Any of us who have ever been part of a staff that goes through a “non-renewal” (administrative term for – YOU’RE FIRED!) knows it is a tumultuous time for players, staffs and their families. All of the behind the scenes people suffer greatly, but none more than the one in the direct line. If you have been in this profession long enough, you’ve gone through it. It’s not fun.
I’ve watched over the last two years, from a distance but still within the same university, the Al Groh situation. Tough.
Coach Groh has proven to be a tremendously honorable and loyal person through all of this. His example is one of class that everyone in the profession can learn from. Both sides have appeared very honorable. Craig Littlepage has stood by him far longer than any of the “experts” have wanted. That’s unheard of in today’s world of college athletics.
I could be wrong, not being in the trenches, but I greatly respect the “How” this has played itself out. The “What” is inevitable, if you don’t win – you are out. I don’t think any coach can argue that. What all of us want in return for the loyalty, the commitment and the countless hours sacrificed is for the people in charge to do it the right way.
I always tune into NBATV for the playing of post game interviews. I always watch the champions accept their trophy, be interviewed and the losers speak about the loss. It is in those moments that we can all, whether we have been there or not, learn and grow.
It is also at times like this, where we can learn and grow as well.
Watching, listening to Al Groh this past year – I grew. He demonstrated: Honor. Integrity. Loyality. Responsibility. Respect. Coach Groh did not win games. In our profession – that earns you a check and a vacation. Always. Academics, character, graduation matter – winning football games at a high rate – matters more. Always. He worked his damndest to win and to build men of character by example. He succeeded at the latter, the former – not so much.
Here are the words he spoke to his men after the Virginia Tech loss:
“Man in the Glass” by Dale Winbrow,
with comments from Virginia coach Al Groh:
“When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you king for a day,
Then go to a mirror and look at yourself
And see what that guy has to say.
For it isn’t your father or mother or wife
Whose judgment upon you must pass,
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the guy staring back from the glass.
He’s the fellow to please, never mind all the rest
For he’s with you clear to the end
And you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the guy in the glass is your friend.
You may be like Jack Horner and chisel a plum,
And think you’re a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum,
If you can’t look him straight in the eye.
You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass
But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.“
Groh’s comments: “When I visited the guy in the glass, I saw that he’s a guy of commitment, of integrity, of dependability and accountability. He’s loyal. His spirit is indomitable. And he is caring and loving. I’m sure I will always call the guy in the glass a friend.“
For me, watching Coach Groh, his players and staff keep their composure. To not go “negative” when it would be easy to do so is a tribute to their professionalism and their character. It proves that he lead by example. That is what I would want my son to learn from his coach. So few teams, people, are fortunate to win championships. Although, everyone must learn to live the rest of their lives the right way.
Thanks for the lessons Coach; I wish you had won too.