Mike London believes that academic powers can win on the field

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  • Mike London is used to coaching at academic-oriented schools
  • The team's second-semester GPA was its best in 10 years
  • London: Winning is a priority, but so are academics

Spare Mike London the trite, tired and patently false notion that the University of Virginia's admissions and academic standards preclude a winning football program.

London knows otherwise. He's seen otherwise. He's lived otherwise.

And recent SAT data support him.

So as London prepares for the summer recruiting rush, his first as the Cavaliers' head coach, he believes fervently that Virginia can attract young men capable of excelling in the classroom and reversing the football program's sagging fortunes.

Cynics scoff, and London hears them. They say Virginia's standardized test requirements and difficult curriculum cause the Cavaliers to lose too many elite prospects to rivals and too many quality players to ineligibility.

If London concurred, he wouldn't have left the University of Richmond to succeed Al Groh and take over a program that was 3-9 last season, lost for the second consecutive year to Duke and is 1-10 against Virginia Tech since 1999.

"That's all I know," London said Friday of challenging academics. "You're teaching and coaching the whole person. … I haven't had the luxury of being at a school where admission is based on a pure NCAA (minimum)."

Indeed, London guided Richmond to the 2008 Championship Subdivision national title. He coordinated Virginia's defense in 2007, when the Cavaliers went 9-4; he coached Boston College's defensive line in 1999, when the Eagles finished 8-4; he coached William and Mary's D-line from 1990-93, when the Tribe won 33 games combined and earned two playoff bids.

Yes, shoehorning practice, weight work, a chemistry lab and a sociology paper into 24 hours can be taxing. But in London's mind, it beats the alternative.

Experience tells him that a motivated, dependable, accountable student exhibits similar traits as an athlete. London referenced that experience two minutes into his opening statement on the day he was hired.

"I will make winning a priority … by doing it the right way and also making sure that it's okay to embrace the academic qualifications and expectations here at the university," he said. "It's okay to expect great things out of (the) athletic department, and particularly football."

On Friday, London boasted that his team's cumulative and second-semester grade-point averages were football's best in 10 years. The obvious counter is that the Cavaliers closed last year on a six-game losing streak, saddling the program with its worst record since 1982.

But here is data that London is unaware of that furthers his contentions:

During the early 1990s, when the NCAA made public standardized test scores by sport, Virginia's incoming scholarship football recruits from 1990-93 averaged 955 on the SAT, fourth nationally behind Stanford, Northwestern and Duke.

Led by future pros such as Tiki and Ronde Barber, Jamie Sharper, James Farrior, Percy Ellsworth, Keith Lyle and Mike Frederick, those classes orchestrated some of Virginia's finest seasons, including the Cavaliers' only back-to-back top-20 finishes: 1994 and '95.

More recent, a December 2008 Atlanta Journal-Constitution survey of 56 public Bowl Subdivision schools found Virginia with the fourth-highest average football SAT score (993), behind Georgia Tech, Oregon State and Michigan.

The numbers are difficult to analyze because they came from once-a-decade NCAA Certification reports and encompassed varying years. For example, Virginia's average score was for the 2002-04 classes, Michigan's for 1999-2001.

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