Al Groh, Miami, and White Lines

A great deal has changed since November 10, 2007, when the Virginia embarrassed Miami 48-0 in their final home game at the Orange Bowl.  Two years later, Miami is the ranked team with only two losses after delivering the beat-down in south Florida.  Virginia was the team held to under 100 yards passing on a balmy day in early November.  Chris Long and Nate Lyles replaced Dwayne Johnson, Bernie Kosar, Andre Johnson, Gino Torretta, Michael Irvin as former players on the sidelines. 

One thing that hasn’t changed… the use of football clichés in comments made to the media by HC Al Groh and the men he has surrounded himself with.  Circumstantially speaking, at least.

After thrashing the Hurricanes in their Orange Bowl goodbye, Groh said “It was a very dynamic atmosphere, but we really didn’t pay it much heed.  We knew that the only thing that was going to determine the outcome was what happened in between the white lines.”

It’s a cliché those following Groh and his team have become accustomed to hearing.  Back in 2002, Groh stated “that other business is just conversation. What happens between the white lines is all that matters.”  That same season, DP columnist and noted Groh-apologist Jerry Ratcliffe wrote in a piece entitled “Groh Gets Award, and He Deserves It” that “the only thing that mattered, [Groh] said time and again, is what happens out there between the white lines. All the other stuff is the reason we have sportswriters.”

Back to the present, and this month we’ve heard the cliché from both Groh (“We have a saying… that it’s all between the white lines.  That’s all that really counts… It’s just whatever happens in between the white lines that determines the outcome of the game.”) and LB John-Kevin Dolce (“Our house is in the white lines. We play football inside the white lines. We don’t play for our fans necessarily in the aspect that we’re going out there. They don’t sweat with us, they don’t bleed with us and they don’t cry with us.”).

Just a year ago, QB Marc Verica dropped it twice in the month of October alone:

  • “What it comes down to is what’s going to happen between the white lines on Saturday. It’s a long streak, but [UNC is] a really good football team right now. I think we’re capable of being a really good team.”
  • “Our approach is really that we’re moving the white lines. We’re not thinking that we’re playing at Georgia Tech. It’s really what happens between the white lines that matters.”

In 2004, it was uttered by several players:

  • DE Chris Canty (July): “[Elton Brown] hits people with bad intentions, very bad intentions. He’s a great guy off the field. But all football players have that little switch that clicks on when you step across those white lines.”
  • TE Heath Miller (November): “I think it’s definitely harder to play on the road, but Coach Groh always tells us that what happens between the white lines is all that matters.”
  • QB Marques Hagans (November): “[Maryland] might have [bad feelings] against us, but none of that really matters. You still got to play a game within the white lines for 60 minutes.”

Recent years have not been immune:

  • CB Marcus Hamilton (October 2006): “It’s going to be a tough task. Our mentality is no matter where you play. It’s just football inside the white lines.”
  • LB Jon Copper (September 2007): “I’m not sure there’s a whole lot else you can do. Coach Groh has emphasized that wherever the white lines are, we need to be able to perform.”
  • QB Matt Schaub (September 2007): “You look at the great players and that’s one thing they all have in common, that when they step out between the white lines they become a kid and have a lot of fun.”
  • QB Peter Lalich (September 2007): “Our house is between the white lines.”
  • Copper (November 2007): “Ultimately, what matters is if we block the right guys, run our defenses correctly and execute on special teams. Ultimately, what matters is what goes on inside the white lines.”
  • TE John Phillips (August 2008): “Football is all about Saturday. Anything can happen between the white lines.”
  • Schaub (September 2008): “When we get between these white lines and in those meeting rooms, we just have to focus all we can on what it takes to be successful this week and in this game. And once we leave here, we can start thinking about those other things and what it takes to get our families and everything in order.”

Former LB Clint Sintim used the cliché publicly twice while at Virginia, and has already used it once since:

  • September 2008: “I guess we just have that attitude, ‘Our house is anywhere inside the white lines.’ It doesn’t really matter where you play. It is the same field everywhere you go.”
  • October 2008: “I think we have to come in with the mentality that our house is anywhere inside the white lines.”
  • February 2009: “You come out on the field, you’re a competitor, you step out there between the white lines, and you want to feel as though you’re the best player out there.”

It may have also become a verbal crutch for former DC and current Richmond HC DC Mike London:

  • September 2008: “It will be different, but whether it’s 10,000 or 60,000, if you’re concentrating on the task at hand, all that matters is what goes on between the white lines. We have a 100-yard field at UR Stadium. Elon had a 100-yard field. [Virginia] will have a 100-yard field.”
  • September 2008: “When we first started out we knew we were going to be ranked high. The guys understand what we do between the white lines is what matters.”
  • September 2008: “Our approach is going to be the same way it’s always been and let everything outside the white lines take care of itself.”
  • December 2008: “It is no different as any other game when we are preparing. We need to keep our emotions in check. We don’t want to get distracted with the atmosphere and we want to focus on what is happening between the white lines.”
  • August 2009: “What we talk about all the time is what happens between the white lines, so regardless of girlfriends, parents, noise, quiet, whatever it is, when it’s time to execute the plays on the field, that’s all that matters.”
  • Richmond LB Eric McBride (September 2009): “Like coach London says, ‘It’s what happens between the white lines.’ I think our whole team believes that, buys into that.”

And to bring it full circle, yesday’s Cavalier Daily even includes the cliché in its sports story on BC LB Mark Herzlich, whose fight against Ewing’s sarcoma “serves as a reminder that life extends far beyond a field’s white lines.”

Apologies go out to Grandmater Melle Mel, Duran Duran, and Shooter Jenings


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