October 21, 2012

Fire London?

I subscribe to a few premium recruiting sites.  These are places for only die-hard Virginia fans; folks who are willing to pay real-life U.S. currency in order to follow UVA's football and basketball recruiting.  I don't always agree or disagree with these herds of Virginia fans, but I do use them to take the pulse of the fanbase, as these are the people who are mostly immune to outright apathy as a coping mechanism.

In a poll posted today on one of those boards, one member posed the question: Should Mike London be fired?

After over 100 votes, here are the poll results:
-- 6% said yes, go ahead and fire him now.
-- 3% said watt 'til the end of the season, to see if he can right the ship a little bit in the last four games.
-- 35% said give him one more season, with 2013 serving as the "shit or get off the pot" campaign for the London regime.
-- 42% said give him two more seasons, and if we don't see marked improvement in the 28-34 games between now and the end of the 2014 season, fire him then.
-- 9% said give him three more years, through the 2015 season.
-- 5% said give him longer than three more years.

I imagine you read this blog because you want to know my opinion on topics like this.  Well, here is my opinion...

We're 2-6 now, likely headed to 2-10.  We won't be favored in any of our remaining games, and if we can't beat a bad Wake Forest team, I don't see us beating Miami or UNC.  So it looks like London is going to deliver the worst season of UVA football since before George Welsh was at the helm.

No way around it, this is unacceptable.

No way to sugarcoat it, the excellence has been compromised.

I try to think about it like this: If I'm the CEO of Virginia Athletics, and am seeing what we've been seeing these last four weeks, and am seeing the team literally bottoming out on the field, and am seeing more and more empty bleachers... well, there's a bottom line to worry about.  The bottom line is that Virginia Football's floor should be higher than 2-10, and that we cannot afford to wait around for the recruiting to fall into the same kind of crater it fell into in 2008 and 2009, as Al Groh entered lame duck status as our head coach.

I think Mike London is a great man, a great recruiter, a great ambassador for the football program and for the University, and a great salesman.  I think he's in over his head as a head coach and top-level leader of a modern-era FBS football program that plays in a BCS conference.  I also think he has failed to surround himself with a coaching staff that will allow him to succeed given his deficiencies.

In the poll, I was part of the 35% that voted for one more season.  That's a more aggressive schedule than I've been preaching all along -- I beat the drum of five seasons, and I beat it hard.  But this 2012 campaign is a "panic button" type of situation.  I want to see significant changes on the coaching staff after this season, and I need to see marked improvement in 2013.  If not, I will be firmly aboard the Fire London bandwagon.

We cannot afford to hit that same talent acquisition crater we fell into at the end of the Groh regime.

Maybe Mike London is the right coach for UVA, and he'll pull it out of the fire.  But at this point, it's time to at least start questioning his competence as the head of our football program.

And believe me, this post has been incredibly depressing to write.


  1. I think a good barometer of the impending success or failure of CML is how he can sell the program to the 2014 kids. If we get a huge haul which we absolutely have the potential to do then London buys another year in my book. However he does need a massive shakeup in the staff. One I've got something planned to write about soon. The decisions made this summer are going to make or break this coaching staff.

  2. Can't wait for the post, Mike.

    Note: Those decisions aren't made in the summer. They are made in December.

  3. My overall take on coaching changes is a pretty conservative one. I tend to value continuity over change. I was shell-shocked when Shanahan was cut loose by Pat Bowlen. I think the Steelers are a modern example of sticking with a coach that works.

    There has to be a tipping point, though, right? This season may be it. The mere fact that the team's recent performance is SO much less than the sum of their talented parts is highly disturbing. London's strength should be motivating the team to play and clearly he's not doing it. And he doesn't have the X and O wizardry to scheme the team out of its funk. That was uninspiring, uninspired football we witnessed on Saturday.

    I'm going to jump on the one more year bandwagon as of right now, with a caveat: if London can get this team to show signs of life (which is a pretty freaking low bar to set, to be honest) the rest of this year, I might extend that grace a bit. But if he has lost the team and can't get it back, we might see him hitting the bricks in the middle of next season.

    Its kind of unbelievable really.

  4. Very, very, very well said, Nathan. I am in exactly the same boat, though I think my trigger finger is just a bit more itchy than yours. (Still on the "conservative" side, but just barely.)

    In modern college football, if you're not getting ahead you're falling behind. Nothing is worse than wasting seasons on lame duck coaches. London is either the guy, or he isn't. People are being paid handsomely to make those kinds of decisions, and I just hope the experiences with Gillen, Leitao, and Groh have made the powers that be a bit more decisive on these issues.

    At the very least, we need to trade in some of our young rah-rah recruiters for some experienced Xs and Os coaches on the coaching staff. Recruiting will be fine as long as we have London and Chip West. Guys like Dex and Shawn Moore need to be giving us more than [poorly] coaching the safeties, special teams, and tight ends.

    As for Lazor, I imagine we'll see him leave this offseason, one way or the other. We have a built-in replacement already on the staff in Mike Faragalli. He could install his pass-first, spread-style attack without changing much of the terminology or infrastructure established under Lazor. To me, losing Lazor and replacing him with Faragalli would represent a "circling of the wagons" for Mike London, and it's a move I would support.

    Tough times as a Virginia fan. As my friend Doug said to me last night -- London did himself a disservice by winning eight games last year. If he could split the 10 wins across the 2011 and 2012 seasons, nobody would be unhappy right now. There'd still be pressure to produce in 2013, but nobody would be thinking or talking about the possibility of firing coaches.