Chris Graham: Craig Littlepage, Mike London, and Uncompromised Mediocrity
Women’s soccer is #1 in the nation, men’s basketball is ranked in the AP Top 25, baseball has been to two college world series in the past five years. Craig Littlepage has a lot to trot out in defense of his tenure as athletics director at the University of Virginia.
Like it or not, football is what makes the college athletics’ globe spin ‘round and ‘round. And it’s football where Littlepage’s devotion to uncompromised mediocrity will tarnish the record of his time at the University.
For it was Littlepage who couldn’t pull the trigger on the end of the Al Groh era before the former NFL coach had sunk Virginia football to back-to-back losing seasons, an embarrassing home loss to William and Mary, and tens of thousands of empty seats whenever the ‘Hoos lined it up in Scott Stadium against opponents not named Virginia Tech.
And it was Littlepage who signed off on Groh’s successor, the former recruiting coordinator under Groh, ostensibly a part of the problem that led to the downfall of the Groh era, without so much as interviewing a single other candidate.
And it was Littlepage who further signed off on a two-year contract extension for Mike London after London’s second team, in 2011, went a middling 8-5, and finished that year with back-to-back blowout losses to Virginia Tech and Auburn.
And now it’s Littlepage with the audacity to tell us that London is the “right guy” for the job in the midst of the worst season that Virginia football has had since 1981, the year that sent Dick Bestwick to the exits in favor of a man named George Welsh, who turned the Cavs into a winner by year two, had them bowling for the first time in 30 years by year three, and had just one losing season thereafter, with two ACC championships, four bowl wins and six finishes in the AP Top 25 to boot.
London is the “right guy” for the job … why? We hear about how Virginia Tech almost fired Frank Beamer after his sixth season ended with a 2-8-1 record. Lost in that was that Beamer had put up back-to-back-to-back winning seasons leading into that campaign, and that the 1992 Hokies were at least competitive (tying #21 N.C. State, losing close games to West Virginia, Louisville, Southern Miss and UVa.).
Tech went 9-3 in 1993, and the rest is history. Two years later, Virginia Tech was in the Sugar Bowl, and by 1999 Beamer was coaching with the lead in the fourth quarter of the national-title game.
London has one winning season, and that was two years ago, and since an 8-3 start in 2011, UVa. is 6-18, and in the ongoing seven-game losing streak, the Cavs have barely been competitive, especially of late. The last two times out, Virginia has lost by a combined 104-24 to Clemson and North Carolina, and the Virginia defense has given up 42 points per game in its last six games.
Since jumping out to a 22-0 lead at home against Duke last month, Virginia has been outscored by 125 points over a 14-quarter stretch.
London is where dave leitao was at the end of his fourth (and ultimately final) season at the helm of UVa. basketball. Leitao’s second team tied for the ACC regular-season title and earned a #4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, winning a tournament game for the first time since 1995 and seemingly putting Virginia basketball back on the map.
A .500 season in year three was followed by a 10-18 debacle in 2009, and Leitao was, rightfully, done.
If the job is to produce a Football Program of Uncompromised Mediocrity, then Littlepage is right on.