Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Retirement not in ex-UVa coach Al Groh's vocabulary

Al Groh isn't ready to be put out to pasture any time soon, but concedes, "That might be what it's coming to."

Former University of Virginia head coach Al Groh was fired from Georgia Tech on Oct. 8.

The Roanoke Times | File September

Former University of Virginia head coach Al Groh was fired from Georgia Tech on Oct. 8.

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Two months after his departure from the football coaching scene, Al Groh isn't sitting in an easy chair, waiting for the phone to ring.

When located on a December morning, Groh was getting into his car after his daily two-hour stop at an Atlanta health club.

"I had another of my ridiculous workouts," said Groh, who spends 40 minutes on a Stairmaster, followed by 40 minutes on a rowing machine. "I'm ready for the Senior Olympics right now."

At 68, he's not ready to declare himself retired, "but I've been practicing that life, if that's what it is," he said.

"That might be what it's coming to."

Groh, the head coach at Virginia from 2001-09, served as Georgia Tech defensive coordinator until he was relieved of his duties Oct. 8.

Head coach Paul Johnson announced the move two days after a 47-31 loss to Clemson. That was the third straight loss for the Yellow Jackets, who had given up more than 40 points in all three games.

Johnson said he had based his decision on results but it appears there were other issues.

"Just to say it briefly, this circumstance here was the most unprofessional, divisive and negative environment in which I've ever been," Groh said. "To say more would be unprofessional of myself.

"It was just a bad cultural match."

The Yellow Jackets, who were 2-4 at the time, proceeded to win five of their last eight games. They ended the season Monday with a 21-7 victory over Southern Cal in the Sun Bowl, holding the Trojans to 205 yards.

Groh has continued to live in Midtown Atlanta, where his lease runs out at the end of February. He still owns a home in Charlottesville and either will relocate to central Virginia or move elsewhere.

His current location has been convenient, as he has followed the career of his son, Mike, who is the receivers coach at Alabama.

"Courtesy of Michael, we're now going to our third BCS championship game," Groh said.

Groh and his wife, Anne, will be going as spectators but he's still trying to figure out retirement.

"You know who Tom Moore is?" Groh said. "When [the Indianapolis Colts] were going to their second Super Bowl, there was a big article written about [offensive coordinator] Tom Moore and his symbiotic relationship with Peyton Manning.

"Somebody asked him, 'Hey, Tom, if you win a second one with Peyton ... you're 72 years old, do you think that might be a time to retire?'

"And Tom Moore said, 'Retire? I don't have plans ever to retire. I guess when nobody wants to hire me, that's when I'll be finished.' When he said that, I cut that out and I saved it.'

"At this moment, Tom Moore speaks for me. It could happen that way. We'll see."

Groh has worked at four ACC schools - Wake Forest and Virginia as head coach and North Carolina and Georgia Tech as an assistant. He also spent 14 years in the NFL, the last as head coach of the New York Jets in 2000.

"I've got all the ambition and energy that I've ever had," Groh said. "Frankly, I probably know the most I've ever known. These past three years, without some of the [head-coaching] responsibilities I had, has given me a real good opportunity to research a lot of things and expand my systems."

Groh said he had spoken recently to Bill Polian, an architect of a Colts team that went to four straight Super Bowls. Polian was 68 when he was let go by Indianapolis after the 2011 season, although he is now being mentioned as a possible target of the New York Jets.

"Bill said, 'I accept the fact, in this day and age, that relevance means more than acumen,' " Groh said. "Sometimes, they're just looking for the new guy."

If he doesn't return to coaching at the pro or college level, Groh will stay around football through his sons. The younger of his two sons, Matthew, is a Princeton undergraduate and UVa law grad who works in the New England Patriots front office.

Mike Groh played quarterback at Virginia and was a Cavalier assistant for eight years, the last four as offensive coordinator prior to being let go following the 2008 season.

"Michael leaving; that wasn't my decision," his father said.

The dismissal of four UVa assistants this year was eerily similar to the 2008 housecleaning, which came one year after Groh was named ACC coach of the year in 2007.

"That's the general manager," said Groh, referring to executive associate athletic director Jon Oliver. "They're like a pro organization in that respect."

Proud papa that he is, Groh pointed out that Alabama has won 39 of 41 games since Mike has been associated with the program. Al Groh worked with Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban in the NFL and doesn't think his son should jump at the first opportunity to coach his own team.

"Very few places in college football actually have the infrastructure to support the results that they claim that they want," Al Groh said. "[Mike is] not going to take a position at any kind of place. He knows the value of being in that program."

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