U.Va.'s London gracefully endures questions about job security

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London on being humbled by last season's results, and hungry for the start of the coming season

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Monday wasn't the first time Mike London has faced questions about his job fitness and security. And it won't be the last.

But in what certainly will be his most prolonged grilling — the ACC Kickoff's day-long rotation of radio, television and print — Virginia's embattled football coach acquitted himself well.

London's players will have to be even better this season to prevent his dismissal.

This is painfully obvious to all. Indeed, a 2-10 record in 2013, London's third losing season in four years, gave university administrators beaucoup ammunition to change the program's leadership.

But athletic director Craig Littlepage and his top lieutenant, Jon Oliver, stood by the man they hand-picked to replace Al Groh.

"Last season was a very humbling type of season," London said. "This season … it's about being hungry."

London spent more than an hour with the print/online crew, and from the first question, the overarching theme was the man himself.

What do the Cavaliers have to accomplish to save his job? Have Littlepage and Oliver demanded a specific win total?

What caused the decline from 2011, when Virginia went 8-5 and London was the ACC's coach of the year? Does he feel betrayed by an administration that saddled him with such a difficult non-conference schedule?

London answered each without a trace of belligerence. He endured the inevitable repeats when different reporters descended upon his table.

Sure, it's part of a job for which major college and professional coaches are handsomely paid. But it's unpleasant nonetheless, even for media.

"My answer will be consistent throughout this process," London said. "I understand that you have a job to do. And I hope you understand that I have a job to do as well. And to continually answer questions about what I do and how I do it, particularly when it points to job security, you're going to get the answer that I'm 100 percent committed to this job. …

"Hopefully I've been fair to you … and a lot of you have been fair to me. Everybody's doing their job, and I look forward to continuing to do mine here for a long time."

His challenges are considerable, perhaps insurmountable.

Virginia's offensive line is suspect, its quarterback untested. The defense should be better, but that said, it couldn't get much worse than 2013.

Then there's the schedule. Louisville replaces Maryland as the Cavaliers' annual ACC cross-division arrival, and reigning national champion Florida State rotates on, the latter on the road.

(Talk about seismic change. In 2011, Virginia won at FSU and had the same conference record, 5-3, as the Seminoles.)

But schools do not control their league schedule. They do control their non-conference opponents, and in 2014 the Cavaliers open against UCLA and play at Brigham Young.

With no leverage, London can't publicly question his bosses. But privately, he likely fumes.

"I look at the schedule, and I see the schedule," he said. "I also approved parts of the schedule, and I embrace the schedule, and that's all I'll say about that. … We're going to play one of the best schedules in college football, and right, wrong or indifferent, it is what it is."

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