Home Mailbag: Readers weigh in on UVA throwing $80M at football ops center story
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Mailbag: Readers weigh in on UVA throwing $80M at football ops center story

Chris Graham
uva football ops center
Photo: Scott German/AFP

I just read your article “UVA throws another $80 million at football …” 

I note your most salient statement: 

“The factor there has been getting the right number of top athletes through admissions. Until that happens, well, no sense going there, because it’s not going to happen….”

So you seem to be saying that UVA’s academic rigor prevents the Cavs from winning in football. But there are a number of quite excellent football programs that rank ahead, academically, of UVA: College Rankings: How Academically Good Is Your Football School?

Notably Michigan (which I hate to admit as an Ohio State grad), USC and Florida.

If you have a chance, I’d be interested in your response.

Tim

I don’t know what Michigan (the only school on this list that is consistently better than UVA in football) does with its admissions for football.

This list has Florida and Southern Cal ahead of Virginia on the US News rankings list. Florida and USC are actually ranked below (not far below, but they’re tied for 28th in the US News rankings this year; UVA is #24), and Michigan is three spots higher, at 21).

Florida and USC are name schools in football, but of late, not so much: Florida is 25-25 since 2020; USC had losing seasons in 2018 and 2021, and they’re on their fourth coach since Pete Carroll left.

My contention in the article is that UVA as an institution makes it hard on whoever the coach is to do what they need to do to get enough players on the roster to be able to compete at a high level.

The $80 million building is certainly nice, but an $80 million building is not going to change the mindset of the folks running the institution who seem to have an ambivalence about doing what would need to be done to enable a coach to put a consistently top-level product on the field.

And because that’s been an issue across several coaching regimes now, I don’t know that I’d pin it on one coach not being a good recruiter.

Mike London was the best recruiter (from a rankings standpoint) that we’ve had since the advent of the rankings systems, and he had five losing seasons in six years.

All that said, on an unrelated note, I have optimism going into this season that Tony Elliott is on track to getting us back into a bowl. I like what he has coming back on both lines, and the QB situation is a plus.

But this is a big year for him. I fear that a lack of success, plus that $80 million building, could put pressure on him from the money people that could make 2025 do-or-die for him.

We saw that at UVA not that long ago. UVA opened the John Paul Jones Arena in 2006 with a second-year coach, Dave Leitao. He had a big season that first year, didn’t make the NCAA Tournament in its second year, and after a losing season in Year 3, he was gone.

To borrow from the rapper Notorious B.I.G., mo’ money, mo’ problems.


George Welsh
Photo: UVA Athletics

Was there a brief relaxation of the standards during George Welsh’s glory years? Or was that just a run of good recruiting luck and great coaching that we aren’t likely to see again?

Jim

I can’t speak with any wisdom to the Welsh years question. I was in elementary school when George took the job, and had only just started my journalism career as his years were winding down.

From what I can glean from being a fan most of that time, his success was in being able to get the bulk of the top in-state talent in Virginia, and it didn’t hurt that a lot of those guys were also top students.

My thinking on the George years is his staff was good at getting the guys we could get in and were also good football players to come to Virginia, and great at developing the rest of the guys that we could get in into being good ACC football players.

The development piece is something that doesn’t get enough attention. I said even then that George was good at taking two-and three-star guys and turning them into four- and five-star guys.


football money
(© Sergey Nivens – stock.adobe.com)

Your article hit it on the nose.  The ACC of yore is gone.  The hoops rivalries are still strong, but football and NILs are the strongest games in the country. 

What do you think of a “future professional associates degree”?  Two years of sports-related coursework in communications and media, basic economics, sports psych, etc.?  Prepare Virginia athletes for careers in sports, related media opportunities, sports management, becoming an agent, etc. 

Might attract a few more decent players. Admissions either changes and we try to catch Clemson, or (my fervent desire) the University agrees to use the associates degree with a lower acceptance requirement.  Maintain X gpa per academic year to get the degree.

I can’t see it happening at UVA, but someone needs to provide a similar service.

Paul

They should offer that program anyway, right? At the least, the guys and gals who want a career in sports, whether it’s playing them, coaching or the many ancillary jobs (like mine!), could get training and education, instead of having to wing it.

This idea makes too much sense, almost.


joe biden donald trump
(© Below the Sky – Shutterstock)

Re: UVA Football Operations

You really have an attitude.

You must be bothered. Biden & Trump are tied in Virginia.

Stowe Perry

I saw that Roanoke College poll. I wouldn’t put a lot of stock in that, personally.

The Roanoke College folks had Trump, back before Super Tuesday, getting 75 percent in Virginia; he ended up getting 63 percent, and Haley, who the Roanoke College Poll had getting 15 percent, got 35 percent.

That’s a big miss.

But whatever, Biden and Trump are tied in Virginia. Keep believing that.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].

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