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New York Jettisoned

Groh leaves NFL for Virginia job

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Posted: Saturday December 30, 2000 2:06 PM
Updated: Wednesday January 03, 2001 5:17 PM

  Al Groh Al Groh was 9-7 at the Jets' helm this season. David Leeds/Allsport

ATLANTA (CNNSI.com) -- As reported by Sports Illustrated's Don Banks and Peter King, New York Jets head coach Al Groh has resigned to accept the head coaching position at the University of Virginia.

Groh was 9-7 in his only season at the Jets' helm. He will replace George Welsh, who retired after 19 seasons as the Cavaliers' head coach.

"I realize there will be some criticism of this, but only I know my heart," Groh said Saturday in a statement released by the Jets. "Too, this provides the type of long-term security and stability not commonly found in the NFL nowadays."

Welsh, 67, retired at Virginia on Dec. 11 because of health reasons. In his last game, the Cavaliers lost to Georgia 37-14 on Dec. 24 in the Oahu Bowl.

Groh interviewed with the Cavaliers on Friday. It is believed that the school offered him a lifetime contract. Groh had served just one year of his four-year deal with the Jets, which he received last winter when he was named to replace head coach Bill Parcells, his longtime coaching mentor.

Groh's brief stay on New York's sideline conjures up memories of Lou Holtz's saga with the Jets. Holtz was hired in 1976, from ACC member North Carolina State, but quit the Jets after one disillusioning 3-11 season.

 

Groh, a Virginia alum, was the Cavaliers' head freshman coach from 1970-72 and the Cavs' defensive line coach from 1971-72. He also was the Wake Forest head coach from 1981-86.

"The University of Virginia is my school. I wore that jersey and it means a great deal to me," he said. "My mom lives there and my dad is buried there."

"Al Groh is a perfect fit for the university and for its football program," school president John T Casteen III said. "In addition to his undisputed success as a coach, he is well known for establishing sportsmanship, academic success and a strong work ethic. We welcome him and his family back to Charlottesville with great enthusiasm."

In the Jets' media guide, Groh says, "I think teaching is what I do best. I've always taken a lot of pride in my ability to communicate with players and to tell them in an honest and straight-forward manner what they need to do to get better."

Jets assistant Mike Groh, one of Al Groh's four children, was a two-year starter at Virginia (1994-95). Mike Groh is the Jets' offensive assistant/quality control coach.

 
UVa. A.D. Terry Holland's statement to CNNSI.com
Al Groh was always at the top of my "short list" until he was appointed as the Jets' head coach a year ago. We did not expect to have this window of opportunity to visit with Al as a candidate, and when it appeared, we went immediately to talk with him.

The interview was the most inspiring that I have seen and it was quickly obvious that coach Groh had us in the palm of his hand as he spoke of his vision for UVa. football. President [John] Casteen, [special assistant to the president] Gordon Burris, and [senior associate athletic director] Craig Littlepage were able to make the trip with me to New York last night [Friday] and we were ready to suit up and play for coach right then and there.

Coach Groh has enjoyed success at every level of football and certainly understands and embraces the challenge of building on the foundation laid by coach Welsh to compete for a national championship while maintaining our high graduation rates and academic standards. 
 

Groh's one season in New York was an eventful roller-coaster ride that never suffered for headlines. The Jets went 9-7 and missed the playoffs thanks to a loss at Baltimore last weekend. But the Jets were 4-0 at one point, and hailed as one of the surprises of the season. New York faltered at mid-season, but improved to 9-4 after 13 games, putting it within one win of clinching a playoff spot.

But that celebration never came, as New York lost its final three games, at Oakland, home against Detroit and at the Ravens.

Groh was said to have quickly tired of many of the headaches and pressures that went with being a head coach in New York, including sparring with the media and being in such a highly visible post. He bristled and argued with a New York reporter in his postgame news conference at Baltimore last week, an exchange that was captured on video and replayed numerous times by local and national TV outlets.

Groh spent 13 seasons in the NFL, four with the Jets.

Groh's departure was in keeping with the Jets' coaching history. He got the job when Parcells resigned last January and Bill Belichick, Parcells' hand-chosen successor, quit after one day and wound up coaching the New England Patriots.

Parcells is to meet with team owner Woody Johnson on Tuesday for an "organizational meeting," said a source close to the Jets, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Parcells is the chief of football operations, a role he has hinted he will continue. Now, Johnson is expected to ask Parcells if he wants to return to the sideline or, barring that, if he will hire the new head coach.

The Jets -- who now must look for their seventh head coach in 11 years -- said they would defer all comments about their next head coach until Tuesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


 
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Sports Illustrated's Peter King says that from a certain vantage point, Groh's decision makes perfect sense. (249 K)
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