Why the University of Virginia football program insists on continuing to torture me in the winter after spending 13 weeks doing so in the fall is a thing inexplicable. The fortitude it takes to be a UVA fan is really something. Fortunately I'm prepared: I've pulled for the Detroit Lions since I was like 8.
Sad to say, however, the recognizable stench of dysfunction is again oozing out of the football offices. It takes UVA to screw up a coaching staff shakeup this badly. It wouldn't have been so bad if only the offensive staff had undergone a makeover, because it needed it. (And it got one, although not in all necessary areas.) I wrote my ITA article this week on the absurd upheaval in the staff, which you can read when it's posted sometime Tuesday, and I don't want to steal their thunder too much. At any rate I'm not duplicating more than one or two things, so you'll have to read it to get the whole picture. I'm getting my MBA, and we call that "marketing." According to the marketing textbook, everything is marketing.
Suffice it to say, however, I think somebody, somewhere, made a really stupid decision in firing Jim Reid and Jeff Hanson. I'll come out and say it: Hanson was almost certainly the best position coach on staff, and if not the best, top three, easy. (Consideration must be given to Vincent Brown, and perhaps Bill Lazor's quarterback work; remember we're talking about the guy who squeezed a remarkable amount of talent out of Marc Verica, before you scoff.)
It has the pawprints of outside meddling all over it. It might be a disgruntled fat-cat donor who doesn't know shit except for "Duke, 42 points" and is still butthurt about that. It might be Jon Oliver, who can usually be seen during games, standing, for some reason, on the sideline, like a sunspectacled watchdog. It might be Craig Littlepage, who showed his lack of confidence in Al Groh by making head coach decisions for him. (Such as sending Peter Lalich packing, a decision which I still say was not his to make. Such as firing Mike Groh as OC - admittedly necessary - and bringing in Gregg Brandon and telling Al Groh to shove a square peg into a round hole or else.) If they follow that pattern, they'll probably find some dude who runs a 3-3-5 defense.
One hopes, at least, that whatever forces out there fired Jim Reid, already had a replacement idea halfway locked up. At the moment I'm not especially interested in a search of my own to evaluate replacements. Having been made to look a fool by expecting common-sense changes, and being presented with evidence of erratic and unpredictable decision-making by the athletic department, I'm not especially confident I'll get it right, and I'm not especially confident they will either. Of course the top two names for now are Jon Tenuta and Randy Shannon, because they're well-known. Shannon is probably not one of the odds-on favorites; Tenuta may be, but he's sort of coaching NC State in a bowl game that doesn't take place til New Year's Eve. (Just to fuck with people maybe we should get on a Tennessee message board with the rumor that Jon Gruden is our pick.)
Obviously, waiting almost 30 days may not be a good idea; Reid and Hanson recruited several members of this recruiting class, and the snakes are in the grass as we speak trying to pull them to State College and Chapel Hill and College Park and Blacksburg and Buddha knows where else. There are lots of bridges to be rebuilt here, and a few decommitments and/or transfers are to be expected.
-- Why, speaking of transfers, the first one of the offseason hit the bricks this weekend, and it's somewhat surprisingly Mike Rocco. And he had some things to say on the way out. Things he probably shouldn't have said, because dirty laundry stays in house. It's bad enough the program looks like it's run by bumbling fools, going 4-8 and then firing the wrong coaches, but Rocco's comments didn't help.
That said, it's certainly more defensible than Jared Green's parting shots, which were easily exposed as flat lies. And Rocco sort of clarified a few things thought to be true and now more strongly thought to be true. People wondering if Bill Lazor and Mike London are quite on the same page when it comes to the QB rotation? "'In the Penn State game, Mike fumbled a snap and, the next series, totally unbeknownst to anybody, London made a decision to put Phillip Sims in. And nobody knew about it. Mike didn't know about it. The offensive coordinator didn't know about it."
Maybe the offensive coordinator should know about it. Rocco also flat-out confirmed what a lot of us had been thinking: he plays better when his leash is longer. Shorten the leash and he ties it into a noose, didn't I say something like that a little while back?
At any rate, the bad thing about Rocco's transfer is that it takes away our security blanket at quarterback. Phillip Sims hasn't made any moves to seize the job, David Watford redshirted, Greyson Lambert has never taken a college snap, and neither has Matt Johns. The competition is likely to be wide open. The good thing about Rocco's transfer, though, is that it takes away our security blanket. London earns a D+ for quarterback management so far, and he might well have been tempted to put Rocco in next season at the slightest sign of shakiness by whoever won the competition (assuming it wasn't Rocco.) At some point, London is going to have to learn to pick a winner of the derby before the season starts, and stick with him all season. If Rocco's public comment about being jerked in and out of the lineup drives home that point, it'll have been worth it.
-- The coaching change wasn't even the first thing to set everyone on edge this weekend. Some guy at some local TV station decided to start the old UVA-and-GT-to-the-Big-Ten rumor, and of course wound up with egg on his face when it didn't come true. Lemme give you a hint about conference realignment: big moves like that will never be broken by local TV stations unless they're also broken by like twenty other outlets. Newspaper reporters are still more plugged in than local TV hacks. Doug Doughty was the first guy that I saw with the Maryland news.
I don't want to be in the Big Ten, of course, but a small part of me was still hoping that this Kevin Jones guy somehow had a dead-on source that nobody else had, if only because that's the same part of me that rips off a scab even though I know damn well it'll bleed. I don't think any of UVA's various sports will prosper in the B1G, any more than they do in the ACC, but at least I could stop chewing my nails over the ACC's fate.
-- The ACC looks like its in trouble this bowl season, as usual, and this year you can blame, in part, UNC and Miami. Particularly UNC, who should be playing in the ex-Tangerine Bowl against Rutgers, instead of VT. That would've bumped everyone down to more manageable matchups; instead, most teams in the ACC are fighting above their weight class, and it's going to hurt. At least the ACC will win its BCS matchup. Or it should, anyway. You might now see the problem with a threshold for the non-BCS teams to earn automatic bids. Did the voters objectively come to the conclusion that Northern Illinois is really and truly slotted where they should be? Or did they decide to play God and put NIU into the BCS on purpose? Judging by the MAC CG announcers' giddy proclamations that Kent State could crash the BCS with a win, and thinly veiled disappointment that they didn't get it done, I'm guessing the latter. Nor do I particularly think it's a coincidence that both BCS polls ranked NIU exactly 16th. (Edit: My theory may be rather undermined by the fact that I voted NIU 16th in the Blogpoll, in a system, remember, that blindly ranks resume games against each other without me knowing who played them. So I am less suspicious than I was. But then, like the pollsters, I also put Oklahoma ahead of them. And why the pollsters think Boise is #15 is an eternal mystery, except that they're simply used to having them on the ballot.)