January 3, 2014

White Meat

"Virginia? That's the white meat of our schedule."

~ Clemson Coach Frank Howard

During his time at Clemson (1940 to 1969), no Howard-led team ever lost to Virginia.  Nor did the teams of all the coaches before him, or after him all the way through the Danny Ford era, as Clemson won the first 29 meetings in the series.

I have no doubt that Howard isn't the only opposing coach who found Virginia football to be soft, supple, succulent, and ripe for the picking.  In fact, I'd say "soft" is probably the prevalent adjective that opponents attribute to Virginia football.  That's what "White Meat" means --- soft.

Here's the now-famous Colin Cowherd rant.  Please, humor me and listen to it - really listen to it - from start to finish.

Wanna know why that hurts so much to hear?  I mean, it's pretty obvious, isn't it?  It hurts, because it's true.

Deep down, I've known it all along.  But this week, I've had a new, startling, extremely painful realization:  It's not just football.  It extends to basketball, too.

Hoofans, our teams are the White Meat on everybody's schedule.

There's absolutely nothing we can do about it, other than refuse to accept the product UVA is putting on the field and on the court.  [Please note that I just said "refuse to accept," not "fail to support."  There is a subtle yet important difference there.]

Our fanbase has a terrible rep, as well.  His take was fat with hyperbole, but Cowherd nailed it.  It's unrealistic to think that anything will change with our fanbase until they see a sustained period of winning on the field and on the court.  So I won't touch this one right now.  But know -- if you are a UVA fan, you're off the hook for now.  Once we start winning, however... well, you've got to do better.  We've all got to do better.

Meanwhile, football needs to find another version of George Welsh, the only guy who was able to make us not-soft.  He was a Navy man, military-bred, hard-nosed to a fault.  That's what our next coach needs to be.  No more rah-rah players' coach candyassed clown college mickeymouse bullshit.  Mike London is the polar opposite of what we need to turn things around.  His coaching style epitomizes White Meat.

Basketball...?  The crew-cut Bennett-style packline system might be what we need in order to be able to achieve an acceptably high floor for performance.  But we [very obviously] lack a streetball-type edge to our game that can take us over the top.  There's no killer instinct.  There's no ability to deliver a proper curb-stomp, nor is there firepower for proper woodshedding of opponents.  Our players don't play with any sort of swagger, and just like all other Virginia teams, we have a glass jaw.

White Meat, baby.

I will say this: There's a little bit of chicken and egg with Bennettball, and by extension the packline. Do we run this system because we can't get the athletic 5-star recruits to run and go pressure man to man? Or do we run this system because it's just what Bennett runs, and we recruit [less athletic players but who maybe have more size / skill / shooting ability] into it, making our style of play a never-ending self-fulfilling prophecy? I suspect it's the latter, and I suspect that's the REAL reason for the frustration some UVA fans are experiencing (maybe myself included).  We currently have too much substance, not enough style.  We currently have too much thunder, not enough lightning.  We currently have too much math, not enough art.

But here's the thing. Just like Hoos500 so excellently pointed out on the 247 message board, Packline : UVA :: Flexbone : GT. As in, the Bennettball packline's what we run, and under this coach we will not run anything else, ever. We're going to have substance, style be damned.  Thunder will rumble, but lightning never strikes.  Numbers get crunched, but the canvas never gets colorful.

So we have a choice -- embrace the coach and his system, or reject the coach and his system completely. There's no in-between. Tony Bennett won't suddenly say "holy crap" and start mixing up defenses and allowing the team to run and gun, just like Paul Johnson won't ever start throwing the ball all over the field via no-huddle shotgun spread.

Tony Bennett is our coach. If you want to support him as our coach, you have to embrace the slow pace and methodical play inherent to his system and scheme. Otherwise (and at risk of oversimplification of my point), you cannot support this coach.

Meanwhile, is Tony Bennett and his system only going to perpetuate the lack of toughness that feeds into the White Meat persona that is Virginia Athletics?  Personally, I think the jury's out.  How the team bounces back from the sputtery start to this season amid great expectations is going to tell me a lot.  I do, however, have faith in this coach.  I have faith in the defense-first mentality.  And as much as I find it aesthetically unpleasing, I have faith in Bennettball.  I think we need that substance, I think thunder can give a nice rumble, and I trust the math.

White Meat?

At the end of the day, I think it's healthy to be self-aware, because only then can you begin working toward change.  Guys, our football team, basketball team, and fanbase are White Meat.  No need arguing that point.  Our mission now is to find ways to set our jaws and begin adding a little gristle to the White Meat mix.


  1. Cliff's Notes on this Post: UVA sports just need to toughen the fuck up. In general, and across the board.

  2. How have I never heard that clip? When did he say that? Doesn't matter, because it's spot on. The more I think about it, the more I realize that us Wahoos are a strange brew. I can't nail it down, but it has something to do with the "public ivy" persona, where we focus more on the latter than the former.

  3. The thing is, Bennettball gives us exactly what our basketball and football team have lacked for years, a clear and pervasive identity. And I disagree about Bennetball being untough, in fact I think it's the opposite, we lack swagger and style, not ruggedness. Unlike London, I feel that Bennett actually knows how to implement and coach his desired identity. We're supposedly a "hard nosed, run first, pro style offense and physical 4-3 defense" but of course we don't do any of that. Bennettball can work, and I believe our great regular season records the last 2 years have been a direct result of the system working. The supposed weak point of the system is that it can lead to tournament chance crippling bad losses by keeping lesser teams in the game, and luckily that hasn't happened this season. I think the point I'm trying to make is "Death, taxes, and Bo Ryan", is a realistic goal for Bennett.

    1. Good post.

      That said, I am concerned that Bennetball is effective at defense only, which is 50% of a game that includes defense AND offense.

      Some of the low scoring of Bennett's teams could be dismissed as a symptom of his system. But if a fan takes a closer look at what our team is doing on offense (and its been in evidence the last three years), Bennett's offensive style of play does not seem to generate open shots or shots that are not contested. I think Bennett was a great hire, but I am beginning to question whether his upside will be limited by his lack of ability to coach offensive systems that create open shots, spread the floor, and stress the opposing defense.

  4. I agree with most of what you said in the post, except for one thing. I am tired of fans saying that I will support the football team, when the football team begins to play well. That is the dumbest thing that I have ever heard. A great fan base is needed if the team is going to play well. You can't expect a group of 18 to 22 year old players to play well in an empty stadium. Did you hear the comments that logan Thomas said about Virginia when he was being recruited. He talked about not wanting to play in a empty stadium. Many 17 or 18 year old recruits will feel this way. Programs like Texas and Tennessee have had their struggles during the past few years, but there fan support is always there.

    1. You're right. HOWEVER, we aren't Texas or Tennessee. No amount of wishing will make our fans go out and support a team that just went 2-10. Heck, they didn't come out to support a team that had just gone 8-5 with a Peach Bowl appearance. So my point is that in order to see our fanbase really take off, the winning is going to have to come first. And by "winning," I mean several years of sustained success, not just one fluky successful season.