London bridge: Beta Bridge documents student reaction to UVA head coach resignation

Mike London is well-regarded by his players, not so much by UVA students.
Photo Jack Looney Mike London is well-regarded by his players, not so much by UVA students. Photo Jack Looney

Coming off of six seasons as head coach of the Virginia Cavaliers football team, Mike London resigned November 29, the day after the team lost its last game of the season against rival Virginia Tech—for the 12th consecutive year—leaving the Cavaliers with a 4-8 record for the year.

After the game, students painted “Fire Mike London” on Beta Bridge over the orange and blue “Beat Tech”—a recurring theme this semester whenever the team has lost.

Someone also allegedly hacked into the Virginia Athletics Twitter account and tweeted that London had been fired before most fans even got to their cars.

In the wake of London’s resignation, students have taken to the Internet. On the Virginia Cavaliers football Wikipedia page, the head coach has been switched to Eleanor Roosevelt, Angelina Jolie, Frank Beamer, John Cena and even Albus Dumbledore within the past few days. Scott Stadium has been changed to several different places on Grounds, including rooms in the Chemistry Building as well as in New Cabell Hall.

Adam Hawes, a third-year student at UVA and a longtime fan of the team, says he was hopeful that Virginia football’s losing seasons would turn around when he first came to the university, but that the student body has been frustrated with the decision to keep London as head coach for years.

“A lot of students thought he should have been gone two seasons ago,” Hawes says. “There wasn’t an increase in vitriol towards him this year except for the fact that the athletics department kept stringing him along despite what was clearly a losing record.” He cites game management and penalties as “glaring problems” under London.

Craig Littlepage, UVA director of athletics, said in a statement Sunday that London had been “an outstanding representative of the University of Virginia” and praised his ability to positively influence the student-athletes on the team.

However, he also said, “We expect our football program to compete for the Coastal Division title on an annual basis, which puts us in a position to win the ACC championship and be competitive nationally.” Littlepage declined to comment further until a new coach has been selected.

Mary Rockwell, a first-year student at UVA and longtime fan, is glad about the coaching change, calling it a “no-brainer” after the Cavaliers’ fourth straight losing season. She says football season is something she looks forward to every year, but that UVA’s losing culture has affected the fan base poorly, especially for out-of-state students who don’t share her in-state ardor.

Because of the team’s losing record, “it was hard to get them to stay” if UVA was losing or the weather was bad, she says.

“I think people just go in expecting losses now, and I think that’s a really unhealthy state to be in for a fan base,” Hawes says. “The fact that there have been so many losses has really diminished fan enthusiasm. It shows a kind of lack of caring for the program. They’re not willing to make changes when there needs to be change.”

While many students seem glad that a new coach will be coming to UVA, some Virginia football players have taken to Twitter to thank London for all he has done for them. Quarterback Matt Johns tweeted to London, “It has always been so much bigger than football and I can’t thank you enough.” Other players also joined in, including tailback Taquan “Smoke” Mizzell, to express gratitude to their coach.

Looking forward, both Hawes and Rockwell are hopeful that a new coach will give UVA what it needs to become a competitive team again.

“You can see by Beta Bridge that students want a change,” Rockwell says.