Column | Will London meet same fate as Groh?

IN 2007-08, the season he took Virginia's football team to the Gator Bowl and the brink of 10 victories, Al Groh was named ACC Coach of the Year.

One year later, after the Cavaliers had fallen to 5-7, Groh was advised to dismiss three of his assistant coaches, including his son, who was the Cavaliers' offensive coordinator. A fourth subsequently retired.

Sound familiar?

Current head coach Mike London was ACC Coach of the Year in 2011. One year later, he has fired four assistant coaches, most likely at the recommendation of his superiors.

That's where London has to hope the similarities end because two years after his coach-of-the-year season, Groh went 3-9 and lost his job.

There is no indication that London is in danger despite a 4-8 record this season. The administrators who are in place now are the same people who hired him. If he doesn't get the job done, they will have failed, too. So that gets him at least a little extra time to turn things around.

Executive associate athletic director Jon Oliver handles many of Virginia's coaching searches and was prominent in the selection of London and men's basketball coach Tony Bennett as well as women's basketball coach Joanne Boyle.

Rival administrators have asked me how Oliver can wield so much power and the answer may be as simple as athletic director Craig Littlepage lets him.

In 2009, at the time of Groh's dismissal, I felt there were three coaches who merited Virginia's attention: Al Golden at Temple, Randy Edsall at Connecticut and Derek Dooley at Louisiana Tech.

Golden and Dooley had Virginia ties, but Oliver said at the time that he talked only with London and that there was no contact with other potential candidates - a mistake, in my opinion.

The next year, Golden and Edsall got hired by other ACC schools - Miami and Maryland, respectively. Dooley, hired by Tennessee at roughly the same time as Virginia tapped London, got fired after this season.

Oliver stuck his neck out to hire London, who had won the 2008 Football Championship Subdivision title at Richmond, but was only in his second season. And now, Oliver is sticking his neck out to make the London hire work.

That's why it was mandated that London fire the four coaches, although it is fair to say he might have made some of the changes on his own.

Here's where it gets interesting. In 2009, Groh brought in ousted Bowling Green head coach Gregg Brandon, who installed a spread offense that the Cavaliers never mastered. Who will London hire and will they want to change the system?

The coaches let go by London were defensive coordinator Jim Reid, defensive line coach Jeff Hanson, running backs coach Mike Faragalli and tight ends coach Shawn Moore.

N.C. State assistant and former U.Va. defensive back Jon Tenuta is seen as the frontrunner to succeed Reid. Tenuta has held that title in the past at Georgia Tech and Notre Dame and plays an aggressive style that some considered lacking in a U.Va. defense that was short on sacks and caused few turnovers.

But what the Cavaliers have learned in recent days was that Reid was a diligent recruiter. He may have unearthed the sleeper in the state this year in Fork Union safety Malcolm Cook, but Cook has reopened his recruiting since the U.Va. coaching changes.

One of Virginia's biggest problems in 2009, Groh's final season, was an absence of talent. The talent is better now, if you are to believe the ranking by rivals.com of the Cavs' recruiting classes in 2011 (No. 25) and 2012 (No. 27). The class scheduled to sign in February is potentially the best of all, given its current No. 20 ranking, but will it remain intact?

From a recruiting standpoint, the changes weren't needed. Statistically, there was little to complain about. U.Va. finished fourth in the ACC in total defense and outgained its opponents by more than 500 yards for the season.

Whether it was penalties, turnovers, mistakes in the kicking game or questionable clock management by the coaches, the Cavaliers just did not play intelligently and it added up to a 4-8 record.

Although he has a much better relationship with the brass than his predecessor did, London doesn't want to test that relationship with a repeat of this season.

Posted to: College Football Sports

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Handwriting on the wall

If London goes less than .500 in '13 he will be let go. It was a weak hire to begin with. If you are serious about improving your program you hire a successful Div 1 coach, not a D 1-AA coach (with only 2 yrs of experience).

One More Year

It is beginning to look more and more like London was not a good hire. I agree with the columnist that were better candidates out there and not enough searching was done to get the right guy. But, London is the head coach, and I think he should get one more year, maybe two to prove himself capable of making UVa a respectable football program. We are all still scratching our heads over the Reid firing. It seems to me the problems were mostly on the offensive side of the line and with special teams. The special teams coach has been reassigned but the same coaches who produced the puny offense that couldn't gain one yard when needed are still in place. Say what?

Interesting To Note

Frank Beamer was 2-9 and 3-8 in his first two seasons at Va Tech. Actually 4 of his first 6 years were losing seasons. UVA may not be so patient.

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