Virginia’s new coach speaks with Hoo fans

Published 12:26 pm Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Local Wahoo fans got a chance to hear from the University of Virginia’s new head football coach, Mike London, Monday evening during a University of Virginia Athletics Foundation event at the Hilton Garden Inn in Suffolk.

London was joined by Jason Williford, former basketball player for the Cavaliers, who’s now an assistant coach under head coach Tony Bennett.

London opened his remarks with a moment of silence for the death of a UVA women’s lacrosse player, 22-year-old Yeardley Love, who was murdered Monday. UVA student and men’s lacrosse player George Huguely has been arrested in connection with her death.

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London comes to Charlottesville from the University of Richmond. London led the Spiders, his alma mater, to the 2008 national championship in the Football Championship Subdivision.

Prior to coaching at Richmond, London was a Cavalier assistant from 2001-05 and 2006-07. London coached Chris Long, a defensive lineman who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft.

Long asked London to come with him to New York City and the draft, something of an oddity for a star player to ask of an assistant coach.

Later, during a spring game in Charlottesville, Long and London were talking and London asked, “Why did you ask me?”

“Because you had a profound influence on my life,” Long said.

“It’s a profession and a business, but I love what I do,” London said. “Faith, family, football, those are my priorities, and those are the priorities of how we want to lead these programs.”

London attended Tabb High School for three years and Bethel for one year. Improving Cavalier recruiting in “the 757” is one of many goals facing London. Virginia was 3-9 overall and 2-6 in the ACC last season, finishing the season on a six-game losing streak and a 42-13 loss to Virginia Tech.

“When I got the job, one of the first questions I was asked was, ‘does Virginia need to lower its academic standards?’ and I said, ‘no way.’” London said.

“We can have high academic standards for our student-athletes and have a team that wins championships. I just came from a school where we did that,” London said.

While taking questions from the Cavalier supporters on hand, London answered topics ranging from quarterbacks to whether the pep band should return.

“What (London) said about faith, family and football, that to me is huge,” Billy Chorey Sr. said. Chorey, a Virginia alum, organizes the Athletics Foundation event each year for the Suffolk area.

“I believe everything I’d heard about coach London is totally true after getting to meet him,” Chorey said.

“He’s so genuine, so down-to-Earth, and there’s no ego. It’s very, very refreshing,” Chorey said.

Dave Koehn, the play-by-play voice of the Virginia Sports Radio Network, emceed the event.

Four Cavalier spring sports, baseball, men’s lacrosse, men’s tennis and women’s rowing, have reached No. 1 in the nation during this season.

Koehn said funds from the Virginia Athletics Foundation “allow us to build unbelievable facilities.”

“Davenport Field, 10 years ago, was a glorified Little League field and not much else,” Koehn said.

Davenport Field, home to Cavalier baseball, has undergone $9 million of work in recent years, and additional seating has been added to the park multiple times during this spring’s season. Koehn said sellouts of 4,900 people are likely for UVA’s upcoming series against North Carolina.