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Where does UVA go in its search for a new AD?

It makes sense that the next UVA president will want to hire the new athletics director, so the news involving Craig Littlepage is no surprise.

virginia uvaLittlepage announced Tuesday that he will step down as AD as soon as the school can hire his replacement, at which point he will slide into a new job in the president’s office.

The indications going into the 2017-2018 school year were that Littlepage, 66, was ready to step down at the end of the academic year in the spring, after a 16-year run marked by success overall (76 ACC championships in the past decade, most in the conference, and 13 NCAA team national titles in that span, second-most among ACC schools) and, well, an awful stretch in the most important sport, football, which has put up nine losing seasons in the past 11 years.

Except for football, Littlepage will hand to his successor a finely-tuned machine. Tony Bennett has the men’s basketball program partying like it’s 1981. Brian O’Connor has baseball winning championships and making money. Men’s tennis is practically a dynasty at this point.

The only question marks are football and women’s hoops, but women’s hoops are much closer to getting things turned around under Joanne Boyle than football is in Year 2 under Bronco Mendenhall, a strong hire out of BYU who has either a Herculean task ahead of him, or if you’re familiar with Greek mythology, maybe more a Sissyphean task, doomed to forever rolling the boulder back up the hill, only to have it roll back and hit him, for eternity, or the duration of his five-year contract.

Whoever replaces Littlepage won’t have the usual run of the place that most new ADs have when they assume the reins. You’ve got a men’s basketball coach in Bennett that you basically need to just keep happy for the next 20 years, and otherwise sit back and watch him make history.

         

Same with O’Connor and baseball. Just stay out of the way.

The Olympic sports are all well-stocked with coaches and well-outfitted in terms of facilities.

Women’s basketball might need your attention, but Boyle might be ready to break through this year, so let’s give her another chance or two.

Facilities, across the board, are among the best in the nation.

The cupboard is pretty well-stocked. The only question mark is football, and even there, you’re talking about a coach in Mendenhall who was an absolute steal of a hire after his 11-year run at BYU, and he’s just in Year 2 at UVA.

The rebuild after the six-year fiasco that was the Mike London era is not an overnight proposition, so the new AD will have to exercise patience that is not the hallmark of the new AD archetype.

I’ve written recently that this rebuild is likely not going to see returns until Year 6, which means when we meet the new person in charge sometime this college sports year, well …

The Cavs are 1-0 on the young season at this writing. I’m still sticking with this being a one- or two-win team. Even if we see three or four or five wins, and we’re being exceedingly generous even entertaining such notions, you’re still not in bowl contention, and you’re nowhere near championship-level, in an athletics department with men’s basketball, baseball, tennis and track and field all at a national-championship level, and several other sports at or near ACC-championship level status on an annual basis.

Football is the sore thumb, and will be the case for at least the next two, three, maybe four years.

Restraint is going to be the order of the day, and the next couple of years, at least, for the new UVA athletics director, who doesn’t need to make a run of splashy hires to define his or her term, and aside from the new football facility project doesn’t even need to do a lot of heavy lifting in terms of facilities.

You’re getting the keys to a near-mint-condition sports car, in essence, and being told that, no, that ping you hear when you rev up the engine, that’s nothing, just let it ride, and let it correct itself.

That can be a hard thing to do for the alphas who tend to populate the universe of top-shelf Power 5 AD candidates.

This won’t be an easy hire, is what I’m saying here.

 
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