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Memo to Groh disbelievers: he's not listening

If it's dangerous living you seek, then do yourself a favor. Forget those childish, ESPN-concocted X-Sports (you know, all that skysurfing balderdash), and please don't stake your name and fortune to mercurial dot-com ventures.

Simply hop down to the local hole-in-the-wall magazine stand, thumb through a handful of college football preview specials, and believe every word that each one preaches. Take it all to heart, and you walk away with one conspicuous conclusion - 2001 is the year Virginia football hits bottom with the inglorious splat of spaghetti tossed from a five-story building.

To be brainwashed by the byline pundits, though, is to imperil yourself in the presence of Al Groh. Moreover, he who jumps Cavalier ship in August risks an egg-on-face retraction come Thanksgiving for discounting the industry and ingenuity with which Groh makes modest talent competitive.

I do not know the new Cavalier coach well, but from only peripheral encounters, I understand Groh well enough to know two things: he doesn't read those harebrained Aisle Seven previews, and he isn't afraid.

Those two traits will serve him well in a honeymoon year where the frolicking in Bermuda lasts about nine seconds.

The Wahoos confront a guillotine of a schedule, a 12-game gauntlet littered with challenges, from forays to Wisconsin and Clemson to home bouts with almighty Florida State and Virginia Tech.

Groh isn't shivering.

"When you've lined it up in Green Bay, against Baltimore, Denver, and Oakland, you're certainly not going to be intimidated by going to places like Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech," he said.

Such Roman gladiator spirit can only take root from a full season at the helm of a franchise for which a book entitled "Gang Greene" has been authored.

His former NFL club, the Jets, also happens to be stationed in the nation's largest and most impatient city - a place where fans don't have time to wait for fast food and journalists resemble sharks with far bigger teeth than those you'll find taking shots in nondescript football previews.

That aforementioned year with the New York Jets (a respectable 9-7 campaign within the constraints of marginal talent) taught Groh, if nothing else, that a head coach at any level must have thick skin.

Judging by the preseason reception for Virginia football 2001, thank God he has it.

An unnamed "wagering" publication (you know, one of those tucked beneath transparent casing normally reserved for pornography, written by a guy with a half ponytail held together by gobs of hair grease who wakes you up every Saturday morning with strident screams of "this is my bet of the week") tabbed Virginia as a solid bet not to win more than three games all year.

The carnage continues.

The Sporting News highlights a list of the ACC's "most feared" (pass rusher, deep threat, etc.), and not a single Cavalier makes the cut. Without letting this jilting hurt my feelings, I wonder how Antwoine Womack, the ACC's leading rusher, or Josh Lawson, the league's nastiest offensive lineman, fail to appear while Wake Forest has a representative.

Athlon starts Virginia at 55th nationally, trailing perennial powerhouses Toledo, Western Michigan and UAB. UAB!

Doesn't bother Groh a lick. In fact, it probably motivates him to work that much harder in hopes of eventually fashioning an elite program.

I pity the fool who sells his brain to a magazine whose editor wasn't present at Bryant Hall in January when Groh officially returned home to accept his dream job, and subsequently mesmerized the audience with talk of a close-knit "tribe" contending for a national championship.

The Cavaliers likely won't sniff such a pinnacle in 2001, but here's one best bet to bank on: The high-roller so convinced of gloom on the horizon probably won't have his job come press time next year.