George Welsh said today his goal is to put the University of Virginia football team in the nation's top 10, a lofty position its basketball team already enjoys, but one the football team has only dreamed about.
"I'm looking forward to hopefully not too great a challenge," Welsh said at a news conference announcing his appointment. "I didn't come here to win four games. I'm not foolish, though. I understand that if there weren't some problems I wouldn't be here."
Virginia was 1-10 this past season and 16-49-1 in six seasons under Dick Bestwick, who was fired Nov. 30. The school has had two winning football seasons in the past 29 years.
"He (Welsh) was the first person I discussed the job with when it opened up," said Dick Schultz, Virginia's athletic director. "Among the reasons why I feel comfortable with him . . . is that he is a proven winner at a school with high academic standards and built-in situations which make that recruiting much tougher than ours."
Welsh accepted a multiyear contract to coach the Cavaliers Monday, but the announcement was withheld until he had a chance to meet with his Navy team Tuesday night. Terms of his new contract were not disclosed, but Welsh said it was for "long enough to get the job done."
Welsh's total package reportedly is worth about $100,000 annually, and the contract is said to be for five years.
The only reason Welsh gave for leaving Navy after nine seasons was, "I just felt it was time to move on."
Welsh met with his new team for the first time tonight. He then planned to return to Annapolis to begin preparing his old team for its Dec. 30 game with Ohio State in the Liberty Bowl.
Welsh said he will assume his duties at Virginia Jan. 1.
"I wanted to take Navy to the bowl game before leaving," Welsh said. "I think that's my responsibility. Saturday, after I told (Navy Athletic Director) Bo Coppedge I was taking the Virginia job, I left the decision up to him and he felt that I should take the team to the bowl. Dick (Schultz) agreed.
"My first responsibility right now is still to Navy."
The first thing Welsh said he plans to do for Virginia is put together a coaching staff. "I have a good staff at Navy and I want to try and get most of them to come to Virginia with me," he said. "I hope to get the nucleus of a staff by early next week and then make contact with some recruits."
In Annapolis, Coppedge said it would be his responsibility alone to choose a new Navy coach and take it to his superiors for approval. He said, "I've heard from a thousand people. Most of them are wasting their money calling." He said he was looking for someone who has a background of the Navy program and some knowledge of the military system.
Welsh said he felt "There are some people on my staff who are capable. I won't make any recommendations, though, unless Coppedge asks me."
Welsh said that he planned to talk to members of the previous Virginia coaching staff, "but I can't say right now if any of them will be retained."
Schultz, a licensed pilot who flew to Annapolis this morning to pick up Welsh in a plane owned by the Virginia Student Aid Foundation, said that he felt one problem at Virginia is that the school has always undersold itself.
"I felt all along we had a lot of pluses here and George agreed with me," Schultz said. "There's no reason we can't be respectable in football. The one thing we've eyed as a millstone that we should use as a selling point is our academic tradition."
Welsh spurned offers from other schools to remain at Navy for nine seasons, where he compiled a 55-45-1 record. The Liberty Bowl will be Navy's third bowl appearance in the last four seasons.
Welsh, 48, said that the fact Virginia "is an outstanding academic institution is one of its attractions to me."
Schultz said he interviewed only one other person for the job, but once he felt Welsh was interested (which was immediately), he didn't find it necessary to interview anybody else. The other person interviewed is believed to have been Carmen Cozza, Yale's coach.
"I think it's his performance as a coach that makes him so appealing to every school with an opening," Schultz said of Welsh. "He's built up the program at Navy while all of the other service academies have struggled.
"Sure, there are a lot of great coaches in the country, but some are better suited for certain situations than others, and I think George is ideally suited for us."
"Confidence will be at an all-time high next year because we're getting an established coach who has been successful at a school somewhat like ours," said Cavalier linebacker Jimmy Hyson, who will be a senior next season.
Welsh charmed the media for nearly an hour and said all of the things Virginia might expect its new football coach to say, such as he that he felt it was important to concentrate on the recruiting of in-state athletes, if possible; that he believes in public schools and doesn't believe in little league football.
"He's sure got a sense of humor," said Hyson. "We just don't know what to expect, though. A lot of new coaches come in and their main objective is to get the young guys playing and build for the future."
"We're just going to have to go out and prove ourselves all over again," said quarterback Gordie Whitehead.