A large segment of UVA football fans have had Nov. 28 marked on their calendars as the final day of the six-year nightmare that has been the Mike London era. Whether or not it will be London’s last game mostly looking confused on the sidelines at Scott Stadium remains to be seen, but we now know that it will be the final game that Frank Beamer will coach in the state of Virginia.
Odd how that is, isn’t it? That Virginia Tech dealt with Frank Beamer before Virginia dealt with Mike London?
Make no mistake about it. Beamer is officially retiring, but he’s not leaving of his own accord. The situation is reminiscent of the end of the George Welsh era at UVA back in 2000. Welsh, technically, retired as head coach, but the writing was on the wall.
His last two teams were a combined 13-11, and four of his last five teams didn’t get past seven wins, a stretch that saw the Cavs go 0-4 in bowls.
Welsh was quickly replaced by Al Groh, an alum with some pedigree, one year as the head coach of the New York Jets, and his own branch on the Bill Parcells coaching tree.
I was on hand for both Welsh’s retirement presser and the media event introducing Groh. Welsh didn’t seem like a guy who was ready to go, and Groh did his best to wet himself on the work that his predecessor had done, talking about how you can’t win championships until you set your goal that high, implying that Welsh somehow hadn’t set his sights on championships.
In nine seasons, Groh had largely undone what Welsh had built up over the course of the previous 19. Welsh’s teams had two losing seasons in his 19 on Grounds; Groh oversaw three losing seasons in his final four, including a 3-9 campaign in 2009 that was a near-perfect bookend to the 2-9 season that Welsh’s first team, in 1982, put on the ledger.
Beamer’s decline runs neck-and-neck with the final years for UVA under Welsh. The Hokies are 26-22 over the past five seasons, and needed final-game wins over the ‘Hoos in 2012 and 2014 to keep their winning-season and bowl streaks alive.
That very well may be the case again at the end of the month. Tech is 4-5 with games at Georgia Tech (Nov. 12) and at home against North Carolina (Nov. 21) before the finale against Virginia.
A loss in either raises the stakes for the matchup in Scott Stadium on the 28th.
UVA, for its part, is playing, dare I say, better, with wins in two of their last three to improve (!) to 3-5, behind a run game that has finally got on track, and a defense that has begun to figure out how to get off the field.
But absent a continued surge by the Cavs – who are on the road this weekend at Miami and next week at Louisville, before finishing up at home with Miami and Virginia Tech – it would seem likely that London enters the season finale with the Hokies as a dead man walking.
Virginia has put in four losing seasons in London’s five in Charlottesville, and another should spell the end, though the jury is still out on that count, with London still under contract for one more year, and the widespread bloodletting in FCS opening up so many jobs that it stands to reason that athletics director Craig Littlepage might survey the landscape, consider how low UVA football likely is on the coaching ladder and decide to ride it out with London for one more fall.
That observation might be semantics by the time we get to Virginia-Virginia Tech Week. A winning streak keeps London alive, a losing streak might have Littlepage announcing beforehand that London won’t be returning, and something in between might add interesting stakes to the BeamerBall Wake along the lines of, Is London coaching for his job as Beamer rides off into the sunset?
However that part of things plays out, the stadium will no doubt be full of Tech fans hoping to send their coach out with one final beatdown of their in-state rivals.
The streak is so old that it still remains the case that Virginia fans have not been able to write on Facebook that their team beat Virginia Tech in football. The last time UVA won this game was 2003; Facebook was launched in 2004.
And the coach with the long winning streak is out of a job. Wow.
– Column by Chris Graham