State of the Program, Part 5: The Intangibles

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Al Groh hasn’t gotten UVa into any trouble with the NCAA.

Say this for Al Groh: He runs a clean program. There hasn’t been a whiff of scandal since he arrived 56 months ago. Most of his players (the ones who stick around) graduate. Few have gotten into trouble off the field. Football hasn’t tarnished the university’s image under his watch. If anything, it has enhanced it. Groh has represented UVa well.

At the same time, there are questions about Groh’s leadership style and his way of running the program. Is he too domineering? Does he stifle the creativity of his assistants and players? Is he open to new ideas? Let’s look at some of the intangible aspects of Groh’s football program, such as discipline, attitude and leadership.


Groh runs a tight ship, no doubt about it. Even tighter, in most ways, than the old Navy man who preceded him. He demands discipline from his players. He expects them to go to class, practice hard, stay fit and avoid legal trouble. He doesn’t tolerate penalties, turnovers or knuckleheads. To borrow one of his favorite phrases, he wants them to be “smart, tough and focused,” on and off the field.

For the most part, he gets what he wants. Most of these intangible aspects of the program are impossible to quantify with stats, but we can look at several indicators that his approach is working.

Penalties, for instance.

Penalty yards per game (ACC rank)

2001: 69.2 (7)

2002: 34.6 (1)

2003: 42.8 (1)

2004: 50.0 (5)

And how about turnovers?


2001: 24

2002: 22

2003: 18

2004: 10

As you can see, it took a year or two for his message to get through, but the results have been good. The Cavaliers have been one of the least-penalized teams in the ACC for three years, and they’ve cut back