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Delaying the Inevitable

By Matt Osborne
SouthernPigskin.com
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In an attempt to provide its program with stability, Virginia has made the mistake of retaining a head coach with a poor track record for winning.

With all of the speculation surrounding the job status of his head coach, Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage recently took to the media to dismiss the notion that Mike London was on the proverbial hot seat.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Littlepage stated, “I don’t want there to be uncertainty about what I believe the future to be, which is with Mike London as our coach.”

Obviously, Littlepage’s goal was to quell the idea that there may be internal instability in the program. Perceived turmoil inside of a football program often leads to negative effects in recruiting and monetary contributions from boosters.

With London now in his fourth season as head coach of the Cavaliers, the overarching question being asked by many frustrated fans is what exactly has London done to justify bringing him back for a fifth season?

According to Littlepage, the main reasons for the vote of confidence for London were his ability to recruit high school prospects and his past accomplishments as a head coach, particularly at the University of Richmond.

From a logical standpoint, those have to be some of the worst reasons ever given for a coach retaining his position.

Recruiting is undoubtedly a large part of being a successful college football coach, and there is no denying the fact that London has elevated the status quo in Charlottesville. For proof, you need look no further than the recruiting rankings, where Virginia is currently the only program in the nation with two verbal commitments from prospects inside the top ten of the ESPN 300.

Even so, hauling in better talent is pointless if the coaching staff is incapable of getting those players to maximize their potential.

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Each of the past three seasons, London has landed recruiting classes which have been ranked in the top half of the conference by Scout.com.

Two times in the past three seasons, however, Virginia has finished dead last in the Coastal Division. That trend is continuing this season, as the Cavaliers currently sit with a conference record of 0-3 following losses to Pittsburgh, Maryland and Duke. With games against Georgia Tech, No. 9 Clemson, North Carolina, No. 7 Miami and No. 14 Virginia Tech remaining on the schedule, there is a good chance that Virginia will against find itself in the cellar at the conclusion of the season.

Again, even the most impassioned London detractors will admit that he has done a nice job bringing talent and athleticism to Charlottesville.

But if you theoretically have better talent in your program right now than you had under your previous regime, shouldn’t the results be better than what they have been?

In 44 career games at Virginia, London’s win percentage is a paltry 40.9 percent (18-26). For comparison, the fired Al Groh went 59-54 (52.2%) in his nine seasons at the school.

Four years is certainly enough time for a coach to bring in the talent to match his system. It is also more than enough time to thoroughly implement his scheme and to get his players to buy into his philosophical approach.

The bottom line is that there is absolutely no reason that the Cavaliers should be as downtrodden as they have been the past few seasons.

Furthermore, the extent of London’s alleged successful past as a head coach are a mere two years spent as the head man at Richmond.

And while he did win an FCS national championship in his first season with the Spiders, he also inherited a team which returned 16 starters from a team that had reached the semifinals the year prior.

There is no doubt that stability is a characteristic found at any successful program.

Stabilizing its program with inferior coaching, however, is where Virginia is making its biggest mistake.

Going against his public comments would certainly be an embarrassment for Littlepage, but if he cares about the long-term success of his football program, then he will remove London at the end of the season.

Matt Osborne - Matt Osborne currently serves as the director of recruiting and lead editor for Southern Pigskin. His work has been published in a number of national publications, including USA Today. Although he loves all levels of football, Matt's number one joy in his life is his relationship with Jesus Christ. Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattOsborne200. For media requests, please email Matt at matt@southernpigskin.com.