Mike London could be coaching his final game at the University of Virginia this weekend. Yes, I get it, it’s not likely. UVa. does not make in-season changes the way you’d expect from a Southern Cal, which abruptly fired football coach Lane Kiffin earlier this season after a middling 3-2 start.
Virginia is a different place entirely. USC expects to win national championships; UVa. was happy for most of George Welsh’s tenure (which seems so long ago now) to win seven games and play in the Independence Bowl.
Back to how London could be coaching his last game: the magic word is bye, as in next week is a bye week for Virginia before the Cavs finish up Nov. 23 at Miami and Nov. 30 at home against in-state rival Virginia Tech.
Assume another loss this weekend at UNC, which doesn’t take much in the way of imagination. Carolina is a 14-point favorite, on a two-game winning streak, and still has plenty (i.e. a minor bowl bid) to play for.
Virginia, for its part, comes in having lost six straight, with a defense giving up more than 500 yards a game and more than 40 points a game in the last five, an offense hitting occasionally but mostly missing, and a head coach who still doesn’t have a good grasp of how and when to call timeouts, among other things.
It’s not going to get any better under London, who had a winning season two years ago with holdovers from the Al Groh era, but has lost 17 of his last 23 games, with two of the six wins in that stretch against FCS teams.
For all the hype London has been getting for his work on the recruiting trail, he’s been to the grocery store three times now, and he still hasn’t yet made a meal anywhere close to edible.
The fans certainly aren’t eating it up. Scott Stadium is averaging 45,000 fans a game in 2013, giving up in lost ticket sales and concession and merchandise revenues, conservatively, more than a million dollars every Saturday.
So you’re going to make a move anyway. And no matter what Craig Littlepage has been saying on this topic, he has to make a move.
The coaching carousel gets going in the early-morning hours of Dec. 1. You can use that time to prepare the press release announcing London’s departure, or you can use it making phone calls to agents representing your top coaching targets.
Pulling the plug on the London fiasco this weekend does a couple of things for you. You can begin your search in earnest beginning sometime Sunday and also reach out to recruits on London’s commit list to see who you might be able to retain and who might be on their way somewhere else because of his situation.
You also give your program a chance to do something on the field to build toward next season with an experienced ACC head coach in Tom O’Brien calling the shots for the final two games with the extra time from the bye week to get ready for the closing stretch.
Pulling O’Brien in to lead the team as the interim doesn’t disrupt the game-day flow at all, which is a positive.
And it maybe energizes the UVa. fan base heading into the Virginia Tech season finale, which otherwise promises to effectively be a Hokie home game with the empty seats of the past several weeks being snatched up by Tech fans en masse.
The above scenario makes almost too much sense. Which is why we won’t see it happen, unfortunately. But it does make a lot of sense anyway.