Mike London will return as Virginia’s football coach next season.
Athletic director Craig Littlepage made the announcement Wednesday, citing improvement in the Cavaliers’ performance on the field and success in recruiting as key factors in the decision. London has two years remaining on his contract.
”I’ve seen signs of progress in many areas,” Littlepage said in a statement released by the school. He added that along with recruiting success, and because of numerous staff changes that London was encouraged to make after the 2012 season, ”We are better at teaching the game and in the overall development of the student-athletes. We also continue to notice the commitment by this group of coaches and student-athletes to their academic and community responsibilities.”
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The athletic department’s goal for all its sports programs is to compete for conference championships and postseason participation, Littlepage said in the statement.
”I trust the plan Mike has in place and believe his leadership provides the best opportunity for Virginia football to be successful in the future,” the AD said.
The announcement ends questions about whether the Cavaliers (5-6, 3-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) would be playing for London’s future at rival Virginia Tech on Friday night.
The Hokies (5-6, 2-5) have won 10 straight meetings in the series, and the winner will become bowl eligible and the loser’s season will end. The Cavaliers haven’t been to a bowl game since after the 2011 season; the Hokies have been to bowls 21 consecutive seasons, the second-longest streak nationally.
Virginia got off to a 4-2 start this season against a schedule ranked among the toughest in the nation, and with a victory against nationally ranked Louisville and 8-point losses to UCLA at home and BYU on the road, optimism grew that they had turned the corner after going 4-8 and 2-10 the last two seasons.
But close losses at Duke and at home against North Carolina sparked a four-game losing streak that also included losses at Coastal Division champion Georgia Tech and top-ranked Florida State. Virginia rebounded and kept its bowl hopes alive last weekend with a dominating 30-13 victory against Miami, setting up Friday night’s win-or-go-home rivalry game.
Miami, however, remains the only ACC the Cavaliers have beaten twice under London. He’s beaten them four times in five tries but is 7-27 against the rest of the league, and 23-37 overall, in five years.
Cavaliers players have largely dismissed questions about London’s future this season, saying they needed to focus on preparing for and playing the games. Though senior linebacker Daquan Romero said this week that that he made an appeal to the team to play for London before their 34-20 loss at Florida State.
”He gave a lot of us opportunities that we didn’t have before. I had offers from others schools, but I didn’t have an offer from Virginia until coach London came,” Romero said, in part paraphrasing what he told his teammates. He said he told them that because of the opportunities London has given them, ”You’ve got to go out there and give your all for that man because he’d do the same thing for you as long as you don’t lie to him and as long as you’re not doing anything behind the scenes. He’d give everything he’s got just to make sure you’re ok – off the field, school, football, anything. Family.”
Beating the Hokies to help London, it ”would mean everything,” Romero said. ”With a man with that kind of dignity, you’ve got to give him everything you’ve got, not just for the job but for the person he is.”
London said he was ”humbled” by his players’ commitment.
”I always ask them who do they play for,” he said on Monday. ”I don’t want them playing for me. I want them playing for that individual or that cause or that person or that thing that said they couldn’t be here or they couldn’t succeed here, they couldn’t make it here. Play for those things, play for those relatives, those people that are long gone or missed. Play for those type of ideas.”
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