Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage recently told the Associated Press that he will evaluate the job coach Al Groh has done at the end of the season.
Groh, though, doesn’t wait that long to look in the mirror. He said he evaluates what he and his staff have done on a weekly basis.
“We’re fairly self-critical,” said Groh, who is currently 59-50 and in his ninth season at Virginia, heading in the direction of his third losing season in the past four years. “It’s the nature of coaches that when things don’t turn out score-wise the way we want them to, to be very self-critical. If I wasn’t that way by nature, then I’d probably sleep better on Saturday nights.”
Needless to say, it’s been a restless season in Charlottesville.
The problem for Groh is that it’s not the first. Virginia is 3-6 heading into Saturday’s home game against Boston College, and has lost 10 of its past 13 games. The Cavaliers ended the 2008 season without a bowl appearance and on a four-game losing streak. They picked up right where they left off, starting this season with a three-game losing streak. What appeared to be a turnaround midseason was halted by better competition, as the Cavaliers have lost three straight to Georgia Tech, Duke and Miami.
In order to go to a bowl game this year, Virginia would have to win its final three games, which include BC, Clemson and rival Virginia Tech. Both the Tigers and the Hokies are ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 this week. Virginia’s chances of reaching the postseason seem slim. Again. That doesn’t mean, though, that the Cavaliers don’t have anything to play for.
“We’re playing to win on Saturday,” Groh said. “Really, in the long run, that’s what we’re playing for every week, just to walk out of that place on Saturday and say that everything we put into it -- the planning, the practice and the competition -- hey, we’ve got this to show for it. That’s about as long-term as my world is -- next Saturday.”
Unfortunately for Groh, a UVA alum, he’s running out of Saturdays. Groh’s contract doesn’t expire until Dec. 31, 2011, but the noticeable drop-off in attendance at Scott Stadium has caught Littlepage’s attention.
According to the Associated Press, Virginia is averaging 46,605 fans for its five home games, down more than 7,000 from what last year's 5-7 team drew. Fan support is one of the factors Littlepage told the Associated Press he is concerned about.
“When I walk out there, I have an idea of how many people are there, but frankly, once we’re playing, I don’t know if there’s six or 60,000 there,” Groh said. “I’m just trying to concentrate on doing my job.”
No one is questioning his effort. Groh made the painful decision to fire his son as offensive coordinator this past offseason, bringing in Gregg Brandon to install the spread offense. Without the personnel, though, the offense won’t work. Groh adjusted after the first three games and it paid off with a three-game winning streak.
When asked on Sunday night if he and his staff are doing everything they can to win games, Groh said that “to say everything would be egotistical.”
“I’ve never come out of one in a lot of years, even when we’ve won pretty well, that I thought I got them all right,” Groh said. “We analyze ourselves first, before we do anything else. Certainly there is plenty to analyze there, but as we did talk about in our meeting with the players [Sunday], the coaches’ job during the game is to put the players in position to make plays. We spend the whole week trying to do that, and come up with the right plan for that, and the right ideas, and everybody has to be able to respond to that particular thing.
"We’ve had some games where we’ve done a really good job of it. We had some real good things, some very, very good things down in Chapel Hill that frankly put the players in position to make the plays that determine the game. We did some real good things the previous two weeks in those games. But in the long run, they didn’t result in enough points or enough wins.”
And in the long run, those are the bottom-line numbers Littlepage will have to consider at the end of the season.