Mike Groh was among three assistant coaches who resigned in a shakeup brought on by his father's annual review, Al Groh said in a statement Monday. He said assistant head coach and defensive backs coach Steve Bernstein would retire and defensive line coach Levern Belin intended to pursue other opportunities.
"There are no scapegoats here," Al Groh said in the statement after commending the coaches for their commitment to the university. "The head coach is responsible for the team."
The changes come less than a week after Al Groh himself was told, for the second time in three years, that the school was declining to add another year to his contract. A clause in the contract calls for the university to decide by Dec. 1 whether to add a rollover year.
The Cavaliers were 5-7 in 2006 and 2008, each time failing to qualify for a bowl game. Groh got the additional year in 2007 after Virginia was 9-4 and played in the Gator Bowl.
Athletic director Craig Littlepage said in making the announcement last Sunday that he planned to meet with Groh on Monday or Tuesday to review the season and discuss the state of the football program, sending speculation about Groh's future as the head coach swirling.
So was speculation about Mike Groh's future.
A former quarterback for the Cavaliers, the younger Groh started as the wide receivers coach at Virginia, then switched to quarterbacks in 2003. He drew praise for his role in the development of Matt Schaub and Marques Hagans, the two best quarterbacks at Virginia in the Groh era, but found it harder to come by after he was elevated to coordinator in 2005 when Ron Prince left to coach Kansas State. Ever since, Virginia's offense has steadily struggled.
The Cavaliers finally settled on freshman Jameel Sewell as their quarterback two seasons ago after two upperclassmen failed to impress, and the two seasons leading up to this year were focused largely on Sewell's development. That plan backfired when Sewell was academically ineligible this season, and his backup, Peter Lalich, was eventually dismissed from the team.
Marc Verica eventually took over the position after three games and showed flashes of potential, but he also wound up leading the Atlantic Coast Conference with 16 interceptions.
Sewell, a dual-threat lef-thander, is expected to return in time for spring practice, and Al Groh said his program review also concluded that "changes in our systems" are necessary "to utilize the player talent available to us from our current roster and incoming players."
He said the staff changes will be made to accommodate the new schemes.
Groh said Bob Pruett, who joined the staff last season as defensive coordinator, will become the assistant head coach on the defensive side, and that special teams coordinator and linebacker coach Bob Diaco will become the defensive coordinator.
Running backs coach Anthony Poindexter, a former safety at Virginia still regarded as one of the best defensive players in school history, will now coach the defensive secondary.