Day of reckoning: London announces major staff changes, departure of Rocco

The second 4-8 season in three years under Virginia football coach Mike London is ending with a bloodletting. London announced on Sunday the firings of defensive coordinator Jim Reid, recruiting coordinator Jeff Hanson, running-backs coach Mike Faragalli and tight-ends coach Shawn Moore, the demotion of special-teams coordinator Anthony Poindexter and the departure of rising senior quarterback Michael Rocco.

“After conducting a complete evaluation of the program and discussing my thoughts with administration, there are a number of areas we need to improve on and it starts with me as the head coach.” said London, who is 16-21 in three seasons at UVa.

The program has endured five losing seasons in the last seven years under London and his predecessor, Al Groh. London’s hiring seemed to energize the fan base, and the Cavs’ surprise 8-5 campaign in 2011 that led London to be named the Atlantic Coast Conference coach of the year raised expectations heading into 2012.

After a 2-0 start that included a win over Penn State, which eventually went 8-4 in 2012, Virginia lost six in a row, and concluded its season with losses to rivals North Carolina and Virginia Tech. Tech has now beaten UVa. nine straight times and has taken 13 of the last 14 in the series.

The decline in fortunes has led to a decline at the box office. Virginia averaged 46,650 fans for its seven-home-game slate at Scott Stadium in 2012, more than 15,000 below capacity per game.

“After conducting a complete evaluation of the program and discussing my thoughts with administration, there are a number of areas we need to improve on, and it starts with me as the head coach.” London said in a statement released by the school on Sunday. “The decision to release these four coaches is very difficult, but one I feel is necessary in order to meet the goals we have set for the Virginia football program.  I have coached with some of these men for many years, won a national championship with some, and I truly appreciate their dedication and commitment, and more importantly, their friendships. I wish them all the best.”

Virginia will begin an immediate search to fill all of the newly-opened staff positions. London did not specify a time frame for concluding the search, taking into account the fact that many of the possible candidates will be involved in postseason play.

“My primary task is to continue to evaluate this program and take the necessary steps to make us successful on the field.” London said. “This University and its fans deserve a program that competes for championships. In order to do that we need to make improvements in every aspect of our football operation.”

Poindexter, it was announced, will remain on staff as the safeties coach. Also returning will be offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, whose unit didn’t exactly tear things up in 2012, finishing ninth in the ACC in scoring offense (22.8 points per game) and eighth in total offense (396.5 yards per game).

A big part of the problem for London and Lazor with the offense has been the three-years-and-running inability to decide on a starting quarterback. In 2012, Rocco alternated with Alabama transfer Phillip Sims. Rocco’s departure clears the way for Sims to take the top job in the spring, though expect him to be tested by redshirt sophomore David Watford and redshirt freshman Greyson Lambert.

Rocco has informed London that he intends to transfer from Virginia at the end of the current academic semester. He played in 30 games at Virginia, starting 21 times. He appeared in six games as a true freshman in 2010, started all 13 games in 2011 and played in 11 games in 2012, starting eight times.

Rocco threw for 4,731 yards and passed for 27 touchdowns and had 24 interceptions. His 2,671 passing yards in 2011 ranks as the fourth best single-season total in Virginia history. He leaves the Cavalier program ranked eighth on the all-time passing list with 4,731 yards.

“Michael has been an outstanding member of our program on the field, in the classroom and in the community. I appreciate the competitive nature, work ethic and leadership he brought to our program and I wish him the best in his future endeavors,” London said.

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