If you were one of the folks who was caught somewhat off guard by the apparent suddenness with which the ACC expanded to 14 teams over the weekend, take some comfort in knowing that Mike London was in the same boat.
The Virginia football coach said in his Sunday night teleconference that he didn’t find out for sure that the ACC had accepted the applications of Syracuse and Pittsburgh until Sunday morning when the conference officially announced the move.
“You heard all the different rumors and the Internet chat, Texas, Missouri, all these different schools, but I had no idea that this was going to break like this,” London said.
The Cavaliers are 2-3 all-time against Pittsburgh, and London was on Virginia’s staff the past three times they faced the Panthers. In 2003, London was the defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator when the Cavaliers defeated Pittsburgh, 23-16, in the Continental Tire Bowl. London was Virginia’s defensive coordinator when the Cavaliers lost at Pittsburgh, 38-13, in 2006 and when they beat the Panthers in Charlottesville, 44-14, in 2007.
Virginia is 2-2 all-time against Syracuse, and London was a part of one of those wins. He was the Cavaliers’ defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator when the Cavaliers earned a 31-10 victory in Charlottesville in 2004.
“You look at the logistics of it, [the ACC] covers, with Boston College up there, it covers” the entire East Coast, London said. “So it will be interesting to see as we go forward how the divisions align and all those other things. I know they have to work out scheduling and all that business.
“But … if it’s for the benefit of the conference, the presidents and [ACC Commissioner] John Swofford and everybody is on board with it, if it will benefit the ACC, then I’m all for it.”
In terms of recruiting, London said the expansion will force him and his staff to examine whether they need to start having a heavier presence in the Pittsburgh and New York City areas.
Their primary focus will remain in-state recruits and those prospects who reside in the states that border Virginia. But the Cavaliers, London said, may re-examine the parameters of their “secondary areas” of recruiting.
“Our secondary areas are those areas that have a large influx of student-athletes or even students that go to school here,” London said. “And I think when you look at Virginia, you look at New Jersey as an area that a lot of students from the north come here. We have some athletes from Pennsylvania that are on our roster, so as a secondary area we may look to get more involved in the [Pennsylvania] area.
“We have some players from the New York area that we don’t heavily, heavily get into, but there are some [high] schools up there that have the same type of academic profile that Virginia has, so we’ll probably take more of a closer look at that. But we’ll continue to keep recruiting our footprint area because our school doesn’t change its mission, so we won’t change the mission of the type of players we think can do well here.”
Swofford said in a teleconference Sunday morning that “we’re very comfortable with this 14,” but also that “we are not philosophically opposed to 16” teams.
When asked whether he thought the ACC was done with its current round of expansion, London said his guess was as good as anyone else’s.
“The way it’s going now, I don’t know,” London said. “For me to say that we’re done, I’d be speaking out of term. But the way it looks and the landscape, people are going to start scrambling to try to align themselves with these super-conferences as we speak. And I wouldn’t be surprised if other schools or other overtures are made to try to strengthen existing conferences.”
Also on Sunday, U-Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan and Athletic Director Craig Littlepage issued statements regarding the ACC’s expansion to 14 teams.
“The University of Virginia is pleased to welcome Syracuse University and the University of Pittsburgh as the newest members of the ACC family,” Sullivan said in her statement. “We believe that their addition as the 13th and 14th members will enhance what is already a strong and respected conference. There are many important factors that we consider before inviting new members. Among them are the institution’s commitment to academics, its athletic track record, and geographic location. Both Pittsburgh and Syracuse are good fits for our conference.”
Littlepage’s statement said: “During so much uncertainty in the college athletics’ landscape over the past year and a half, the ACC routinely examined this very fluid situation in an effort to build upon its position among the nation’s elite conferences. The ACC has considered the opportunities and decided to accept the applications for membership from two outstanding institutions that are excellent fits academically, athletically, and geographically. I am pleased that schools of the quality of the University of Pittsburgh and Syracuse University had an interest in joining the ACC.”