Mike London: The coach, and the man

London_1Two hills I will die defending: the one that says UVA football Mike London is rightly on the firing line, and the one that says Mike London is nonetheless still an excellent representative of the University of Virginia.

The first is well-chronicled, and no need to rehash that here. The second one I bring up because I think the online discussions about London have begun to tread into some murky waters.

Say what you will about London’s tenure as the head coach at Virginia, and I’ve said an awful lot, he’s done everything right but win on the field.

He’s recruiting kids who, based on the assessments of analysts, should be poised to succeed on the field, and at the same time are also able to succeed in a tough academic environment.

And not to be lost in this day and age, he’s recruiting kids who don’t make headlines for beating up fellow students, girlfriends and others.

I have the rare opportunity as an alum who is also a member of the news media to be able to interact with his players on a regular basis, and I can say that to a man I’m proud to be able to point to the kids and call them future fellow UVA grads.

All are well-spoken, polite, courteous, knowledgeable, and able to relate well what they know about football.

The quality of the young men is similar to the quality of the young men that I get to interact with regularly from the Virginia basketball and baseball programs, all of whom elicit similar feelings of pride in me as a UVA alum.

The young men that London, Tony Bennett and Brian O’Connor bring to Grounds to represent the University speaks to the personal character of the coaches.

Again as an alum, it means more to me that UVA doesn’t just win, but wins the right way, with kids going to class, on track to earning degrees, on the way to becoming productive members of society, able to change the world with a world-class education as their tailwind.

Bennett and O’Connor are obviously having success not only in recruiting great kids to represent the University, but also in the arena and on the field.

They’re not good men because they’re having success on the scoreboard; they’re good men who are also having that bottom-line success.

By the same token, Mike London isn’t any less a good man because he isn’t winning more games.

You want to join me in criticizing London the coach for not being able to win more games, please, by all means. He gets paid a lot of money to coach ‘em up, and with that money comes pressure to produce, and scrutiny when the job isn’t being done.

The line gets crossed when you try to conflate the failings on the field as part of something bigger about the man.

He’s a good man. Maybe running out of chances to prove that he’s also a good Power 5 head football coach, but a good man.

– Column by Chris Graham


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