Wednesday, September 05, 2007
UVa fans give grief to Groh
The Cavaliers' football coach tells irate backers that he is also 'troubled' after losing at Wyoming.
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Aaron McFarling's blog
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- By the time Virginia football coach Al Groh met with the media Tuesday, UVa's Beta Bridge had been painted over and there was no sign of the "Groh Must Go!" message that had greeted passers-by for 48 hours.
"I'm not familiar with the painting of Beta Bridge," Groh said.
If his players hadn't seen it, at least they were aware of it.
"I'm a graduate student now, so I don't go on campus that frequently," said Jordy Lipsey, the Cavaliers' starting center, "but I heard about it. I think it was painted while we were on the plane."
The Cavaliers returned home Saturday night after a 23-3 road loss to the University of Wyoming.
"I'm surprised that someone had the audacity to do that in broad daylight," Lipsey said. "Supposedly, it was up by the time we got home from Wyoming.
"Beta Bridge is [on] a very popular street. A lot of people travel on it and go by it. So, obviously, if someone's painting it and it's not 2 a.m., they're going to be seen by other people."
Apparently, the painters did not meet with much resistance.
Disenchantment with Groh was also evident Monday on his weekly radio show, Cavalier Call-In. A previous Groh adversary, Clyde from Forest, was the most vehement.
"I was embarrassed Saturday, as many Virginia fans were," Clyde said. "We weren't prepared. We looked like a little-league football team.
"I go to everything they got up there. The best way Coach Groh can help this program is to resign. That's the best thing he can do for us."
Before Clyde could continue or Groh could respond, host Mac McDonald jumped in.
"Clyde, you're done," McDonald said. "We appreciate your comments."
McDonald told print reporters Tuesday that he no longer would accept calls from Clyde from Forest, then later said that nobody would be turned down.
Groh took approximately 10 calls before the Roanoke station that carries Cavalier Call-In, WZZI (101.5 FM), went dead with 10 minutes remaining in the show.
Many of the early calls were from the Salem-Roanoke area.
The call that got the most heartfelt response from Groh was from a Norfolk caller who identified himself as a UVa graduate with two degrees.
"I'll be there Saturday," the caller said of the Cavaliers' home opener against Duke.
"I've got tickets to a bunch of away games. My family largely will organize its fall around Virginia football. A lot of what we're hearing tonight and a lot of what people have felt over the last season is frustration over a lack of excellence.
"We, as a fan base in football, have really been asked to step up to the plate in terms of attendance, enthusiasm at games, taking off coats and ties, all of that stuff, and frankly what is a remarkable, remarkable amount of money that it now takes, especially next year, to have good seats."
Virginia uses the term "uncompromised excellence" in its literature.
"I think the pursuit of excellence is a noble goal," the Norfolk caller said. "When you don't achieve it, I think it's frustrating and I think it's fair to hold people accountable. I'm sure you're doing everything you can but people are getting a little worn down.
"I think the fact that we could take 19 returning starters out to Wyoming and be so statistically manhandled, for me, was the most frustrating point and frankly, the low point, in 20-some years of following Virginia football very passionately."
He got no argument from Groh.
"We're very troubled by it, too," Groh said. "Everybody internally -- coaches and players -- are troubled by it. Nobody could be as troubled as the people here because this is our life. This is all we do. We don't have any outlet other than this.
"From a players' standpoint, we're pleased with the effort, not the performance but the effort. Coaches are here 90 to 100 hours a week. They can't do much more in terms of effort. We're going to fight our way out of this thing and we're confident in the players' attitude and their willingness to go forward."
Groh was not testy at any point in a 45-minute session with reporters Tuesday, even when the "Groh Must Go!" issue was raised.
"When you're the head coach, you know by the nature of the position that you're going to take your hits," said Groh, who came to UVa in 2001 after serving as head coach of the New York Jets for one year. "Any time you don't get the results that you want, it would be arrogant to say that everything is perfect. One thing we try to avoid is that.
"Arrogance is one of the first steps toward failure."