Oliver Discusses U-Va. Football, in-Season Coaching Changes
Jon Oliver, Virginia's executive associate athletic director, discussed the Cavaliers football program in an insightful interview with Jay James on WINA in Charlottesville earlier this week. The weekly program, “From the Corner Office”, alternates between Athletic Director Craig Littlepage and Oliver, and Oliver had the good timing of appearing after a loss to William & Mary that rankled Virginia’s fan base.
“I think the number one thing to think about is as much people are talking about the excitement of a new offense and all of those things, it takes a while for that type of thing to click and clearly we weren’t clicking on Saturday,” Oliver said. “I know a lot of people are frustrated, that coaching staff’s frustrated, the kids are frustrated, but I think it takes a while to get that up and running. Unfortunately we faced a team that we didn’t look very good against and its not going to get any easier this Saturday, so I think everybody has to get it figured out quickly. But I think everybody knows that, as well.”
Oliver said he has received e-mails and phone calls from disappointed fans and appreciated the attendance at the William & Mary game. He hoped those fans would not lose faith in the team – even if Coach Al Groh is not at the pinnacle of his popularity.
“The first we have to acknowledge we understand that people are frustrated. They have every right to frustrated,” Oliver said. “I think if you look at the overall tenure at this point, we should all be expecting quite a bit from this program. But when you make slight changes, sometimes you have to take a step back to get better. And we ask that everyone continue to support the team. Because remember, these are young men trying to do something pretty important and trying to have overall balance in their lives. Support the team. I understand the frustration with the coach and all that, but we have to continue to try to support the team.”
Oliver said the expectations in football are the same as any other sport in the athletic department.
“We want to compete for championships on an annual basis,” Oliver said. “I think you can check Craig’s track record to see how that gets handled.”
James asked Oliver about his thoughts on in-season coaching changes, which have been a source of discussion on message boards. ACC rivals Clemson and North Carolina have made in-season decisions in recent years.
"Obviously, this is my personal opinion, but I'm not big on making changes with coaches in the middle of a season. And we're not even talking about the middle of a season. We're talking about the beginning of a season,” Oliver said. “You don't know yet what this team is capable of. And if you clearly think about the changes that were made on this staff, implementing a new offense, this clearly was a huge hiccup, but I think it's very premature to talk about trying to make changes in the middle of a season.
"Personally I don't believe in doing that anyway. It's not fair to people. It's not fair to the kids that are in the program who have sacrificed and who are trying to work hard to support a coach and to win football games. I think many times you can create more dysfunction by doing something like that. So personally I'm against that type of thing."
Oliver emphasized that he listens to what fans say and it would be “hard to refute” what fans are saying. He said U-Va. officials will "evaluate the program in its entirety at the end of the season."
This is Groh’s ninth season with the Cavaliers. He has two losing seasons in his last three, although the two are sandwiched around a Gator Bowl appearance.
"Nobody's worked harder than Coach Groh. Nobody's been more loyal than Coach Groh to this program,” Oliver said. “I think he deserves the opportunity to try to get through this season and try to turn this thing around and make the best of it. But again, that's my personal opinion."
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