Groh Says He Agrees With Bowl Decision
Nov 28, 2004Virginia football coach Al Groh said today that he supports the administration's decision to preclude playing in a bowl game during the final exam period.
“This was an easy one,” Groh said. “A university's fundamental issue is to educate, and the University of Virginia has certainly proven it knows very well how to educate at the very highest levels. I fully support and agree with that mission, and we want to play whatever role we can in being a part of that.”
The decision by President John Casteen, made after consultations with athletic director Craig Littlepage and other administrators, could have negative consequences for the Cavaliers. They are in line to receive an invitation from the Dec. 21 Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, but that game conflicts with the Dec. 13-21 exam schedule. So if that's not an option, Virginia may fall to the No. 6 bowl in the ACC pecking order, the Dec. 27 MPC Computers Bowl in Boise, Idaho.
“It doesn't really make any difference to me,” Groh said, though it surely makes a difference to fans who want to attend the bowl game.
Many fans were upset that they were not informed of the decision before Saturday, once Virginia lost its shot at a share of the ACC title by losing to Virginia Tech. ACC and Champs Sports officials also apparently were taken by surprise when UVa told them about the decision last week.
Littlepage, meeting with reporters at halftime of the UVa-Richmond basketball game today, said that the school had made its decision in the past week but preferred not to announce anything unless a Champs Sports invitation seemed likely. Had Virginia defeated Virginia Tech, he said, the decision never would have been made public.
Of course, the bowl's conflict with the exam schedule could have been foreseen long ago. So why didn't Virginia make it clear from the start that Orlando was not an option? The bowl was among six included on the bowl ticket order form mailed to UVa season-ticket holders earlier this month. Littlepage called that an oversight.
“It probably in retrospect should not have been on there,” he said. “From the standpoint of where we are, it's one of those situations where our senior administrative staff in athletics fully expected we would be playing [in] the BCS, Gator or possibly Peach. We took our eye off the Champs Sports and that's unfortunate we got to the point that we did yesterday.”
Littlepage said he was contacted by ACC assistant commissioner Mike Finn several weeks ago, days after the Miami loss, and Finn asked whether Virginia would be able to play in the Orlando bowl despite the exam schedule. Probably not, Littlepage told him, but he said he would look into it. The athletic department then checked how many players had exams from Dec. 17-21, when the team would be required to be in Orlando.
“When we did the analysis, it was clear that there was too much of an overlap between number of players and number of exams,” Littlepage said. “Then on top of that, adding the band, cheerleaders, student-managers, all student personnel - you're probably talking close to 350 students potentially could have been impacted - and nobody felt as though it was a workable situation to release that many students from that many exams for four days.”
So why not let the ACC know that well in advance?
“We gave [Finn] the information shortly after being asked the question,” Littlepage said. “Our exam schedule has been in the conference office for a long time, so I don't know if it's our responsibility to inform them or what. … And I'm not trying to point the finger and say anybody dropped the ball or anything else.”
So now what?
Virginia is highly unlikely to know its bowl destination before next Saturday, when Miami and Virginia Tech play for the conference's BCS berth. After that, Littlepage said, “the dominoes will fall from there."
Boise seems like the most likely scenario, but Littlepage said the ACC can negotiate a trade with other bowls with available spots. There are four or five bowls with openings, Littlepage said, because some conferences don't have enough eligible teams to fill their bowl tie-ins.
The Peach Bowl also remains a possibility, but only if the Gator takes the Miami-Virginia Tech loser and if the Peach selects Florida as its SEC representative. In that scenario, the Peach might go with Virginia to avoid a Florida-Florida State rematch.
“I tend to be an optimist, so until I'm told otherwise I'll think that we'll have an opportunity for the Peach,” Littlepage said. “If that doesn't happen, we'll go to another bowl and our team will be prepared and will play well and will hopefully bring home a trophy.”
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