Chris Graham: Mike London, meet Dick Bestwick
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Remember the DIck Bestwick era? An entire generation of UVa. sports fans and alums are only familiar with the name because they read it somwhere once.
Bestwick’s last team at Virginia went 1-10 in 1981, capping a 16-49-1 tenure.
Funny thing about that tenure. There was a glimmer of hope in 1979, when the Cavs finished 6-5 in Bestwick’s fourth season. Things seemed to be on the upswing. He’d brought in three recruiting classes, had his system in place, and the future was bright.
Then came the first step back, in 1980, when Virginia slipped to 4-7. No matter. Another decent recruiting haul was coming in. UVa. was looking forward to the future.
And then it was 1-10, the win over VMI, in 1981, and it was over.
Mike London, meet Dick Bestwick.
London had success sooner than Bestwick, leading the Cavs to an 8-5 season in his second year, in 2011, and an appearance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. But the wheels were already falling off the bandwagon at the end of that campaign, with a 38-0 loss at home to rival Virginia Tech to close out the regular season, and a 42-23 loss to Auburn in the bowl game in a game that was not all that competitive.
The Cavs slipped to 4-8 after the breakthrough year, which brings us to the followup year, where UVa. is now 2-7 after getting blown out at home by #8 Clemson, and every indication that this one will turn out 2-10 given a tough schedule to finish the 2013 campaign out, on the road at North Carolina and #7 Miami, at home with Virginia Tech, which has won nine straight in the in-state series.
That would be a 2-10 record with just one win over a I-A team, the increasingly inexplicable season-opening win over a byu team that has done well since the first weekend, defeating the likes of Texas, Georgia Tech and Boise State, and then a win over VMI, the one team that Bestwick could beat in his final year at the helm in Charlottesville.
A 2-10 campaign for London does not keep him on for a fifth season, despite what athletics director craig littlepage says. Littlepage has to say that London will remain on if only to maintain whatever semblance of normalcy he can for the UVa. program as it plays out the string on what is now officially the sixth losing season in the last eight years at UVa., with London and predecessor al groh each posting losing records in three of their last four years.
For perspective, before this recent run of futility, Virginia had put up winning seasons in 20 of its previous 23 seasons, with one of the non-winning seasons being George Welsh’s last one here, in 2000, when the Cavs were 6-6.
The program began deteriorating under Groh after Welsh’s last crop of recruits, including future NFL stars like Heath Miller and Matt Schaub, had cycled through, and Groh’s own recruits failed to put their own stamp on a program that Welsh had built into a perennial ACC contender.
London is due more than $8 million for the remaining three years on his deal, which was extended two years beyond the original five-year contract that he signed in 2009 after what was obviously now an aberration in 2011 with that 8-6 squad that, to its credit, majorly overachieved.
With between 18-20 home games the next three seasons, it could cost UVa. close to $20 million to keep London, if you assume that things aren’t going to get any better than they are right now.
And what reason does anybody involved with UVa. athletics, on the inside, in the fan base, to think that it’s going to get any better? London has brought three nationally ranked recruiting classes to Charlottesville. The upperclassmen on the roster are largely his. And they’re not performing.
This is Mike London’s mess. This is Craig Littlepage’s mess. This is Jon Oliver’s mess.
Somebody needs to clean it up, and the cleaning crews need to be amassing at the border soon.
Dick Bestwick didn’t come back after his 1-10 debacle in 1981. Mike London had better not come back after whatever debacle 2013 ends up being.