Al Groh resigned Saturday to take the coaching job at Virginia, jolting the New York Jets, who must look for their seventh coach in 11 years.
Groh spent only one season as Jet coach. He goes back to his alma mater to replace George Welsh, who retired. He accepted a seven-year contract that could be worth as much as $5 million.
“I realize there will be some criticism of this, but only I know my heart,” Groh said in a statement released by the Jets. “Too, this provides the type of long-term security and stability not commonly found in the NFL nowadays.
“The University of Virginia is my school. I wore that jersey and it means a great deal to me. My mom lives there [in Virginia], and my dad is buried there.”
Groh’s departure was in keeping with the Jet coaching history. He got the job when Bill Parcells resigned last January and Bill Belichick, Parcells’ hand-chosen successor, quit after one day and wound up coaching the New England Patriots.
The Jets started 4-0 under Groh, but finished 9-7 and lost their last three games. A victory in any of them would have earned a playoff berth. The university confirmed the hiring and said Groh will be introduced at a news conference Friday.
Meanwhile, Parcells--the Jets’ chief of football operations--is expected to meet with owner Woody Johnson Tuesday. Johnson is expected to ask Parcells if he wants to coach again.
Since 1989, the Jets’ coaches have been Joe Walton, Bruce Coslet, Pete Carroll, Rich Kotite, Parcells and Groh.
Groh, after 12 years as an NFL assistant, became the Jets’ 12th coach last Jan. 24.
Before that, his only head coaching experience was at Wake Forest, where he was 36-40 from 1981-86. He was an assistant at Virginia from 1970-72 after graduating in 1967 following a four-year playing career at defensive end.
Groh’s son, Mike, also attended Virginia and was the quarterback on the Cavalier team that stunned then-No. 2 Florida State, 33-28, in 1995, becoming the first Atlantic Coast Conference team to beat the Seminoles.
This past season, Virginia failed to win at least seven games for the first time in 14 years--losing 37-14 to Georgia in Welsh’s last game in the Oahu Bowl on Dec. 24--and its program has taken a decided back seat to the state’s other Division I-A team, Virginia Tech.
That divide had become an increasing burden for the 67-year-old Welsh, who frequently was criticized for running a conservative offense.