You have to hand it to Virginia’s Mike London. He’s pulled off one heck of a feat in his six seasons coaching the Cavaliers. Somehow, he’s not only managed to rack up losing seasons at UVa, but he’s made both ACC programs in the state bad as well.
London, by virtue of being an outstanding recruiter and poor head coach, has harmed both Virginia and arch rival Virginia Tech to the point it’s looking more and more likely by the week that both schools will be looking for new coaches when this season ends.
Back in 2011, the Cavaliers and Hokies met on Thanksgiving weekend both ranked in the Top 25 with the winner earning the ACC Coastal Division championship and a spot in the conference title game. Heading into this week the two teams are at the bottom of the division, along with Georgia Tech. Virginia is 2-5 and 1-2 in the ACC and will likely be underdogs in every game from here on out. Virginia Tech is 3-5 and 1-3 in the ACC and is likely out on a bowl game for the first time in 21 years.
It’s clear why Virginia struggles if you’ve watched the Cavaliers play the past six years. The players fail to execute. Play-calling and clock management have been major issues since London took over ,and highly regarded recruits come into the program and eventually leave a few years later labeled talented, but raw by NFL scouts and draft experts.
London, who has until recently landed recruiting classes ranked in the Top 30 almost every year, has never been able to capitalize on that talent. He’s such a good recruiter that even with conventional wisdom suggesting he’ll be out of a job before National Signing Day, Virginia already has 25 commitments for the Class of 2016.
He’s done particularly well in-state and has a roster loaded with the kind of players who made Virginia Tech great during Frank Beamer’s heyday. Cavaliers running back Taquan Mizzell was a 5-star recruit coming out of Virginia Beach. So was defensive back Quin Blanding. Maurice Canady was a 3-star from Richmond. Demetrious Nicholson was a 4-star from Hampton Roads. The list of similar players under London goes on and on.
But London can’t win despite landing these players and Beamer is struggling to win without them.
The Virginia Tech program was built on in-state stars such as Michael Vick, Tyrod Taylor and Kam Chancellor. It hasn’t been able to sustain success with Virginia getting more than its share of the in-state talent and taking over pipelines to certain high schools in the talent-rich Hampton Roads metro area.
Now both programs may be on the cusp of coaching changes, but each perhaps a year too late. Not only will the Cavs and Hokies be looking at a similar candidate pool but Maryland, Miami, South Carolina and Central Florida are just some of the jobs already open that could look at many of the same coaches.
Landing someone such a Memphis coach Justin Fuente or former Clemson assistant and current SMU coach Chad Morris might have been much easier a year ago.
But the Commonwealth of Virginia is too rich in talent, resources and facilities to have losing football programs at its two premier institutions. It wasn’t easy for these two programs to fall so low, but it may be a challenge for either to climb back up until changes are made.