. It's about the team."

But the season has increasingly became about Groh ever since a humiliating opening loss to division I-AA William & Mary. Virginia opened 0-3 before a three-game winning streak to even its record. But the Cavaliers did not win another game, and it became apparent toward the latter portion of the season that change was forthcoming.

"I know a lot more about the situation than probably anybody," Groh said on Nov. 1 when asked about his future with the Cavaliers. "Maybe someday I'll say what that is."


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