Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe isn’t just talking fluff when he says that discipline and character are more important to him than winning football games.
It’s not his style. What has happened in Winston-Salem the past two weeks is proof.
Grobe suspended eight players -- including four starters -- over the past two weeks for violations of team rules. It was rare news for a program that takes a lot of pride in its aversion to off-field incidents. Last week, Grobe announced six players were suspended for the Maryland game. On Saturday, during the Deacs’ bye week, the school announced two more players were suspended indefinitely. In an interview with ESPN.com on Saturday night -- Grobe returned a call while driving home from a hike with his wife -- Grobe said that this weekend’s suspensions were unrelated to last week, but declined to go into specifics.
What he did say was that this is not a group of “bad kids.”
“It’s really disappointing,” he said. “You know how we are here. We really care more about how these kids are going to turn out. Once they’ve left Wake Forest I want them to look back and say, ‘Coach Grobe cared more about me than he did winning a football game.’ Hopefully they all learn.”
“In reality we don’t have bad kids, we’re just pretty strict,” he said. “We want kids to do the right thing and when they don’t, the worst thing in the world I could ever do with our kids is make them feel like football is more important than their character. What we want the kids to know is, is winning important? Yeah, it’s really, really important. But, No. 1, we want you to be a good guy before we want you to be a great player. Hopefully we sent that message and we don’t have to deal with it anymore.”
The Deacs have lost back-to-back games heading into Saturday’s game at Virginia and are in serious jeopardy of not reaching the postseason with two ranked teams -- Clemson and Notre Dame -- still on the schedule. The latest suspensions -- to backup safety Duran Lowe and offensive tackle Devin Bolling -- shouldn’t be too much of a factor against the Hoos, who have lost five straight.
“What we’re trying to do is look to the future and let kids know we have high expectations for your behavior, and if you don’t behave right, then we’re not going to hesitate to do the right thing,” Grobe said. “It will make us better going forward, but it’s sure hard to do right now.”
More important than the team’s 1-3 record in ACC play now is the message Grobe has sent to his players, potential recruits and their parents.