During his introduction Monday morning as Howard’s new football coach, Mike London recalled speaking with doctors some 17 years ago after his daughter, Tieynn, was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder causing bone marrow failure.
The odds of a parent’s bone marrow matching their child’s, according to medical specialists, were 10,000 to 1. As it turned out, London was that long-shot match, and these days, Tieynn is attending college at Old Dominion.
So whenever there’s a seemingly insurmountable challenge in front of him, London thinks about his daughter, whom he mentioned several times in addressing school officials, athletic department colleagues and players, promising that the Bison “will have success” under his watch.
“Life is full of adversity,” he said. “You’re looking at a man that has won games, won championships, but has lost as well. That’s part of life. It’s how you handle yourself in those situations that show what you’re made of. You find a way to handle adversity, and you deal with it, and you move on.
“I know there are a lot of people who are looking at this hire and this opportunity and asking, ‘What are you doing? Why’s he doing it?’ To me, ‘Why not?’ ”
London is charged with rebuilding a program with one winning season since 2005.
Howard finished 2-9 this past season, leading to university president Wayne A. Frederick announcing in a letter dated Nov. 23 that then-coach Gary Harrell would not be back upon the expiration of his contract at the end of the month.
In six seasons coaching his alma mater, Harrell compiled a 20-36 record. The Bison’s only winning season during that time was in 2012, when they went 7-4. Howard won three games combined over the past two years.
The last time Howard amassed consecutive winning seasons was in 1997 and ’98 under Steve Wilson, who twice coached the Bison to black national championships.
London won the Football Championship Subdivision title in 2008, his first season at Richmond. In 2010, London was named head coach at Virginia, where he lasted six seasons before resigning on Nov. 29, 2015. He served as an assistant at Maryland last season under D.J. Durkin.
“College athletics is not a hobby,” Frederick said in his opening remarks formally introducing London. “It’s a competitive activity that requires excellence on the field, but it also requires all student-athletes to make sure they excel in the classroom. The coaches we hire must reflect both of those principles. I hope it’s clear to all involved that this is an investment in the athletics program as well.”
Frederick and Howard Athletic Director Kery Davis also discussed the hiring process, which they indicated moved quickly. Frederick and Davis initially met with London at a District hotel late one evening.
At the time, London said, he had not considered the Howard opening. But Frederick “is a persistent man,” he added. “Check the phone records.”
In the end, so appealing was the opportunity at Howard that London, according to Davis, accepted a pay cut from his position as Terrapins associate head coach.
“My daughter said before the press conference that I tend to speak long sometimes,” Davis said. “So here’s what you should do. You should walk up to the microphone, say, ‘We just hired Mike London.’ Then just drop the microphone and sit down.”