Al Groh was self-absorbed and defiant until the humiliating end.
He exited the Scott Stadium turf as the University Virginia's football coach for the final time at 6:43 p.m., Saturday to a chorus of Virginia Tech fans chanting, "Keep Al Groh! Keep Al Groh."
Hard to blame the devilish Tech faithful. The Hokies had just routed the Cavaliers 42-13, their eighth victory in nine games against Groh, whose termination likely will come today.
As if that weren't bizarre enough, when asked about his future, Groh concluded his post-mortem news conference by unfolding a piece of paper and reading "The Guy in the Glass," a 1934 poem written by Dale Wimbrow.
Call it Take II, for Groh had done the same in the locker room.
"Coach Groh is a very well educated, smart, emotional man, and I think that poem captured his spirit," fullback Rashawn Jackson said. "It takes a big man to stand in front of a team and read something like that. It was very moving."
Perhaps it was moving in the locker room, where Virginia mourned the conclusion of a 3-9 season, 2-6 in the ACC. Perhaps Groh appeared big to his players, who seem to respect, admire, and yes, love him.
But in the media room it was calculating, awkward and just plain weird. In the media room, Groh looked as beaten as his team.
The five-stanza verse challenges readers to look in the mirror and reflect on their deeds, a time-honored and worthy theme.
But again, that wasn't enough for Groh. He then launched into the following self-description:
"When I visited the guy in the glass, I saw that he's a guy of commitment, of integrity, of dependability and accountability. He's loyal. His spirit is indomitable. And he is caring and loving. I'm sure I will always call the guy in the glass a friend."
Last we checked, no one doubted Groh's commitment and loyalty to his alma mater and players. No one questioned his integrity — he never ran afoul of NCAA regs — or spirit.
What darn near everyone questioned, with good reason, was Groh's ability to lead a major college football program.
Virginia will fire him because this is the Cavaliers third losing season in four years and their fourth in his nine. George Welsh, Groh's predecessor, had two losing records in 19 seasons despite inheriting a laughingstock.
Virginia will fire Groh because 3-9 is the program's worst finish since 2-9 in Welsh's 1982 debut, and because fans abandoned the product in record number.
Saturday's crowd of 58,555 was nearly 3,000 shy of capacity, and probably half the folks here were Hokies. The season average of 47,986 was easily the worst since the stadium's 2000 expansion.
Groh must be held accountable for that precipitous decline.
That decline was startlingly evident in Saturday's second half, when the 14th-ranked Hokies (9-3, 6-2 ACC) outscored the Cavaliers 28-0 and outgained them 262 yards to 95.
Tech was clinging to a 14-13 lead when Virginia cornerback Chris Cook intercepted Tyrod Taylor in the end zone for the game's first turnover midway through the third quarter. But two plays later, Cavaliers quarterback Jameel Sewell and tailback Mikell Simpson mishandled an option pitch, which Kam Chancellor recovered for the Hokies and returned to the 10-yard-line.
Two Ryan Williams bursts later, Tech led 21-13.
"After that it all fell down," Groh said.
Why? The deficit was only eight points.
Virginia players had spoken throughout the week about this being their bowl, about ending Groh's five-game losing streak against Tech. And an eight-point margin crushed their spirit?
Again, the coaching staff is accountable.
"We made a pretty good go of it for a little while," Groh said of the game.
He might as well have been referring to his Virginia tenure, which included four straight bowl invites from 2002-05 but concluded with a six-game losing streak and a 59-53 record.
Senior linebacker Aaron Clark described the locker room emotions as "pretty raw. That's a tough one to deal with. A lot of the seniors are pretty heartbroken. …
"It's tough to go out like this. We really wanted to give this to Coach Groh. … He's a great guy, he's a great coach, and I love the guy."
As Clark spoke, Groh's family lingered. His daughter, Ashley Anne, was in tears, holding her children's hands. His wife, Anne, clutched a yellow rose in her right hand.
Al Groh had left the room.
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times