2009 Monday Thoughts: Virginia, Part 2: Groh’s Departure Heralds Change

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When Al Groh took the head coaching job at Virginia in the last days of the
year 2000, the Hokies were still playing catch-up to the Cavaliers in many ways.
As 2009 winds down and Groh makes his exit, the Hokies have clearly not only
caught the Cavaliers, but have passed them by. When Virginia makes a new
coaching hire some time in the coming weeks, the battle for in-state supremacy
will begin anew, and Virginia Tech needs to prepare for the challenges that will
be made by Virginia’s next head coach.

Al Groh was hired on December 30, 2000 because George Welsh’s career at
Virginia had run its course. Welsh had turned a pathetic Virginia football
program into something to respect and even fear, but after achieving a #1
ranking in October of 1990, the Cavalier faithful watched as their program
gradually backslid over the course of the 1990s.

In February of 1998, the Hokies really started hitting Virginia where it
hurts the most: in recruiting. Virginia Tech had enjoyed spotty success in the
in-state recruiting wars, but in the three recruiting classes from 1998-2000,
the Hokies signed a total of 13 top-ten in-state players, and UVa only signed
three.

On the field, the talent advantage that the Hokies had been building for
years started to manifest itself in 1999 and 2000, with the Hokies beating the
Cavaliers 31-7 and 42-21. The handwriting was on the wall for Welsh. The decade
that had started with the Cavaliers ranked #1 ended with Virginia Tech playing
for the national championship, and the balance of power had shifted.

Welsh’s struggles against Virginia Tech were particularly galling to UVa
followers because Virginia still enjoyed its historical advantages of ACC
affiliation, better regional media coverage, and higher revenue and

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