College sports, at every level, is about winning. That's particularly true at the highest level for the major-revenue sports like football and basketball. The pressure on the players and coaches to win is tremendous and for the coaches if you don't win then you won't have your job for long. With that kind of environment it's no wonder that programs come under scrutiny for putting the sports above academics and doing whatever it takes, right or wrong, to get talented athletes on the field. And that's why Jim Grobe, who resigned his position yesterday, has been such a remarkable football coach for Wake Forest.
Coach Grobe is a man, so undoubtedly he's made mistakes and surely there are things that have happened in his program that weren't great, but by all accounts he's done things the right way. He's held his players to high expectations, he hasn't run afoul of NCAA regulations and he's built a tremendously positive culture at the second-smallest of all the FBS schools in the country. In the process he also built a win-loss record over 13 seasons that was close to break-even, which to anyone familiar with the history of Wake football knows is damn-near a miracle.
Unfortunately for those of us who hate to see him go Coach Grobe's record was a winning record after eight seasons, but a string of five straight losing seasons took him to a losing overall record at Wake. He inflicted his own judgment on that trend by stepping aside rather than searching for answers for another season or waiting to be pushed out. That should not come as a surprise to anyone who's watched him over the last 13 years.
I'll let Dan Collins, who covered WFU Football for the Winston-Salem Journal, tell you what you need to know:
Over the countless times I've been around Jim Grobe, he's always been the same guy. And he was that guy today while announcing he was stepping down after 13 seasons as the Deacons' head coach...
Emotions did begin to show when Wellman got up to announce Grobe was stepping down. With eyes glistening, Wellman professed not only his admiration and respect for Grobe, but his love as well.
Thankfully, he recognized it as a universal sentiment.
"When you cut through it all, Jim Grobe was a winning football coach but he was a better man,'' Wellman said. "Whenever I talk with anybody, whether it be other athletic directors across the country, whether it be conference personnel, whether it be other head coaches across the country, the first thing they ask me when I talk with them is, `How is Jim? How is he doing?'
"And it's always with a smile. They usually end the conversation by saying `Jim Grobe is one of the best men I know.' I will tell you he's one of the best men I know. He's not only a friend, but he's a tower of a man.''...
But I'll close now by saying that for all the emotions in the room today, there were few present who had more reason than me to be sad over the realization that Grobe has coached his final game at Wake.
Jim Grobe has been good to me every day he's been at Wake. That's not because I'm special. It's because he's special.
Truth is, he's been good to everybody.
Before resigning Coach Grobe was the only FBS coach to have a losing record for five straight years. It's a testament to how he built this program that he was able to stay around for that long. Losing while doing something the right way sure is easier to take than winning while doing something the wrong way and the folks at Wake seemed to realize it. Let's hope Coach Grobe's successor sees things the same way.