Virginia Beat: Off the Deep End

This would’ve been a great time to segue smoothly into basketball coverage, seeing as the football season is over and basketball season is just ramping up.  The football season may be over, but screw-with-the-heads-of-UVA-fans season knows no boundaries.  It is a 365-days-a-year operation, and it’s down to a science.

If it weren’t bad enough that a new “UVA to the Big Ten” rumor seems to pop up on a weekly basis, which is beginning to infuriate both those fans that don’t want to go and those that do, the Virginia administration and head coach offered little evidence this weekend that they know how to evaluate the problems that face the program.  The expected staff shakeup arrived on Sunday, although the only thing expected about it was that there was a shakeup.  The entire fanbase, including yours truly, colors itself shocked at the actual content of the firings.

It was already known that running backs coach Mike Faragalli would not return, and there’s little controversy over that, although it was a mild head-scratcher.  Shawn Moore’s firing was not totally unexpected; he had been shuffled around once already in his three seasons and his unit – the tight ends – were less than effective.  The special teams will no longer be in the hands of Anthony Poindexter, who will remain on staff but was a tremendous failure as the special teams coordinator.  That change was welcome.  Less welcome was the removal of two defensive coaches: defensive coordinator Jim Reid and defensive line coach Jeff Hanson.

If you read this column last week, you’d see why Hanson’s removal is such a shock: I considered him the best position coach on the staff.  Hanson took a player (Ausar Walcott) who had been recruited to UVA as a safety and molded him into a workable defensive lineman who could rush the passer.  The defense, and defensive line, exceeded expectations this year.

Reid was a popular coach who brought value to the recruiting trail as well as the defense, and his defenses improved in each of the three seasons he was employed.  Common sense would have dictated keeping him.  That’s why this move reeks of desperation and dysfunction.  Particularly dysfunction; it’s very reminiscent of when the administration – and not the head coach, Al Groh – hired Gregg Brandon to run the offense.  The admin has a history of expressing a lack of confidence in the head coach by pre-empting the coach and making moves that are normally the coach’s decision.  Witness AD Craig Littlepage’s decision to remove Peter Lalich from the team in 2008, a year before Littlepage – or his henchman, Jon Oliver – hired Brandon for Groh, a move that worked so well that Groh ditched Brandon’s spread offense two games into the season.

The remaining coaches must now work as hard as they can to reassure UVA’s verbal commitments for 2013 that UVA is still the place for them – particularly those that Hanson, Reid, and Moore recruited to the school.  And of course, hiring a new defensive coordinator is the top priority as far as filling the coaching staff.  The tea leaves so far point in the direction of Jon Tenuta, a well-known name in the coaching ranks.  One hopes that Mike London and the administration did not rid themselves of an accomplished and respected coach like Reid without a succession plan.  But what do I know?  I use common sense to interpret those tea leaves, which leads me in the direction of things like, “a coach who did a good job has a safe position on the staff, while a coach whose unit badly underperformed is at risk of losing his job.”  What a crazy idea.  It’s hard to trust to common sense anymore in the world that college football has become.


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Brendan’s bio: I’m just this guy … this ordinary Virginia graduate and fan who woke up one day realizing his opinions on everything UVA could no longer be contained in one space. Thus was born From Old Virginia, a labor of love where you can find obsessive opinionating on Virginia football, basketball, lacrosse, baseball, and whatever else when the mood strikes. And if that’s still not enough for you, go to the Twitster and follow @MaizeNBlueWahoo for the dumb stuff that pops into my head when I’m watching the Hoos.

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