UVa Football Press Conference Transcript of the Hiring of Mike London as Head Football Coach
CRAIG LITTLEPAGE (director of athletics): Good afternoon, everybody. And we appreciate your taking time to be with us this afternoon to conduct some very important business as it relates to our football program.
I want to reiterate the message that Jim brought us from President Casteen. He’s deeply disappointed that he could not rearrange his schedule to be with us today, but he has sent his congratulations along to Mike and the London family as they rejoin the University of Virginia community.
Today’s press conference represents an exciting start for the University of Virginia football program. In the time since the head coaching position was opened, I’ve given a lot of thought to how we should fill this vacancy.
Some of my thinking was guided by the numerous e mails and messages and phone calls that have been sent in by so many of our friends and fans concerning what we needed.
A lot of thought was given to the input that important people close to our program provided. But I think more importantly my thoughts were guided by an understanding of how important our leaders are in any program or organization.
Secondly, I wanted to make sure that I focused on, as I would in any situation, but in particular now related to football, I wanted to focus on how much UVa Football means to so many friends of the University, people around the Commonwealth and people nationally.
As always my focus is directed towards finding a person who is the best fit for our specific situation here at the University of Virginia.
In my view, it was critical that we bring in a leader, an educator and a coach, someone, for example, number one, would unify and rally the various stakeholders including current and former players, alums, faculty, donors, fans, friends of the University.
Number two, to bring a coach who understands this environment at the University of Virginia, embraces it, uses it as a platform for recruiting talented prospective students, and in developing the talent of those student athletes that participate in our program.
Number three, I thought that we would need a coach that would be able to cultivate the Virginia high school community, both the student athletes themselves, the prospective students, as well as the high school coaches.
At the same time, a person that could compete nationally for the best student athletes.
Number four, I thought that we would need a coach that has the character — who’s demonstrated respect for education and whose athletic and life experiences will serve as a model and inspire those under his direction. And then finally, number five, we need a coach that has shown that he can win.
The person selected speaks genuinely and enthusiastically about teaching and learning among his players in the classroom, on the football field and in the community. He speaks about teamwork within the football organization, the department of athletics and his university.
He speaks about the need of having everybody on board and everybody supporting the program. He speaks of the football program, his players, and his coaches as being ambassadors and positive representatives in the larger university community.
Yes, one coach, just one, stood out among many excellent coaches as the search was in progress. This coach stood out as a leader, teacher and coach. He stood out with his insight and respect for this great institution. He stood out as a winner and as one around whom we can and must all rally.
Finally, he stood out on the strength of his character. That coach is a special man and is the best person and the best fit to be our head coach and gives the University of Virginia football program an exciting jump start. I’m pleased that that coach is seated next to me this afternoon. Please join me in welcoming UVa head football coach and a welcome back to Mike London.
MIKE LONDON: Thank you so much. First of all, I’d like to thank President Casteen, Craig Littlepage and Jon Oliver and all of those people who made this opportunity possible.
I’d also like to thank Richmond President Dr. Ed Ayers and Athletic Director Jim Miller for believing in me to give me an opportunity to be the head coach at my alma mater, and in particular, and most important, is to thank my family, which is here right now, my wife Regina, my daughter Ticynn, Jaicyn, Madicyn and Korben.
A lot of people made this possible, but I want to tell you something: I could not have done it without the help of many, many coaches, players and community. It’s one thing to talk about being a coach, but it’s also another thing to really get involved with your players, get involved with the community and get involved with whatever the university’s mission is.
And I’m blessed and I’m honored to be back involved with a university that I have a familiar background with.
I will make winning a priority, but also by doing it the right way and also making sure that it’s okay to embrace the academic qualifications and expectations here at the University. It’s okay to expect great things out of its athletic department, and particularly football.
It’s okay to attract those young men out there that want the best of both world opportunities: Great academics and a chance to compete and play for championships. That’s all I know.
The different places I’ve been, from Richmond to William & Mary, to UVa, Boston College, those are the type of schools that speak about those qualities and characteristics.
Those are the type of young men that I’ll make sure that the University Alumni and people involved know that we’re going to bring those type of young men into this program.
But I want everyone to know that I can’t do this by myself. I need the help of everyone here. I need the help of the fans out there, the students, the professors. I need the help of the community, the administration, coaches and players. I need the help of everyone.
And you try to do that, and you look to people that can help you by giving you the resources. And I believe that in talking to President Casteen and Craig that I’ll have the opportunity to do that.
I always talk about a couple of things here. The rules of the program as they’ve been when I was at Richmond, there are three, and they’re simple: Go to class. Because I think when a young man does that and takes an interest in his own opportunity to become an educated man, that it becomes in his best interests that when he gains and earns a degree from this great university, that it will stand out and amongst some of the best in this country.
Show class. Show class in everything you do. Show class and humility in victory. And show class in adversity and defeat.
And last is to treat people with dignity and respect. That’s what you’re supposed to do. Those are the things that I think are foundations of not just a football program for families or for organizations or for whatever it may be. I also want to make sure I reach out and embrace the Virginia football alum. My arms are wide open to you guys. Come on back home.
I want to make sure that people feel that they’re welcome; that what they do is valued and this is a partnership.
It’s been a dream of mine to have an opportunity to be at a major college, and particularly having an opportunity to be here at an ACC school, BCS school, a school that can win, a school that’s produced some great, great players here.
Mr. Bill Dudley, some great coaches. Mr. George Welsh, some great people. Chris Long. Shawn Moore. Chris Slade. I could go on and on and I would be remiss in not remembering everybody’s names or mentioning everybody’s names, but this is a special place.
Special people have walked the Grounds here. It’s a privilege and honor to be here as the head coach that hopefully can provide some energy, some passion, get involved with what’s going on in these guys’ lives, get involved in community.
Because you not only get me, you get my family. You get all of us. All four of them and three more. So all seven of us. (Laughter).
But it’s a great opportunity to be here. I’m so thankful to be given this privilege. I’m a caretaker, and I’m a servant, because I serve the student athletes in which I’m in charge of and the coaches and their families.
I’m a caretaker of this University’s reputation, in the academic and athletic arenas, and that’s a challenge I’m looking forward to. Thank you.
JIM DAVES: Questions.
QUESTION: Can you just address what you will do it’s been a quick transition, what are your plans as far as putting together a staff and reaching out and trying to reconnect with the high school coaches around the state?
MIKE LONDON: One of the things in talking I know I need to reach out to the athletic community here. Those are the administrators on the academic side, athletic side, to sit down and talk to them about what my plans, goals and visions are.
And then most immediately after this particular meeting to sit and talk to the players, because that’s what it’s about. It’s about them. They’re in exams right now. And pretty soon they’ll be leaving to go home for the holidays.
I want to make sure I connect with them and make sure that we’re all on the same page prior to them leaving.
And I think that as you alluded to, to make sure that — I am a product of and I’ll use it as the kids say — 7-5-7. To make sure that we connect with the high school area coaches here in the state of Virginia. This is a great place.
My coaching stints have allowed me to recruit every area of this state. And I know we’ve got to do a better job in recruiting the in state players, but we’ll do that, because I think I want the high school coaches to know that if Virginia hasn’t been there, we’ll be there. And if you have a player you want to recommend to us, then we’ll evaluate and we’ll listen.
QUESTION: Can you address the staff as well?
MIKE LONDON: The staff is ongoing now. There’s some people that are still playing and some people that still have seasons going on.
There’s some that I’ll bring with me. And there’s some here that I’ll have to talk about in terms of whether to retain or not. But it’s an ongoing process. And I want to make sure that I get the right individual, the right men, men of honor and integrity, guys who are going to do it the right way, be a reflection of myself. If you see me you see them. If you know me, you know them.
I want to make sure I do it right and take my time in fulfilling that. Thank you.
QUESTION: Could you address just the last three or four days in your life, the whirlwind it’s been and if you could elaborate on who you might bring with you from the Richmond staff?
MIKE LONDON: Well, like I said in the last question, I’m working on that. There’s some obligations I need to make sure that are fulfilled there and there’s some responsibilities there before I say anything.
The last couple of days have been it’s been a whirlwind. The euphoria of making the playoffs, FCS, having a home game, winning that first one, and then playing a perennial power in App State going up in the game with three minutes, and then losing in basically the last seconds. Then getting the call and being informed that Virginia was interested in me being their head coach, back to being euphoric again.
And then going from that, John, to the heavy felt task of having to tell players at Richmond that I was leaving. I mean, that was a tough thing to do to tell my Richmond family that I was leaving.
But hopefully most of them understand that this is a great decision for myself and my family. And it’s a move that we’re looking forward to.
QUESTION: This is I believe you’re starting your third stint here. Is this a place where you could stay for a long time?
MIKE LONDON: The community in Charlottesville is unbelievable. You’re right. I came here as a young assistant and then left, went to the NFL. Came back and then left be a head coach. And now I’m back again. So it’s a great place to raise a family. In the coaching profession you can’t be in too many places where your extended family, particularly my mother and father, my wife’s mother and relatives, live. It’s one of those places, it’s a special place because there’s so many things. My daughter went to school here. My brother played here. I know a lot of people here. And it’s a fit, a perfect fit for me.
QUESTION: During your previous stays here, you’ve been involved in some terrific seasons. You’ve observed the last couple of years as the program has struggled. What are the common threads when Virginia’s program has thrived, and what does it mean to you now, what are your main challenges?
MIKE LONDON: In any situation it’s all about the players playing for you. Everyone that knows me knows I’m a big relationship guy. And I think that’s a critical element in any team, in any organization in any relationship. And I just know to what I would do is to make sure that I have a relationship with the players that will allow them to knock on my door and come in anytime they want.
I think if I know what’s going on with them, then if I know I have their best interests at heart I think it transcends sometimes with on the field issues. People don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care. I think that’s very important.
So that’s my approach, and I’m hoping that that will result I know all of a sudden it doesn’t just result in blocking and tackling but it is dealing with the individual first in order to bring out their best efforts and abilities.
QUESTION: When you came to Richmond you inherited a program that had a couple of winning seasons and success. Here, you’re in a different situation. Has there been anything in your resume that can prepare you personally for the differences between taking over two programs that are in different situations?
MIKE LONDON: Well, you know, I’ve been in the course of my career I’ve been in situations different like that. When I went to Boston College, it was a situation where they lost and had an opportunity to get involved with a former UVa coach Tom O’Brien there that turned the program around there.
So there’s a reference point I have in terms of dealing with that. But again it all goes back to making sure you recruit the type of player you need to recruit. That you provide a staff that can develop those players, both athletically and then personally, and then provide a model for them in terms of the expected types of behavior, your schemes and systems that you’re going to employ and then be consistent with your message.
And if you do that, and I believe that you can move a team forward. And those are the things I’m looking forward to do here at Virginia.
QUESTION: You were a defensive coach here and the defenses generally have played well in recent years. The offenses have struggled more. How would you characterize your offensive philosophy as a head coach?
MIKE LONDON: Score fast and as often as you can. How about that? Is that a good answer? (Laughter) I think you have to utilize your playmakers, you have to find and identify who those guys are and then do your best to get the ball into their hands.
I think there are several positions that are key. Obviously the guy that handles the ball 100 percent of the time, which is the quarterback — and then the guy that runs the ball, and then the receivers that the quarterback throws to.
So I think in evaluating talent, particularly those players that can make a one play difference, is critical. And so we will look to begin evaluating the talent and addressing the needs through recruiting.
QUESTION: You spoke about the academics. What’s unique about the academic situation here, from your background at those other schools, how has that helped you?
MIKE LONDON: What’s unique is the type of young man that the school looks for, the profile of the young man, his academic accomplishments in high school.
And a lot of it suggests his ability to do well here. I think when you’re motivated academically, when you come from a background in which your transcripts demonstrates academic performance, that it spills over into athletic performance. Now, I have to do a good job of making sure that I provide an atmosphere that’s conducive to learning — that guys want to get a degree and provide them with the support systems that are going to help them do that.
Because I find if players are motivated not only academically it will spill over into athletics. Right now it’s another way around thing. And it needs to be motivated academically because then you’ll see those attitudes transcend over into the football field.
QUESTION: You spent six years as an assistant under Al Groh. How are you similar? How are you different, your styles different?
MIKE LONDON: I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Groh. He allowed me to grow within this system, this University. But I’m my own man. I’m my own person.
As I said before, I’m a big relationship guy. And I think that my style is a style that may be different from a lot of people’s style.
But I go back to what I said before. I think if the players and the head coach have a relationship that’s really special or that we’re both on the same page in terms of understanding the expectations in the classroom and on the field, then I think that makes for something special.
So I’m looking to provide my own mark and do my own things and make my own way.
QUESTION: Can you take me back to nine years ago, how the process first went when did you apply for the job – Did Coach Groh find you and what were you impressions of UVa before you ever coached here?
MIKE LONDON: I had done a series of internships through the NFL with the New York Jets. And the first time Coach Groh was the linebackers coach. I worked with him. The second year I went back he was the head coach at that time. Met him at that particular time. I didn’t know later on that he would become the head coach here.
That’s how that started. Plus, I’ve been here in the state of Virginia at Richmond and William & Mary, it made good sense, from his stance hopefully, to bring a Virginia guy back.
QUESTION: You’ve been mentioned in connection with this job since before it came open. How difficult was it to shelter yourself from all those discussions and not even think about it yourself?
MIKE LONDON: I’m human like everybody. Of course you hear the speculations, the hypotheses, all those things like that. But as the season is going on, my main and my focus and my priority is to the players at Richmond and my staff. And internally you may think about things externally, I want to make sure that the players got the message about all that matters is what happens with the Richmond family.
I’m being human in answering that question, but that’s the truth.
QUESTION: Can you just kind of talk about your evolution as a coach and even before that, from Richmond city detective to sitting here as a coach at an ACC school and how the second part of that, I think you’re the second African American coach at a BCS school and what that means.
MIKE LONDON: When you look back at it, when I look at kind of the career path, when I left Richmond as a player, I was a free agent with the Cowboys, and very shortly after that I got released.
I’d always wanted to be a Secret Service agent. I used to watch the President in the background and the guys standing behind him had the earplugs in their ear.
One particular time I saw a guy move, they’re not supposed to move, but I saw him move. And hanging from his coat was a large machine gun. I said I don’t know what he does but I want to do what he does. (Laughter).
So I went the route of before you get into the at that time getting into the law enforcement with the U.S. Marshalls or Secret Service you had to have law enforcement experience. And at that time I joined the Richmond Police Department.
After a couple of years there and a near brush with death one time, I decided maybe coaching is a good thing to do, you know? So I got into coaching fairly young and as I said I’ve been in a couple of different places.
And what I learned is the fact this is kind of strange but being a police officer and I talked about the relationship part, is you can diffuse so many situations by communicating with people.
If you have an opportunity to talk to people about whatever issues may be going on, you can solve or at least come up with solutions. What happens sometimes you’re so quick to jump to conclusions or not hear someone out. That’s what causes problems.
So what I learned as a police officer is that’s why I said of the three rules: Treat people with dignity and respect, that that’s one of them. That’s what I learned being a police officer, in situations where it can get out of hand or you can diffuse it.
So I’ve learned over my coaching career that although I’m a passionate and energetic guy, that having an opportunity with given players in the year to express themselves, as long as it is done in a respectful manner, we can get on the same page and come to some resolution. I hope that answers your question.
QUESTION: You became known for your energy here that you showed on the sidelines. Is that something that as a head coach at Richmond you saw filter down to your players, is that a staple of a Mike London coach thing? And I’ll follow it up by asking what are the staples of a Mike London coached team?
MIKE LONDON: You’ll have to ask my mother, Mae London, because she said when I was six years old I wore out the wheels on my tricycle. That’s where the energy comes from. I’m always passionate and energetic about what I do.
A lot of you may have heard or know about the story of my daughter Ticynn who is here today and my opportunity to take my bone marrow and give it to her, which saved her life.
And to me why wouldn’t you be passionate and energetic about an opportunity to do that? Not too many people have opportunities to do that – when a parent can be a donor to their child and save their child’s life. I owe a lot of things to a lot of people. I wear my emotions on my sleeve and I’m proud of it.
I was telling Coach Littlepage, when we won the championship. I was jumping up and down with the players and somebody said, coach, you know, you gotta act like you’ve been there. That’s just it, I haven’t been there. (Laughter) so hopefully I can still keep bringing that passion and energy and act like I haven’t been there.
QUESTION: You may have thought you were ready for this job two years ago, but how much did you learn in your two years as head coach, like there’s a lot more to being head coach than you ever thought?
MIKE LONDON: I have a tremendous amount of respect for all head coaches. I’ve been a long time assistant. And when you sit in this chair now you make a lot of tough decisions.
When you sit in this chair, you are very visible. You are very accountable for what you say, what you do. You’re never off the record. You know, for you guys out there. And I understand that. I understand the obligations and the responsibilities of this position.
And I actually relish and look forward to representing this university in the communities on the road, at home, to the fan base, to the football alumni, to the players or whoever it may be. But you learn a lot of things.
You make a lot of tough decisions. You pray for wisdom and discernment and hope you do the right things.
QUESTION: You’re scheduled to play Richmond next year. Will that game remain on the schedule? And if so, can you imagine what that would be like to play the Spiders right out of the chute?
MIKE LONDON: I can’t speak whether it will remain on the schedule or not. But last year this time if you would have asked me if I’d be sitting right here with the schedule as it was, I never would have even thought about it.
But I’m sure when we play them when I left here and went to Richmond, how emotional that would be, I’m sure it will be the same way now the other way around.
QUESTION: Al had a lot of talented assistants during his tenure, yourself included. Also had a lot of staff turnover. Is it important to have continuity on a college football staff, or can you win without it?
MIKE LONDON: That’s a great question, Jeff. I think now having been around here a little bit and seeing different staffs and I think it’s important to have cohesion and continuity in the staff, because when you have cohesion and continuity and you talk about the consistency and the actions of the players, if the players see cohesion and continuity, then they benefit from it.
And all together, the whole entire program benefits from it. So I’d say yes to your question.
QUESTION: Craig, Mike has had success at the FCS level. Speaks for itself. Does that cause you hesitation because you’re hiring a guy who doesn’t have FBS head coaching experience? And the second part is because the players Mike inherited were very good, not many of the fellows, any of the players he signed are playing yet. Were any of those things causes for hesitation in the decision making process?
CRAIG LITTLEPAGE: No.
QUESTION:Can you elaborate?
CRAIG LITTLEPAGE: Just teasing you. No, I and we at the University have had the benefit of seeing Mike over a long period of time, knowing his abilities, knowing his character, knowing what kind of coach he is, knowing how he feels about the University, how he feels about the players.
The question of whether there was any hesitation, no. There are ample examples of coaches that have made the move from assistant coach to head coach from offensive or defensive coordinator to head coach.
If a person has the instincts of a leader and knows the game and feels as deeply and cares as much as Mike does, causes no hesitation at all.
QUESTION: Regarding the players that he’s had, virtually none of them played because those ahead of them played so well. Does that cause any hesitation that the people he has signed haven’t tough to tell, tough to make a judgment on?
CRAIG LITTLEPAGE: No, I think the benefit is that he has shown an ability to figure out the right combinations of people and where they need to play.
There was a high school coach that I had an opportunity to speak with who talked about Mike’s abilities to recruit and to relate and how much he thought that the high school coaching community would respond to Mike as the head coach, his ability to put a staff together that could similarly be successful recruiting.
So I think in every regard I was satisfied and I did not have any hesitation in any way.
QUESTION: Coach, what makes you such a great communicator so you can go into that young man’s home and talk to his parents and say: I’m willing to bring you to the University of Virginia, don’t go to North Carolina or West Virginia or other ACC schools and, most importantly, when you look at the top 30 kids in the state, Rivals, Scouts, 13 of those are going to Virginia Tech, what makes them go here instead of there, to get the fan base back to the Virginia teams?
MIKE LONDON: I think it goes back to the relationship part, number one, that I’m a Virginia product from elementary school on up to college.
I think that we have to recapture the state of Virginia, make ourselves accessible to the coaches of Virginia, the high school coaches, particularly. Go into those schools and then go into the communities also. I think that’s critical, because you’re right, a lot of young kids grow up seeing somebody that the boys clubs or the local organizations, they grow up and they want to be just like so and so.
Well, so and so is at that other school. And unless you get into those communities and do things, there are a number of things you can do with the coaches in those communities, the Pee Week League coaches, those individuals that have an influence in those young men.
And unless people let you show you have an interest in going into their community, then why would they have an interest in coming to yours? So I think that’s important.
And then as you say, the type of people that you hire. And the biggest thing is I go back to what I said before about being able to have relationships, because people again don’t care about how much you know until they know about how much you care.
So if you’re in those schools, if you’re in those communities and people see that you have an interest, then they’ll come. They’ll come because what they’ll see is they’ll see the real person.
When you say come to my game or come to my venue, if you haven’t been to theirs, if you haven’t been in their communities, then why would they come to yours? So there’s a lot of work to do. But we’ll be hard at work in making sure we get that corrected.
QUESTION: Craig, how would you describe your past 24, 48 hours? How would you describe the process? And how early in the coach searching process did you identify Mike as the guy?
CRAIG LITTLEPAGE: I was over the weekend in Tampa at the ACC Championship game. So I was out of town for the previous three or four days.
Upon landing sometime yesterday, mid morning, I placed a call to seek permission. Again, this is a situation where having known this gentleman and having worked alongside of him and having respected him as a coach and a person, there wasn’t a lot of interviewing that had to be done, if you will.
But certainly the feeling that this was moving in the direction that was mutually beneficial, we had an interest. Coach London seemed to have an interest.
So it was a matter of just kind of working through all of the different questions of can we do this, how quickly can we do this, what are the touch points, who are the people that we need to bounce questions off of. Mike needed time to process everything because it was happening and unfolding so quickly.
So there were a lot of very anxious hours as we worked through maybe the mid morning to late afternoon stage on Sunday.
Mike has always been somebody that has been highly regarded nationally. I can say that having participated in many numbers of different conferences and discussions with other athletics directors, conference commissioners and many times we had meetings at which we talk about the talented people that are coming up through the pipeline, if you will.
And I know for the last four or five years that Mike is someone whose name was on the minds of many athletic directors and conference commissioners. So the fact that he’s been here we’ve been blessed to know his work in the two stints that he was here at the University to hear others talk about him that have had long success in college football that know the kinds of things that make successful college coaches. Mike was always on that short list of coaches.
So as soon as we knew we were going to be in the market to look at candidates, Mike was going to be right at the top of that list. We just wanted to make sure that it was something that was going to be a benefit to both parties.
The interesting thing was in a meeting that Jon Oliver and I had with our football team a week ago Sunday, we talked about our expectations of them for the next couple of weeks until the time we were able to appoint a head coach. And at the end of us telling them what we needed from them in terms of their commitment academically, their commitment to make sure they had their houses in order, get their injuries treated, et cetera, et cetera, we asked questions about what they thought we should be looking for.
And as the comments were being made by the players, and this was over the course of maybe 30 minutes, I remember thinking in my head – I was making eye contact with Jon who was in the back of the room as they started to go through this list, it was almost like we were checking off the person seated to my right.
So, again, it’s a long winded way of getting to the point that he’s somebody that for a long time has been on my mind. He probably doesn’t know this. But there have been a lot of athletic directors who have asked me about him. I was hoping they wouldn’t hire him for that maybe one day we’d have this sort of predicament. (Laughter).
But his time at the University of Richmond I think has served him well. He’s ready for this. We’re ready for it. I know that our players are ready for it. Our former players and there’s so many different stakeholders that I think have applauded this decision and Mike’s decision to be with us at the University of Virginia.
QUESTION: Mike, a quick follow up. Your assistant coaches will they have voices and will they be able to talk to us?
MIKE LONDON: Yes. (Laughter).
QUESTION: When you were a position coach and had smaller group of guys to be in charge of, and as you climbed up and got to Richmond, the relationship you talk about having with your players, I would assume gets more and more challenging as you have more and more players. How much different or difficult was it at Richmond when you had 90 players than it was when you had 15, and how much more difficult do you expect it to be when you have 115?
MIKE LONDON: Well, I don’t look at it as being much more difficult. I think it’s I just have to make myself much more accessible. It’s a great thing. I mean, I could tell you stories about the players who have tragic situations in their lives, their personal lives, that after you develop that closeness, that they’re willing to open the door, so to speak, to what their issues may be.
And then by doing that, then it provides an opportunity for you not to fix it but to at least provide an avenue where they can go get an answer. And when they get that answer, which addresses the issue that they have, they’ll run through a wall for you.
And I think that’s the key sometimes that outside of Xs and Os, all that other stuff we’re talking about that it’s worth it to me to take the time to invest in individuals. So being accessible would be the only issue. Not the numbers and all that. And I just need to make sure that I make myself accessible.
QUESTION: Mike, following up on things happening so quickly on Sunday. Was it automatic once he talked to you, approached you about the job, that you would take it? Or did you have to do some soul searching and what questions might you have presented to Craig that eased your mind into convincing you to should take this job?
MIKE LONDON: Well, I have a good agent named Dennis Cordell that’s right there. It wasn’t automatic. He said don’t jump on anything; you’ve got some other opportunities here, too.
But I knew once the offer was made and then just the familiarity of this place. I wasn’t in it to be the head coach at Richmond to go to school XY and Z out in the West Coast or anything.
I could have been perfectly happy to stay at my alma mater, it’s just that I had been here and spent six years of my life here and this is a fit. So when the opportunity came about, then it made the decision easy.
QUESTION: You wouldn’t be sitting here if the program hadn’t experienced some difficulties and struggles. And recent history says that the feeling here is eight or nine wins. Why can this place win championships, in your mind?
MIKE LONDON: I think it has the — I know it has the facilities to compete for young men’s attention. I know it has the opportunity for those who are looking for again I go back to the best of both worlds opportunities.
If you just want to play football and, okay, I think I might get an education, this is probably not the place for you. If you just want to get a great education and I think I’ll play a little football. This is probably not the place for you. But if you want the best of both world opportunities, this is the place for you. You’ll have a head coach who is going to foster an environment that’s conducive to you achieving academically and make sure that you get the type of coaching and have a relationship that’s going to be able to at least help you achieve athletically also.
QUESTION: Do you have a feel for how much talent you’re inheriting? Second, is it an ace in the hole to have Anthony Poindexter on the staff here?
MIKE LONDON: I have yet to have had a chance to look at tape, film, evaluate players. As I said, that will be a priority here. We’re right in the middle of recruiting. There are young men that have committed to the school already. I need to make sure I reach out and connect with them, reconnect.
And speaking on Anthony’s behalf, I’ve known Anthony for a long time. Like I said, my brother Paul played with him. And someone asked the question about energetic and passionate.
You look at that word, that’s Anthony there in the dictionary, his picture. So having guys like that on the staff. In particular, he has a Virginia tie to him, he was a great player here, but having guys like that, individuals that players love I think is important.
And as I said I’m hoping to put a staff together that players will feel confident in and come to respect and admire their position coaches as well.
QUESTION: Speaking of staff, according to a recent survey of 2009 salaries, Virginia, among public institutions, ranked last in the ACC in assistant’s compensation. Granted that might have been skewed because Coach Groh didn’t have a defensive coordinator. But is Virginia committed to upgrading salaries for staff to make the head coach’s job at least in terms of recruiting assistants?
CRAIG LITTLEPAGE: I think among all the things that a coach would have to consider before accepting the position is an understanding that this is what I need in terms of the types of people and this is what I’m going to need to attract those types of people. And I believe that I can speak for Mike in saying that he’s been satisfied that the commitment will be made to allow them the ability to attract a top performing assistant coaching staff.
MIKE LONDON: I would agree with that.
QUESTION: Would the compensation go up the levels, stay the present levels?
CRAIG LITTLEPAGE: I would assume that it would. A lot of it depends on specifically who the people are eventually.
But the idea is that we will be stepping up, if you will.
QUESTION: A moment ago Hank asked you about the significance of being an African American coach at the BCS level. We got sidetracked with the machine gun story. Could you elaborate on the significance of that to you? And also you mentioned earlier you’ve been assured by President Casteen and Craig Littlepage you’ll have the resources available. If you could elaborate on that?
MIKE LONDON: It’s a tremendous honor to be, I guess, recognized as one of the very few in this country in a day and age where people are talking about more diversity, in particular BCS schools.
But I always want it to be made known that hire me because I’m the best candidate. That’s why I want to be hired because of that.
I understand the significance of being an African American or the second, as you say, at a BCS school. That’s a tremendous honor. And I don’t look at it as a burden, because people say, well, you’re going to be scrutinized more.
When you have seven kids, you’re scrutinized all the time because every decision you make is not always popular with them, isn’t that right Korben. He’s shaking his head yes.
But it’s something of I guess you guys can talk about the historical significance of it. It’s something when I’m coaching, I don’t even think about it when I’m coaching. The players don’t. The coaches don’t. Because all that matters is how they’re playing, how I’m coaching them and I’ll let you guys write about the significance of that.
QUESTION: Will resources be available to help you be successful?
MIKE LONDON: I’m very satisfied in talking to Craig Littlepage and Jon Oliver and President Casteen that the resources needed to compete at a high level and win have been committed here. That’s why I’m here.
QUESTION: What are the resources?
MIKE LONDON: As we alluded to before, being able to hire good staff. Being able to put things in place that will enhance the student athlete’s overall experience. Not just athletically, but from a social and academic standpoint. When you can put all those resources together that directly benefit an effective player, then I think you’ll see a better result.
QUESTION: You had a lot of success with the 4-3 defense at Richmond, inherited really good ends there. Is that the scheme on defense you’re most likely to use?
MIKE LONDON: Yes.
QUESTION: You join a program where the head coach has been his own defensive coordinator. Obviously you were his defensive coordinator before that when he was very involved with the defense. How much have you split your time? How have you split your time between the two units at Richmond and just talk about the idea of delegating?
MIKE LONDON: I’m of the belief you hire good people. You hire good people to do their jobs and you allow them to do their jobs and the situation I just came from I hired good people that did a great job of doing their jobs. Now, it’s my job to make sure that they do their jobs, but I was very satisfied in how they were doing it and as long as the communication or as long as it was understood that these are the type of things I believe in, as regards the specific schemes of offense and defense and special teams and imparting that to the coordinators of the style of play how you utilize play makers and things like that. I think the coaches have an appreciation that when you allow them to coach their players and do the job because they were accountable to you, then you get the desired results and that’s been my experience thus far.
QUESTION: As a follow up to a previous question, how familiar are you with the current roster, coaching and bringing them in, and related to that how far away do you think this program is from where you want it to be?
MIKE LONDON: I’ve been gone for two years, so at least the freshmen now have two years under their belts and some of the guys, when I was here, some have moved on. Some are into their last year.
So I’m familiar from that standpoint of being in a lot of their homes and recruiting them. But as I said before, I’m not as familiar since we did not play Virginia this year in terms of the talent level. That’s something that I have to catch up on and familiarize myself with that as these next couple of days start to unfold, because it does reflect or affect recruiting and the position needs and all kinds of things.
So I’d be probably better prepared to answer the latter question in a few days or so.
QUESTION: Craig, could you just elaborate on your communication with Mike on what your expectations for this program are – obviously high degree of success. How do you communicate that to a head coach and when do you expect to see that turnaround?
CRAIG LITTLEPAGE: How you communicate it is you communicate it. You speak to it in terms of outlining our department and University goals and expectations, articulating the goals for the football program in particular. Not only for the competitive success of the team, but the success and development of the student athletes.
We expect for any of our coaches to come to the University with the understanding that they are to bring to the University of Virginia to participate in our programs, people that are pursuing the University of Virginia because of the opportunity for a great education and to play in an athletics environment here at the University within the ACC that’s second to none.
The idea is that they’re coming to the University of Virginia to earn a degree, get an education and to win championships. Those goals are the same for all of our sports. So that’s what we’ve spoken about. We haven’t shied away from those being our stated goals and Coach London comes to the University of Virginia with those expectations. They’ve been stated verbally. They’ll be written. They’ll be on the wall. They’ll be on his desk. Wherever you want to look, I think there will be evidence of what the goals and expectations are.