By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Valentine’s Day falls during the heart of basketball season, but UVa football was in the news Monday.
At 2 p.m., the ACC released the 2011 schedules of its 12 schools. Virginia’s schedule includes, for the first time since 2006, a Thursday night game on ESPN — Oct. 27 at Coastal Division foe Miami.
“Any time you get a chance to play on national TV [it’s good exposure],” second-year coach Mike London said.
Miami’s new coach, Al Golden, worked with London at Boston College under Tom O’Brien and later at UVa under Al Groh. O’Brien, of course, is now head coach at NC State.
The Cavaliers’ regular season begins at Scott Stadium, versus William and Mary on Sept. 3, and ends there too, against Virginia Tech on Nov. 26. In between UVa will face, in order, Indiana, North Carolina, Southern Mississippi, Idaho, Georgia Tech, NC State, Miami, Maryland, Duke and Florida State. The Southern Miss, Idaho, Georgia Tech, NC State and Duke games also are in Charlottesville.
“It’s a schedule obviously that’s challenging,” London said. “But you know what? It’s what you play for.”
In none of their 2011 games will the Wahoos have Ron Mattes, who received high marks for his work as their offensive line coach last season. Mattes, a former UVa star, is leaving his alma mater to coach the offensive line at Elon University, the North Carolina school announced Monday afternoon.
“His contributions were enormous,” London said, “and I’m very appreciative of his efforts and him being a football alum.”
Mattes was officially a graduate assistant at his alma mater, which meant he could not recruit off-Grounds and received only room, board, tuition and fees as compensation. At Elon, he’ll be a full-time assistant coach. He’ll also be much closer to his family, which is still based in Concord, N.C. His son plays football at NC State.
Had one of UVa’s other assistants left after the 2010 season, London said Monday afternoon, Mattes would have been promoted to a full-time position.
“It didn’t happen this year,” London said on a teleconference with reporters. “Whenever you’re away from your family for an entire year — his family didn’t have the option to be up here with him — it takes its toll. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Ron and what he did with the O-line, taking it from a young group and molding it, and in my personal opinion I think it’ll be one of the strengths of our team next year.”
London wasted no time in naming Mattes’ successor. Scott Wachenheim, who coached the Cavaliers’ tight ends in 2010, will now supervise the offensive line.
That’s an area of expertise for Wachenheim. As a player, he was a four-year starter on the offensive line at the Air Force Academy. As a college assistant, he coached Utah State’s offensive tackles (and tight ends) in 1992 and ’93 and then spent 12 seasons as offensive line coach at Rice.
In 2006, ’07 and ’08, Wachenheim was offensive line coach at Liberty University, where his boss was former UVa assistant Danny Rocco. Wachenheim also has been an offensive coordinator — for his final five seasons at Rice and all three of his seasons at Liberty.
“I think Scott is an excellent, excellent football coach,” London said.
London’s graduate assistants in 2010 were Mattes, Gordie Sammis, Josh Zidenberg and Brennan Schmidt, all former UVa players.
Mattes’ departure means the program loses “a UVa football alum,” London said, “but I think everyone will be pleased when they find out that we’re going to gain a UVa football alum. I’m not at liberty to say who it is right now, but I think as far as who’ll be coming, it’s something that will excite fans once again.”
A team that competes in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision is allowed to have nine full-time assistants. UVa’s are Wachenheim, Bill Lazor (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach), Mike Faragalli (running backs), Shawn Moore (wide receivers), Jim Reid (defensive coordinator), Jeff Hanson (defensive line), Vincent Brown (linebackers), Chip West (cornerbacks) and Anthony Poindexter (safeties/special-teams coordinator).
Will a graduate assistant be in charge of Virginia’s tight ends this year? That’s a possibility, London said.
“We’ll look at a couple things that will best fit the team,” he said. “I wouldn’t rule out the G.A. coaching the tight ends, but that’s not the exclusive position he may end up being involved with … I haven’t answered that question yet, but it’ll be answered probably as we go through spring practice here a little bit and kind of see where everything fits.”
Asked if Mattes might return to UVa one day as a full-time assistant, London said, “I know this: I know that I spent a year with him, and I know that he did a very, very good job for us. In the coaching profession, you try to hire guys that you know or that you’ve worked with or that you respect in the business that have worked with guys [you know].
“I knew people that Ron worked with. I knew people that spoke highly of him as an individual, and, now, having had a chance to work with him, now he’s definitely one of those guys that I’ll always be in contact with, and I’ll always want to know what he’s going and how he’s doing, because I know how important [he was] and what this place, UVa, has meant to him.”