Monday, December 1, 2014

how to lose every fan in 10 days

I was prepared for a loss.  I mean, with a Mike London-coached team, that's a given.  You live in Oklahoma, you have a tornado shelter.  You root for a team coached by Mike London, you take nothing for granted in the win column.  I wasn't at all prepared to be slapped upside the face by our own administration.

The idea behind that somewhat controversial countdown clock was simple: X days until we know whether we had a successful season, in which case, good, or we had a bad season but could look forward to a better day ahead with a better coach, in which case, good.  Either way, things were going to look up.

So much for theories.  Leave it to this administration to screw up a good thing.  I suppose they had their reasons and the chances are good that they go beyond the public blather they put out last week.  Maybe it's money, in which case they're being cheap.  Or maybe Craig Littlepage just doesn't have the guts to fire someone he personally likes, until circumstances force him over the edge.**  Regardless of the reason, it makes all this talk about competing for ACC championships just that - empty talk.

A few people theorized that the reason I was asked to take down the old site banner for "copyright reasons" (despite the fact that the picture of Tony Bennett was from his time at Washington State and could not possibly have been owned by the University of Virginia) last year was because of the countdown clock.  I'm not sure that's true, but I'm not sure it's false, either.  Well, there's no clock anymore, and there's not going to be one, and in case the administration really is paying that close of attention to the goings-on at a tiny little 200-readers-a-day blog, here is the exact reason for that: I have less than zero faith anymore in their rational decision-making or the standards they claim to set for the football program.  From where we sit now it's no stretch to imagine they'll let London bumble along and win four to six games for the next ten years.

We've all heard since we were four that actions speak louder than words, and the actions here say that:

-- it's OK to never beat Virginia Tech
-- it's OK to never beat North Carolina
-- it's OK to go 11-29 in conference play
-- it's OK to go bowling once every five years or so, and when you do,
-- it's OK to get your ass kicked
-- it's OK to win one road game in three years

Uncompromised Excellence my ass.  The only thing uncompromised is the rotting stink of a losing atmosphere emanating from the McCue Center.  That's coming through loud and clear.  So is the message that a losing program is acceptable.  Standards have sunk that low.  Teams all around the country fire coaches every year when they don't perform; UVA is happy to keep the one they've got because he's a nice guy.  So we're stuck, for at least one more year, with our offensive-line-neglecting, no-accountability-having, clock-management-fumblefucking, nice guy for a head coach.

Amazingly, there are still apologists for this performance.  A lot of them suit up in uniform on Saturdays, which is understandable considering London's charisma.  You'd think if they wanted to play for and win for their head coach, they'd stop doing incredibly stupid shit like roughing the passer on the Hokies' last-chance drive, or watching the senior captain of the offensive line haul ass downfield on a pass play as if he were an eligible receiver.  But then, the coach doesn't hold them accountable for that kind of thing, and in the game they stay, so why should they ever change?

As for the people in the stands making excuses, you have to admire their creativity.  First it was that the coordinators were all wrong, so they changed them.  Then it was that the team was just too young.  Then it was the fact that we just didn't have an experienced quarterback.  And through it all, the schedule is too hard.  So I guess if we have a senior quarterback leading a team full of seniors, coached by really awesome coordinators, and playing Tulane, Troy, and VMI, we'll win football games.  And in every other year, when adversity reality occurs, well, the head coach can't be blamed for that stuff.  Never mind that the head coach created his own damn adversity by recruiting no offensive linemen and screwing up the quarterback situation beyond recognition.  Never mind that every head coach has some version of these problems.  Most successful head coaches can spell WINNING without being spotted W-I-N-N-I-N.

Now that we've made this very stupid decision, we're basically stuck with it.  I know nobody's all that happy with Steve Fairchild.  Lord knows I was furious at the decision to keep running smack into the middle of the line against VT when it was obvious our offensive line was piteously overmatched.  Hell, I'm sure most people within hearing distance could tell.  But if you fire him now, who do you get?  The rest of the country assumed London would be fired this year, and you can bet they assume he'll be fired next year.  Nobody, and I mean nobody, is going to sign on for what they figure is a one-year gig with a dead-man-walking for a head coach, unless that person is thoroughly unqualified, destitute and begging, or both.  And it's certainly not a good idea to put our quarterbacks through the old three-OCs-in-three-years trick, which is quite likely should Fairchild be shown the door.  The administration has made the decision to ride or die with London - they need to realize that extends to the staff too.

So, next year.  We'll probably go through this whole thing again.  This team is talented enough to win a few games.  There are eight Hoos on the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd-team all-ACC groupings.  That's more than all but two ACC teams.  (And we go 3-5.)  They're likely going to beat Cuse and W&M, and there are about seven games on the schedule where the opponent is at least beatable enough that the team ought to be able to pull a few wins out of that bunch.  6-6 is an awfully likely outcome.  Bowl game in sunny Shreveport.  And with the shit-for-standards set by this administration, can you say with absolute certainty that that won't earn London an extension?  For the sake of the future, this team needs to either win 10 games or lose 10 games, and nothing in between.  And if you think London is capable of winning 10, look up - I can see the word "gullible" written on your ceiling from here.

**I will offer one possibility that - sort of - exonerates the administration.  Rumors abound that Craig Littlepage will be retiring soon, possibly as soon as this summer.  It's somewhat plausible that Littlepage is thinking in the very long term, and allowing his successor (who had damn well better not be Jon Oliver) to hire a head coach.  If Littlepage hires a coach this winter and then does retire this summer, that coach will have the specter of working for a boss who didn't hire him - which is usually a difficult situation that doesn't work for more than a couple years.  And of course, Littlepage can't just come out and say all this.  If you held a gun to my head, I'd grudgingly admit that I prefer to have a new coach and new AD all at once for the long haul, than to have a new AD come in and be more or less held hostage for a few years with a coach he may or may not want to keep.  But this situation basically depends on Littlepage retiring this summer.  If he doesn't, the whole program is going to be one big ball of dysfunction for years to come.


With the football season over, it's about time to transition this thing to Monday postings.  But I'm probably not going to be 100% strict about it.  What I will do is make sure there's a nice, long column to go up on Monday mornings.  But the possibility exists that things will happen midweek, too.  For example, I fully intend to at least finish writing about the recruiting class of 2015, and I want to write some basketball game previews too, this week especially since there are two pretty big games.  The "new era" of FOV isn't defined in stone yet, but it's going to start happening more or less this week.


Anonymous said...

I'm done with UVA football. Thank goodness for Hoops, Baseball, Lax & Soccer.

BostonHoo said...

I thought after the Miami showing that there was enough evidence to bring London back for one more year and another shot at redemption. And I realized that if the decision to bring him back was made regardless of the VPI & SU outcome then it would be impossible to announce after a crap showing in Blacksburg that London was returning without creating mayhem in the fan base. Well, it was a crap showing in Blacksburg which frankly I did not expect. I thought all the pieces were in place for a win this time. And they were. But how many time can you run Kevin Parks into the line for two yards? And those penalties at the end of the game! On any other team those guys would have been denied a seat on the bus home. So after seeing all the London weaknesses cumulatively and glaringly on display on a chilly night in Blacksburg that held so much hope
I am now officially one of those righteously alienated fans. I can't imagine what attendance will be like next year.

BostonHoo said...

Eleven ACC teams have qualified for a bowl appearance including one we often smirk about as not really belonging in our league: Boston College. Yet Boston College can beat Virginia Tech, recruit with high academic standards (see also, Duke University), and succeed in a decidedly non college football atmosphere. Why can't UVa which in my opinion has so much more to offer also put a winning team on the field?

Anonymous said...

I find it mildly funny that even the All-ACC rankings recognized that we had a very talented team this year. Certainly, the coaches didn't bumble it up themselves, but they are responsible for most of it.


Anonymous said...

Wait unitl next year - it's on!

Anonymous said...

Trying to think positively for a second, much as I despise the idea that London is back for another year -

There's a load of talent returning.

The defense should be one of the ACC's best. Mike Moore looked solid at times, and a healthy Dean/Harold/Valles should give them a nasty pass rush, along with another year of development for Andrew Brown.

You have to replace Romero/Coley, which is easier said than done, but there were doubts about Coley when he was inserted in there. I like Kiser. My thing is ... if you can't replace LB's in college, then you are in a world of hurt. I think they'll be fine though.

The secondary is in better shape for next year than I initially anticipated. With Nicholson likely back to go with Canady, that's a nice starting tandem and Tim Harris/Kirk Garner figure in depth wise. Blanding will be an awesome force back there ... not sure if I really prefer anyone at the other safety spot at this stage (part of me almost prefers Tim Harris) ... but London recruits athletes so he should have someone.

Offensively, the WR depth is nice, but the development of bigger receivers should only help. Terrell coming back gives them a slot receiver, and it looks like, despite Matt Johns best efforts, they settled into Lambert as the season progressed.

That leaves the OL and RB. Mizzell looked good at times, but I felt he missed some cuts and yards at times. The OL is the bigger issue, due to the lack of depth, so what? Personally ... there's some talent ... not a lot. It's not a road-grader unit, and it's not a great pass pro unit. Maybe Sadiq/Mooney/Smith and others take the next step, but I'd like to find some way to use the run to set up the pass. I'd love to see them go with a 1-cut zone run block scheme, which I think should simplify things for Mizzell, but I'm not expecting it.

I'm okay with Fairchild. Not great, but not bad. I'm fine with Tenuta ... the gamble you take with aggressiveness is that you'll get beat at times, but I can live with it if they are trying to do something.

There's "stuff" there for London to have "his" first winning season (that is, with "his" guys).

Eamon said...

I commented to my wife that normally I am excited for the Tech game - even if we suck - and that I just did not feel it this year. I then fooled myself into believing we would win, only to be let down. I still think we got jobbed by the refs a bit, but London still needs to go. It's ridiculous that he still has a job. The only consolation is that we probably would not attract a good candidate this offseason. Here's to 2016

Anonymous said...

As a parent of a former UVA football player, I can tell you that there is serious dysfunction in the football program at UVA. It is rotting from the core. They have messed with a lot of young men's futures...some of those who had dreams of playing at the next level. There are some young men out here who are former players that have serious emotional scars from trying to survive in the poisonous, losing atmosphere that is UVA football. It all goes back to London who lets "others" on his staff do the dirty work and he comes off as the "nice guy, former cop." It's all smoke and mirrors. And don't leave out Jon Oliver. He is also a big part of the rot at the core as well. I watched some young men cry bitter tears about how they were treated by the football program and the "games" being played with certain boys. Brendan, keep telling the truth and don't be one of those "homer media" who will say whatever the football department feeds them just to maintain "access" to information. A lot of reporters in and around Charlottesville know the truth, but won't write it. With UVA football, the truth is NEVER what you see. I am one of those occasional 200 readers of your blogspot. I know you will speak your mind in as much truth as you know.

spinozista said...

As to what we know about where we are and where we are going, let's simplify:

1. Until we have solid evidence to the contrary, just assume that the 30-year pre-Welsh regime of UVA football, with 1 winning season every 10 or 15 years or so, has come back, and it's not going away.

Comparisons between any 2 losing seasons are not evidence of anything. References to past winning seasons are not evidence of anything. Predictions of future success, no matter what they claim to be based on, are not evidence of anything. Expressions of hope for future success are not evidence.

2. Don't be concerned about what it would take to persuade any remaining "Londoners" (they know who they are) to give up on him. Just assume, on their behalf, that it would take another 28-game losing streak. If they disagree, they can say so (no one's stopping them). Meanwhile, we are spared the exasperation of listening to them.

3. We traveled into Clemson-Frank Howard-"white meat" territory with VT several years ago. Just assume that we will one day beat Tech, but not during the current decade (whichever decade that happens to be).

4. I thought I should be at least a little surprised if the ACC turns out to be copacetic with UVA's return to minor league football. But no one seems to be blaming WF or Syracuse very much, so I suppose it won't be a big problem for us, either. As long as the ACC doesn't expect every team to go to a bowl every year, I suppose it won't matter if one particular team never goes at all.