Jets' Al Groh Leaving NFL for Virginia

ByBill Barnard

N E W   Y O R K, Dec. 30, 2000 -- Al Groh is leaving the New York Jets after onedisappointing season to return to his alma mater and succeed GeorgeWelsh as the coach at Virginia.

Groh, who took over from Bill Parcells, announced his suddenresignation six days after the Jets were eliminated from theplayoff race.

“I realize there will be some criticism of this, but only Iknow my heart,” Groh said Saturday in a statement released by theJets. “Too, this provides the type of long-term security andstability not commonly found in the NFL nowadays.”

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

Reported $5 Million Deal

Groh’s deal is believed to be worth $5 million over seven years,The Boston Globe reported on its Web site.

The Jets said they would defer all comments about their nextcoach until Tuesday. There was no comment from Parcells in the teamstatement.

The Jets began the season with four straight victories butfinished 9-7 and missed the playoffs. The Jets lost their lastthree games, needing to win just once to make the postseason.

Virginia athletic director Terry Holland had said the schoolwould not announce a new coach until after Jan. 1. A universityspokesman said the school would have an announcement later in theday.

The Jets completed their season with a 34-20 defeat atBaltimore. Quarterback Vinny Testaverde threw three interceptionsand lost two fumbles in that game.

But two days after the final loss, Groh announced thatTestaverde, the hero of the 1998 run to the AFC title game underParcells, would go into summer training camp as the starter.

Jets Struggle For Stability

Groh’s departure guarantees further instability for a franchisethat has had little success since winning its only Super Bowl inprobably the biggest upset in NFL history.

Groh became the 12th head coach of the Jets last Jan. 24,following the retirement of Parcells and the sudden resignation ofhis designated replacement, Bill Belichick.

Belichick held the job for just one day, then sued to gain hisrelease from the Jets. He eventually signed to join the EnglandPatriots, and the Jets were without a coach for about three weeksbefore promoting Groh, the team’s linebackers coach.

Groh was a head coach in the NFL for only one season after 12years as an assistant for the Jets, Giants, New England andCleveland.

Before that, Groh’s only head coaching experience was at WakeForest, where he was 36-40 from 1981-86. He was an assistant atVirginia from 1970-72 after graduating in 1967 following afour-year playing career at defensive end with the Cavaliers.

Strong Ties to Home

Groh’s ties to Virginia weighed heavily on his decision to leavethe Jets.

“The University of Virginia is my school. I wore that jerseyand it means a great deal to me,” he said. “My mom lives thereand my dad is buried there.”

Groh’s son, Mike, also attended Virginia and was the quarterbackon the Cavaliers team that stunned then-No. 2 Florida State 33-28in 1995, becoming the first Atlantic Coast Conference team to beatthe Seminoles.

Mike Groh also was a member of his father’s staff with the Jets.

Since Welsh announced his retirement after 19 seasons, Hollandrevealed little about the search for a new coach. He said this weekhe was planning to bring several of the candidates toCharlottesville for additional interviews.

Mark Richt reportedly was offered the job before he decidedinstead to replace the fired Jim Donnan at Georgia. Penn State’sJerry Sandusky twice visited the campus for interviews.

At Virginia, Groh will inherit a team that failed to win atleast seven games for the first time in 14 seasons, and one thathas taken a decided back seat to the state’s other Division I-Ateam, Virginia Tech.

That divide had become an increasing burden for Welsh, whofrequently was criticized for running a conservative offense.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events