CHESAPEAKE, Va. — With questions lingering about the job security of Virginia Coach Mike London, the father of top 2014 recruit Andrew Brown reached out to Athletic Director Craig Littlepage on Thursday and received assurances during a telephone conversation that London will be back next season.
The Cavaliers are one of two teams in the country — the other is No. 1 Alabama — with oral commitments from two recruits who are considered to be top 10 prospects despite a seven-game losing streak that has them in last place in the ACC’s Coastal Division entering Saturday’s game at No. 24 Miami.
“We just wanted to ensure Mike London is gonna be there because that could change the situation around,” Andrew Brown Sr. said in an interview. “I feel comfortable now. Mike’s staying. We made a commitment to Mike, and we’re sticking by it through thick and thin.”
Brown Sr. emphasized that Virginia President Teresa Sullivan was not part of his telephone call with Littlepage, contrary to a report from 247 Sports.
Responding to questions via e-mail, Littlepage confirmed he had spoken to Brown Sr. and “reiterated that Mike London will be our coach” next season.
“I told Mr. Brown that in spite of some negativity we are committed to improving the program. . . . I didn’t want uncertainty to factor into Andrew Brown’s desire to be at UVa playing for Coach London,” Littlepage wrote.
Brown, a defensive tackle, and Virginia Beach safety Quin Blanding are both top 10 recruits who have given oral commitments to Virginia over the past year, and the two faced each other in a Virginia High School League playoff game Friday night. Oscar Smith High, led by Brown, beat Blanding and Bayside High, 35-0.
London and assistant coaches Chip West and Vincent Brown were in attendance with the Cavaliers on a bye this week.
Both Blanding and Brown said after the game that several schools continue to pursue them despite their non-binding commitment to play for Virginia. Blanding listed Miami, North Carolina and Ohio State as programs that have called him recently, and Bayside Coach Jon White said an Alabama assistant was at the team’s game two weeks ago.
Brown, who said five or six teams are still recruiting him, noted he has stopped answering his phone because “I don’t want to feed into it.”
“They ask me if I’m still 100 percent committed,” Blanding said. “I tell them, ‘Yeah, I’m 100 percent.’ It’s like I never committed yet, but I’m committed. . . . Most people say, ‘They had an off season.’ That’s fine. That’s why you want to come in and work for something. Yeah, you can go to Alabama. But if you don’t go to Alabama, it’s still gonna be Alabama regardless. I want to bring U-Va. back to what we used to be.”
In separate interviews, Brown and Blanding said they would likely come to Virginia even if London is no longer the coach next season. Littlepage told The Washington Post in an interview last month that London would be back regardless of how the rest of this season played out.
Nonetheless, with each Virginia loss, speculation has persisted. It would cost Virginia approximately $8.06 million to buy out the remaining three years of London’s contract this offseason.
Both Brown and Blanding appear capable of making an immediate impact.
At 290 pounds, Brown is an imposing defensive tackle after dropping 15 pounds and improving his conditioning this year. He plans to enroll at Virginia early for spring practice, precluding the need for him to sign a letter-of-intent. Oscar Smith Coach Rich Morgan said Brown has “gone from the biggest guy on the field to the most dominant” this fall.
Blanding played all over the field at Bayside this season with the speed of a defensive back and the tackling skills of a linebacker and even served as the team’s punter Friday night. He remains ardent about London.
“I committed because of him, but it’s not that we’re keeping Coach London’s job,” Blanding said. “The players want to play for Coach London because he’s a great dude, a down-to-earth guy. We have his back 100 percent, and that’s why we ride with him.”