Mike London Monday Press Conference Transcript - Nov. 21, 2011
COACH LONDON: After what happened on ESPN GameDay, all of a sudden I got flooded with a bunch of, ‘Hey, will you wear our pin?’ requests. Being in law enforcement, when my ex‑partner left the Richmond police and went to work for the DA for a while … I wore it out of respect for law enforcement and everything. Any pin or any opportunity I have to wear something that comes my way, I’ll put it on.
QUESTION: It seems like the team has knocked down every obstacle that everybody said it couldn’t do. Can you just talk about facing those obstacles and your approach, psychologically, in addressing them?
COACH LONDON: More of it is is just kind of the approach that you take with the guys that, when negative things happen – ‘Oh, here we go again.’ That’s been kind of a theme of the whole season-whether it’s on the field or whether it’s something that happened in a classroom or in the community, whatever it is. You don’t have to keep reliving that statement every time something happens.
You have an opportunity to do something about it. Change the way you behave, change the way you study, change the way you prepare-different things like that.
It’s just not accepting that as an excuse for the outcomes here the last couple of seasons. Sometimes, as a person and as a team, you just have to draw the line in the sand a little bit and say that this is what we’ve got to do to be better. Either be with us or not.
Unfortunately, the first year, there were more than a handful of young men that-whether it was academically, socially or on the field-decided that this wasn’t the type of culture that they could thrive in or be in.
We had to part ways. It’s tough. It’s tough now. It’s tough that you have to demand certain things from young men, coming from a school that has the type of academic requirements that this one has. But all you that are fathers out there, you should want your sons to behave in a certain way; and when they don’t, then they’re going to have to be disciplined. It hurts.
But hopefully what you create after a while is a culture of, ‘Listen, if I don’t go to class, I’m not going to play this quarter. If I don’t make sure I keep my assignments with my tutor, that brand new pair of Nikes, they’re not coming to me.’
It’s a long‑winded answer but I’m trying to get to the answer of your question. It’s just the expectations that these guys have while they’re here, while they’re going to school here. Hopefully it’s carried over to the field, that we had to draw a line in the sand here a little bit. These young guys now are 11 games into the season or older.
The improvement that was expected defensively, I think, was made and has been made and things like that. I don’t have a magic wand. I’m not a guru on any of that stuff.
But I think that it’s been a really neat season-just to watch the growth and development and the maturation process of a lot of these guys that have come in. That’s why you coach. That’s why you coach and you try to affect young men’s lives in a lot of aspects. It’s good to see the results of positive things happening to these players in this program.
QUESTION: As a head coach maybe it’s different, but Kris Burd was in here before and a lot of these guys have said that their goal was to win six games. Now the team has won eight with a chance to go to the ACC Championship game. You talk about academics and community almost before football. When do you appreciate them achieving what they set out to do, and maybe even more?
COACH LONDON: What’s really good is when you come in on the beginning of a process or you’re the next guy in. I’ve been a son and a husband longer than I’ve been a lot of other things.
When you come in, you have a certain way. My parents have infused me with a particular way of how to treat people-with energy and just all those different things.
When you come in with your own plan and you have that sort of background and you put your plan together and you have a background…Again, one of the best things that happened to me was being a police officer because you literally see the worst of what human beings do to each other.
What you see is the broken homes, you see the battered wives, just all the different things. Then when you have a guy that comes in and he’s got an outright talent, that’s great. But then you try to go deeper and find out more about the young man. You find out some of the real issues he’s had with his life, then you have your own life experiences. Coaching lends itself to helping young men achieve goals.
I’ve been a young parent. I know what it’s like. I know what it’s like if you have a child in college, transfer, driving on the bus, taking them to the baby‑sitter. Then get on another bus and go to school and be a student‑athlete.
Being a police officer, you know those type of things. When you get cut from an NFL team, you know the feelings of that. When you fail at a marriage, when you know the feelings of that.
When these guys come with the issues that they bring … They’ve got talent, and they come with the issues that they bring. I’m not a football guru. I’m not, ‘Get on the board, Xs and Os,’ and things like that, but I can relate to what young men are going through and then tap into that.
This is what you need to do to turn your situation around. We can be successful if you’re part of it. It may not have anything to do with being on the field with Xs and Os. Faith, family and football-those are my priorities. If guys buy into that or want to buy into it, so be it, this is the right place for them. If not, then I can’t explain any other way other than just how I’ve grown up and how I try to bring people into the program that can really thrive.
I looked at the game at Florida State. You look at those guys…I’m looking across the field and they look like an NFL team standing there. I look at my guys – I look at their guys. But you know what? It truly doesn’t matter about what you see. It’s about how you play.
That’s all. All we’re judged on is how we play, how we produce. I’m hoping with another game left, another big game left, that the same approach of being prepared, being confident, having gone through the season with different things being accomplished, that this is another opportunity that presents itself.
We rise to the challenge. We rise to the challenge, but along the way, they will have done things in the classroom and in the community that, when they’re done playing, they can walk away from here with a positive college experience.
I know we’re here to talk about football and the Virginia Tech rivalry and things like that, but if you asked the question of what it is that I think is important, that’s the answer to it.
If you want to ask football‑specific technical questions, I’ll be more than happy to answer that, too.
What you see as a coach, when you watch your guys executing a game plan, you see that confidence that’s kind of exuding from them. It’s a great thing to see when the maturity part starts to catch up with the execution part because it hasn’t always been that way.
The maturity part is when guys create errors or make errors that young players wouldn’t make, or the execution part is not where it needs to be when you’re a older player. ‘How could you line up off sides? Or how could you be involved in a penalty like that? You’ve been here a while.’ You’re always looking for that part of the players’ development. They’re not perfect games, watching the last couple of games with guys executing and coming to the sideline, it’s been, ‘Coach, I understand. I got you on this. It won’t happen again.’ Or, ‘We’re going to win this game.’
We’ve come a long way from that point. Last year, it was like, ‘Oh here we go again.’ Again, all I can point to is four games, where the last play of those four games has decided whether we won or lost. And where whether we executed or didn’t execute dictated the record as it stands right now.
To come out successful on that just lends itself to creating more energy, more positive feelings about the way you feel about yourself.
Football is a game where, ‘Okay, that game is over, next game up, what are you going to do now.’ I can’t speak to other programs, but for this program to be in a position to have improved like that and to come a long way, that’s very important to our development as we continue to try to recruit better, retain guys in school. The product out on the field plays better-just all those things. That’s part of it. I could answer just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ type of thing, but with the answers that I give you, I try to give you a little foresight in it and then also try to give you true and honest answers at the same time.
QUESTION: The last few games have come down to the final play, and your team has prevailed. Do you sense a certain confidence and momentum with this team?
COACH LONDON: We’ve said before winning breeds success and success breeds confidence. That confidence breeds that, when you’re on the field and something good or something bad happens the way it was before, it’s, ‘Oh, here we go again.’
The way it is now-‘I got you. We’ll turn this around, we’ll get it done’-lends you to staying in games. Regardless of the stadium or the sound or if the chief is throwing down the thing on the field and all that stuff like that-regardless of all those things, there’s a part of you just that continues to block it out and say that all that matters is what happens on the field.
I think the season has been indicative of that, as we’ve gone on – the last couple of games. It started with Georgia Tech, then we went on the road and played Miami. It started to just kind of snowball a little bit. This game really kind of put it in perspective that we are in every game. We should be in every game we play. We should expect to win every game we play.
It hasn’t always been like that, but that’s the mindset now. We’re very aware of the challenge that faces us on Saturday for sure.
QUESTION: Before the game Saturday night, you talked about David versus Goliath. How important is it to get the team in the right mindset before the game?
COACH LONDON: We watch film on Sunday. On Mondays, when I leave you guys, we go back and the coordinators and I talk. We try to figure out what the theme of the game will be, should be, how the game can be played, what needs to be done and those type of things.
There will be a theme for this one also. But coming out of that game and going into Tallahassee … I think Oklahoma was the last team that won in there. They held them to 13 points.
For all the teams that have played there, the mystique and the tradition can be intimidating. As a football team, when you’re getting better, you have to go beyond those things. The guy on the horse doesn’t play. The people, the fans, they don’t play.
You’ve got to play and you have to execute. All you can rely on is what you’ve been taught, what you’ve learned, how you react to situations. The game happens. They do something well, you have to react. Bad things happen in the game. You have to react.
Good things happen in the game, and you’ve got to maintain your composure and continue to act and react. I think it’s boiled down to more about that and the improvement of this team than one person. I don’t know if we have a team of superstars. I don’t think we have a team of superstars.
We’ve got a bunch of guys that have a role. They play their role. They embrace their role. When the team wins, everyone gets credit for the win.
QUESTION: The last two weeks, Virginia Tech has been on Thursday night football. Have you watched those games with any eye towards getting a little head start on your preparation?
COACH LONDON: Well, I can say this, you appreciate the opportunity to play on national TV. We got back Sunday at like 4:00 in the morning and our band was there.
It was great. Our band was there and celebrated with our players a little bit. I went to bed around 5:30, 6:00. I don’t know what time the players went to bed, hopefully shortly after they got back.
It was a physical game. Tough, physical game. Billy Schautz-we lost our defensive end. He broke both bones in his leg and had surgery in the morning. It was a physical game.
To play on Thursday and then the next day being a Friday, you kind of gain a little bit of a preparation advantage.
But it is what it is.
QUESTION: But did you watched the Thursday night Tech game?
COACH LONDON: Yeah, I watched it, but I knew that we were going to get the TV copy with the announcers on it and everything like that.
More than that, Thursdays are still nights when we’re preparing for the teams that we’re playing and actually putting the final touches on the game plan for the upcoming game.
But, yes, we did have a chance to watch some of what they did Thursday night.
QUESTION: Do you feel any pressure going into the Tech game?
COACH LONDON: They’re a good team. There’s a reason why they’ve been the ACC champs. They have players that have phenomenal talent. They’re in a position where they can backup what they’ve talked about, what they’ve done.
We’re in a position where all we want to do is keep getting better and get to the point where we can continue to compete-recruiting, on the field, and any aspect of being in‑state rivals.
Now the game is here, and it’s another opportunity to control your own destiny as far as what happens to your program. We’re excited about that challenge.
QUESTION: Do you wish you had 10 or 15 more scholarships to offer?
COACH LONDON: No. When you’re putting the team together, part of the things is the profile of the young man you want. Recruiting has accelerated so much. I know in basketball, they have rules. Football is a physical game. Particularly with guys up front, you want to see their development.
At the same time, where the rules allow you to have your evaluations and your contacts and your camps and things like that, you have to stay out in front of the curve and make sure that you do the best you can in identifying that profile student‑athlete who can help you win but also who will stay in school, who you don’t have to chase around, and who will be a young man that will do well in the community, all those things.
Speaking in general terms of the young men that we are presently recruiting, they are young men we feel fulfill that profile that we’re seeing.
And we’re not done yet. There’s still some that are out there that, at this point in time, are probably waiting to see what is going to happen with this program.
Hopefully through the national TV exposure, the message that we keep trying to extol on everyone about the best of both world opportunities, some of the best players in the country will take a look at this school.
We always want the best in‑state players. That’s the main focus. But when you can also finish up your class with some of the best players in and around the country that are interested because they see you having success, then that makes it even much more important.
QUESTION: How gratifying is it to see the defense’s improvement this season after a rocky start under Coach Reid last year?
COACH LONDON: There never was a point where there were any issues with Coach Reid. The coaches that are on staff, I have a tremendous amount of respect for their football knowledge and their passion and energy for the game.
You guys have spoken to him on many occasions. He has an energy and passion and understanding of football that’s one of the best that I’ve been around. Being a defensive guy, too, I know there’s going to be issues with the transition from a 3‑4 to a 4‑3.
I have the utmost confidence in all my guys, in all my coaches. It’s important to me to have staff consistency. It’s important for me that we’re all on the same page with what goes on, on the field and off the field.
These coaches are involved with the guys’ academic lives and social lives as much as I am. With all the heat that was going on last year, in these staff meeting rooms, we circled the wagons. I said, ‘Listen, these are the guys I hired. I believe in these guys. I believe in you guys.’
‘I believe in you guys. You stick with the plan. The players see it. When the players see it, that’s another element that’s added onto the confidence part of it. We’re doing the same things we were doing last year conceptually, but the players have been developed and coached well into the positions and the techniques that they need play.
In this sport, you’re always looking to say, ‘It’s that person’s fault, it’s that person’s fault.’
Ultimately, I have to answer to all the questions about how the guys perform. But coming from where we were and knowing where we’re going, I felt very comfortable about what we’re doing. It’s the same thing with some of these guys. Coming from where they were and watching their development as to where they are and where they’re going, I feel very comfortable about that also.
Now the key is to continue that and to continue to get better-recruit high-profile student‑athletes that can come in here and help us win. That’s what’s going on now.
QUESTION: Can you talk about Chase Minnifield’s play, running down the Florida State player at the 1‑yard line and saving four points? What does it symbolize when you see something like that?
COACH LONDON: I went back, looked at all the plays were made, and that was probably the single most important play thus far to date because of what it exemplified. Chase came from the other side of the field. I guess you could characterize it as he ran him down, made a great play getting him down. After that, the next play was a run, and then an incomplete pass.
Then we got a sack, and they kicked a field goal. I think that’s indicative of our season: somewhere along the line, in all of these games that we have played, someone has done something that you look back at and you’re like, ‘Man, that was a huge play.’
That never‑quit‑type attitude-that’s what is expected. When the best players on your team do those types of things and those young players and the players that are second teamers or guys who don’t play much see that…when the bar is set like that-like the Perry Joneses, the catches that they make and the runs-you drag other people along or you bring them in with the expectations of how you can be a really good team. That play right there was probably one of the most important plays of our season because of it lent this game against Virginia Tech to being the next most important game of our season.
QUESTION: How much more motivation, excitement, and urgency is there surrounding this rivalry game, knowing it is one of the biggest games for this program in a very long time?
COACH LONDON: It’s great to know that in November we’re still talking about Virginia football being relevant. It’s great to know that that there’s a lot at stake here.
It’s an opportunity to play in the last game of the year that decides whether you have a chance to play for goals that you’ve set coming into this season. They’ve been on this side of the ledger for a long time. This is new, unchartered territory for us.
There doesn’t have to be any fake hype or fake talk, anything like that. We don’t need any Twitter account stuff, Facebook stuff, going back and forth. We’re in‑state rivals, and it would be characterized to say that’s how they feel about us and we feel about them.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for all those coaches because I know them. When I was an assistant coach at Richmond, I interviewed for the position that Jim Cavanaugh got.
You know and you respect the men that you’re going against, but you also understand that you’re the in‑state rival. You want to beat the in‑state rival in everything that you do.
Right now, they’ve had a number of years of success in that regard. We stand here and get ready to play and want to be able to challenge them in recruiting. We want to be able to challenge them on the football field. And that’s what you do. I can’t put it any other way.
I know somebody would like me to trash talk, but that’s not me. I don’t go in that direction. It is what it is-the implications of this game and the opportunities that are presented to it.
QUESTION: You were on the staff the last time UVa beat Virginia Tech, in 2003. What do you remember from the locker room celebration?
COACH LONDON: When you’re playing your in‑state rival, you have guys on your team that literally grew up with or were teammates with, played against, know somebody from the family, of someone on the other team, particularly any of our in‑state guys.
You can remember, when you win a game like that, then the implications of winning the game, particularly for this one, what it will mean for the program, all the way up until this point. It’s one of those games. I’ve heard that ticket sales are brisk, if there are going to be any left.
QUESTION: It’s sold out.
COACH LONDON: That’s the way it should be. Again, you’re playing your rival. There’s a lot at stake. The excitement that it creates within the state and within college football itself…Coach Beamer, a couple of games ago or last game, was recognized as one of the winningest coaches in college football.
All the things he’s done for his program and the things that we are moving towards accomplishing with our program in years to come-we’re hoping there’s going to be a battle for everything, for the recruits and for everything that’s on the field.
Like I said, it’s great for the state of Virginia to have this. It’s great for the state of Virginia that the recruits, the best players decided to stay in-state. That’s what it’s all about also, the best players in our state playing in‑state and playing for us. Not only for them, but for Richmond and ODU and William and Mary and James Madison and the Division IIs, Division III schools. It’s great when the byproduct of what’s going on can focus on the state of Virginia and the state of Virginia football players. There’s a lot of young men that don’t have an opportunity to get scholarships. If a young man sends his questionnaire to somewhere out in wherever, saying that he’s from Virginia, we need to make sure that we recruit that young man. To me, everybody wins from that standpoint. The ACC wins on this regard, too.
So let’s play. We’re ready to go. Not right now. I don’t want to play right now. Let’s play on Saturday.
QUESTION: After watching the film from the FSU game, what are your thoughts on the penalties that were called and the incomplete pass call?
COACH LONDON: When it comes to disputing calls and things like that, we turn in those calls that we had questions with and then we get a response back later on about agree, disagree, not enough, indisputable evidence-whatever it might be.
After looking at the game and the face mask issue-was it a face mask issue or wasn’t it-I don’t know. To end on that fourth down play would have been a tough deal. The catch/non‑catch issue, I’m anxious to see the interpretation of that because the referee that was there said the ball’s caught, clock continues to run, time runs out. They were getting ready to run their field goal team out.
I’m anxious to see what that interpretation will be. The disconcerting signal, is another one I’m interested in hearing the interpretation of. You’ll talk to Oday Aboushi in a few minutes about how, during the course of a game, defenders may talk about snap counts and things like that. Whatever it might be, that goes on all the time, a lot.
Again, it was called and I’m looking for the explanation of that. But in the end wide left, that’s all I can say.
QUESTION: This is your fourth year as a head coach. Talk about your success thus far.
COACH LONDON: You guys know me. I am humble, and I would rather be humble voluntarily than humble involuntarily. I’m blessed with the opportunity that I have here in‑state, being from Virginia, being a Virginia guy, going to college here, going to elementary school here.
What matters to me is when you get someone and you’re in charge of them. With the story about being a police officer and what happened in south Richmond a couple of years ago, the story about my daughter Ticynn and the bone marrow transplant…what I do for my players is what any man that’s a father or a coach or a teacher should do.
The opportunities that you’ve had to still be here on earth and save your daughter’s life…Any person should want to be able to give back to a young man, whether it’s Oday Aboushi or David Watford or whoever it might be. This is not about football to me. It’s a people thing. If they feel empowered enough to play hard then I’ve done my job, because people don’t care about what you know until they know about how much you care.
I believe that. Hopefully as we build this program and when guys are done playing, when the Chris Longs of the world and Brandon Alberts reach back and are ask about their relationships or jobs or opportunities outside of football, they think enough of you to do those type of things. Then maybe the message has gotten across. The first round draft picks and things like that-it’s nice and it’s flattering, but I want to be able to raise other people’s sons to be productive members of society. To have a great college experience – ask Doug Doughty. Doug’s daughters were in our football office. Hopefully the two of them had an experience of being around us where they could say, ‘you know what, I was treated with class and with dignity there.’ That’s the way it should be.
Whether it was by me or the players or anybody else. Again, it’s not a football thing. Maybe it should be. Maybe it should be just about football only. But to me, it’s not.
QUESTION: How aware are you of the fact that the team has lost seven straight games to Tech?
COACH LONDON: I’m not aware of it until you guys say something. The facts are the facts of the matter. But also, every year, we’re a different team. We’re a new team. You can stay 11 years straight or whatever, and those are the facts. But where they were, where they were playing, who was on staff-those things are the variables that change. From the historical aspect of it, I’d make it known. And it doesn’t really have anything to do with catching a ball, running a route, but it’s something that’s another piece of what it is that we have to address. Because they’ll read about it or they’ll hear about it from somebody else. So I’ve stepped to the forefront and said, ‘Listen, so there’s not a distraction, this is what it is.’
Now, let’s get to focusing on running the right route, being in the right gap and those things and then that becomes the motivating factor of executing on the field. And then, again, add to it that this is the rivalry game and it’s a chance for us, for this program to be in a position that we haven’t been in since, what, the mid‑90s, 1995.