College Football: If it was up to me, I’d hire Jim Grobe

Column by Chris Graham
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The years-long debate about Al Groh is over and done with now. It’s not a matter of if, basically, but who is going to be his replacement. Groh, in my estimation, survives the season, even as I can make the case for getting rid of him basically whatever Sunday morning you want to and installing Bob Pruett as your interim with the idea of stopping the hemorrhaging in the fan and donor base and giving the players someone to rally around other than the lame-duck curmudgeon who isn’t going to be around come Nov. 30.

Phew. That said, Pruett isn’t the long-term solution, even if he ends up being the short-term answer at some point in ’08. In my mind, the long-term solution is Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe, a UVa. alum who has done wonders in his years down in Winston-Salem, taking a program that everybody said would be at best an occasional contender for a slot in bowls named after tires and weedeaters to the BCS and now perennial ACC championship-contender status.

Now, consider what he’s done in the face of the obstacles that every one of his predecessors at Wake, including Groh himself, who had a brief and unsuccessful stint at Wake in the 1980s, have not been able to overcome. Wake plays in a relative bandbox of a football stadium, and with a student population in the mid-sixes doesn’t have a sizable donor base to provide for the amenities that you need to be able to compete year-in and year-out in the upper echelons of I-A football. And like at Virginia and also at Duke, Wake has an admissions office that likes its student-athletes to mirror the general student population in terms of their academic proclivities, which is to say Grobe can’t hide too many football majors on campus and hope to slide them through as coaches can at other schools.

That last challenge is perhaps the toughest one to overcome, and is one that Groh has been unable to conquer in his time at UVa., including that recruiting class that he submitted a couple of years ago that famously failed to qualify a third of its signees.

Grobe has a track record of signing good kids, turning them into good football players and good citizens, graduating them, and winning football games at Wake. Imagine, then, what he could do at Virginia, with what would have to seem like infinitely more in terms of resources? It would take a year or two to rebuild the program from the mess that Groh has it in right now, but something tells me that Grobe might be able to sneak out an extra win or two or three just on the basis of his approach alone in years one and two, and by year three, when the first class of Grobe signees would be coming into their redshirt sophomore years on Grounds, watch out.

***

A source in the UVa. athletics family who has been right about an awful lot in recent months has indicated to me that Grobe has let on that he might be interested in a return to UVa., so this isn’t blowing for me to spend all this time talking about the guy in this context.

That said, it’s clear that I’ve already made up my mind, but I’d be shocked if there weren’t some of you out there who are just as deadset on somebody else.

Feel free to comment below – and tell me what you think.

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