Miami loss may mark end for Mike London: But silver linings for UVA football in defeat?

UVaHelmet_1Saturday’s 27-21 loss at Miami was another frustrating result for UVA football. The Cavs (3-6, 2-3 ACC) were once again right there, as they were in the 34-27 loss to #5 Notre Dame in Week 2, and their losses to Pitt and UNC last month.

But you don’t get trophies for being close, and coaches on the hot seat don’t keep their jobs for losing a bunch of close games.

The bottom line is the bottom line for Virginia coach Mike London, who is likely one loss away from the end of his six-year tenure in Charlottesville.

One loss in Virginia’s final three games – at Louisville, at home against Duke and Virginia Tech – sends the ‘Hoos to their fifth losing season under London, who was given a sixth season last November after UVA improved marginally from a 2-10 disaster in 2013 to a 5-7 mark in 2014.

Athletics director Craig Littlepage hasn’t spoken on London’s future of late, but it would seem to stand to reason that another losing season would doom the coach, who has one year left on his contract.

The frustrating part of it for London, his staff and Virginia fans is that the program seems so close to having things turned around.

Virginia’s losses this season have come at the hands of UCLA (6-2), Notre Dame (8-1), Boise State (7-2), Pitt (6-3), UNC (8-1) and Miami (6-3). That’s a combined 41-10 for those six, and of the six losses Virginia was only out of one game, Boise State, early on, playing at UCLA in the opener into the third quarter, having Notre Dame on the ropes in the final seconds, and taking all three of its ACC foes into the fourth quarter.

Key personnel returning for 2016 include tailbacks Taquan Mizzell and Daniel Hamm, quarterback Matt Johns, safety Quin Blanding, and linebackers Micah Kiser and Zac Bradshaw.

The defensive line loses a lot (Mike Moore, Kwontie Moore, David Dean, Trent Corney are all seniors), and wideouts Canaan Severin and T.J. Thorpe are also finishing up, along with offensive lineman Ross Burbank and Jay Whitmire and placekicker Ian Frye.

On the whole, though, there’s a lot to build around. Get a new coaching staff that can instill some discipline, in the off-season and on game days, and can build game plans and make in-game adjustments, and this team has a chance to get things turned around next year.

It will help that London and his staff have obtained 26 commitments for the Class of 2016, so as long as the new guys can keep most of those guys in the fold, the program will be off to a running start in that respect.

It would help if Littlepage and London could come to a plan for the endgame as soon as possible. Virginia Tech is among several Power 5 schools in the mix for a new coach with the news this week that Frank Beamer is retiring at the end of the season. Beamer’s decision to announce his departure before the end of the season gives Tech a head start on the search for a replacement, with every day between the end of the regular season on Nov. 28 and national signing day on Feb. 3 being crucial, with considerations including recruits and staffing.

Virginia is an attractive job. It’s nowhere near the most attractive job, given the long run of mediocrity under London and his predecessor, Al Groh, with a combined eight seasons in the last 10 at or below .500, but there are many elements in place that can make UVA an interesting destination for prospective coaches.

The Capital One Cup that UVA athletics won for the 2014-2015 season shows that success is possible on Grounds. Facilities are top-notch, with the indoor and outdoor practice facilities that have gone up in recent years coupled with the renovations to Scott Stadium in the 2000s.

The alums give money, and the program is willing to spend it, if London’s $3.1 million salary is any indication.

And the fan base is waiting for something to cheer for.

The 2015 Cavs are three plays away from being 6-3. They were three plays away from going 8-4 a year ago.

It’s that close.

A turnaround season in 2016 is possible with some changes in Bryant Hall.

– Column by Chris Graham

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