Groh pulls strings all the way to end

Column by Chris Graham

I’m not buying it for a second, though I guess that makes me the butthead.

“When I visited the guy in the glass,” Groh said after reading the last line in the poem “The Man in the Glass” at what turned out to be his final press conference as the head football coach at UVa. last night, following a 42-13 loss to in-state rival Virginia Tech, “I saw that he’s a guy of commitment, of integrity, of dependability and accountability. He’s loyal, his spirit is indomitable, and he’s caring and loving.”

“I’m sure I will always call the guy in the glass a friend,” said Groh, before walking to the back of the media room underneath Scott Stadium to embrace his wife, Anne, and family members in a scene that struck me immediately as having been a piece of media-relations orchestration on the part of Groh.

And I’m saying that after reading a handful of sappy “Oh, woe is Al, what a nice guy” columns online today from a group of willing dupes who helped give Groh a sendoff that he didn’t deserve, considering the news that we got today.

Groh somehow avoided having his departure termed either a “firing” or “resignation” while somehow getting his hands on the $4.33 million that he was owed for the final two years of his contract at UVa.

Now, I get that he was owed the money under the terms of his contract, which should get John Casteen III, Craig Littlepage or both booted out on the street along with Groh. But here’s the deal – if I’m going to pay the guy the entirety of his contract anyway, I’m calling it what it is.

To borrow from Donald Trump, “Al, you’re fired!”

But in effect, Al wasn’t fired, he didn’t have to resign. He was simply not “retained,” according to the press release sent out today by the UVa. athletics department to announce the move.

The guy had three losing seasons in his last four years, four losing seasons in nine years, after his predecessor had two losing seasons in 19 years upon taking over for a long line of failed UVa. football coaches, and he still runs the show even in his wake.

Even to the point of the break of protocol in the Virginia Tech postgame yesterday. Again, I was supposed to leave the media room thinking how tough this whole situation was for the Groh family, evidenced by the fact that not five feet from me Groh and his family shared their tearful embraces, and then stayed uncomfortably afterward as we went about our jobs trying to interview players.

What I was left feeling instead was that this was typical Al Groh. Not only did he read to us a cornball poem with the basic message that, Yeah, I don’t care what you think, I think I did a good job, but then he trotted out his emotional family for the TV cameras and still photographers to squeeze every last bit of sympathy he could before cashing out his $4 million golden parachute.

Sorry, I’ll pass.

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