Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mike London’s success story at Virginia leading him to Penn State?

image There’s a great profile piece on the Virginia Cavaliers’ Mike London written by’s Auburn Bureau Beat Writer Evan Woodbery.

London is a Virginia native and after graduating from Richmond, London went professional in something other than sports and became a Richmond Police Officer. Seven years later, he entered the college coaching world and now uses his passion and straight-talk nature to form a cohesive football squad that believes in him.

London’s name was one of the first to pop up in connection with the Penn State job when the school fired Joe Paterno in November.

Woodbery explains how London has used his non-athletics contacts in the Commonwealth to stress academic performance and community service.

But what stands out about London is the fire he has and the way the players feel about their relationship with their coach. What London has accomplished at Virginia is similar to what James Franklin is attempting to do at Vanderbilt—take an academically challenging school and make it into a football power. They’re both doing it with passion, intensity and a no-excuses attitude that players respond to. When big name coaching jobs come open in the future, the Mike London’s and James Franklin’s of the coaching fraternity are going to come up.

"He's passionate. He'll tell you how he feels," said offensive lineman Luke Bowanko. "He cares about us 100 percent. If he's worried about us, he'll bring us into his office and sit us down. He'll fight to the end for us."

London inherited an ACC doormat that had won just three games the year before he was hired. He went 4-8 in 2010, then flipped that record into an 8-4 campaign in 2011, earning him ACC Coach of the Year honors. He and his players view the upcoming Chick Fil-A matchup against Auburn as a major milestone the program’s development. They may just want to win that one more than Auburn does, even if Auburn probably has the more talented team.

Where’s the Penn State connection? Why would the Nittany Lions reach out to someone with no connections to the school? A strong possibility is that they were sent in that direction by the very first individual PSU headhunters reached out to -- Penn State alum and current Miami head coach Al Golden. Golden decided not to pursue the opening after one year on the job at Coral Gables and reports surfaced that London was next on the list.

Golden and London were colleagues at Virginia in the 1990’s.

Both London and Virginia moved quickly to deny rumors of a pending move and speculation then moved onto other names. But one has to wonder what might happen after the two programs finish their bowl games this weekend.

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