CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. --- Mike London said all the right things in accepting the job to rebuild Virginia's football program, talking of how high academic standards shouldn't rule out success on the field and the importance of building deep and personal relationships.
The latter will be especially true as it relates to high schools and recruiting.
"I think we have to recapture the state of Virginia," the former Richmond coach said Monday. He succeeds his former boss, Al Groh, who was fired last week after nine seasons and a 1-8 record against rival Virginia Tech.
London agreed to a five-year contract that will pay him $1.7 million a year to take over a team coming off a 3-9 record, its worst since 1982. It has had three losing seasons in the past four and has fallen behind the Hokies in the minds of many in-state recruits.
London, widely respected as a recruiter, said he intends to build a network that reaches into the surrounding communities because "people don't care about how much you know until they know about how much you care."
He had a message for high school coaches, particularly in the state: "If Virginia hasn't been there, we'll be there," he said.
London's arrival was warmly greeted by many of his new players, who met with him after the news conference. London also spent time with former players in attendance.
"You can just tell that he loves what he's doing, he's very passionate about what he's doing, and you can't help but give 100 percent for him," said defensive lineman Nick Jenkins, who like many other Cavaliers was recruited by London.
London left a team that won the Football Championship Subdivision national title in 2008 and reached the playoff quarterfinals this year to return to a place he knows well, having spent six years as an assistant under Groh in two stints between 2001-07.
The courtship was "a whirlwind," according to London, who said the downer of his Spiders losing to Appalachian State in the last 10 seconds Saturday night was replaced early the next day by "euphoria" once Virginia asked for permission to speak with him. Athletic director Craig Littlepage said once he knew he was in the market for a head coach, "one coach, just one, stood out."
"There have been a lot of athletic directors who have asked me about him. I was hoping they wouldn't hire him for that maybe one day we'd have this sort of predicament," he said.