Virginia can only hope it returns to prominence on the football field as fast as it replaces coaches.
A day after former Cavaliers offensive coordinator Bill Lazor left Charlottesville for a job in the NFL, the school announced it has hired former Colorado State head coach Steve Fairchild to be its new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Fairchild has 16 years of experience as an offensive coordinator, including stints calling plays for the St. Louis Rams and Buffalo Bills of the NFL.
His addition means Coach Mike London’s assistant coaching staff will feature more new faces (five) than old ones (four) next season. But Tuesday’s announcement also came with a disclaimer from the administration to temper expectations given the overhaul the Cavaliers have undergone this offseason.
“We are in the process of implementing new systems on both sides of the ball,” Virginia’s executive associate athletic director, Jon Oliver, said in a statement. “These types of changes take time and we will need to be patient as we seek to improve this football program.”
Fairchild signed a two-year contract worth $450,000 annually. His desire to run a traditional pro-style scheme should fit in well with Tom O’Brien, Virginia’s new associate head coach for offense. The two will work together, although O’Brien said last week he has no desire to be the team’s primary play-caller.
Fairchild also brings a strong recruiting background to Charlottesville, having procured the highest-rated recruiting class in school history during his time at Colorado State. London said in a statement that new specials team coordinator/running backs coach Larry Lewis spoke highly of Fairchild since the two worked together in Fort Collins, Colo.
“Steve Fairchild brings a wealth of experience to Virginia and when you look at the offenses of the teams he has coached, you see high achievement,” London said. “Throughout his career you find Steve was a part of coaching staffs that have had tremendous offensive success and we are really fortunate to have him join our staff. “
Fairchild, who spent this past season as a senior offensive assistant under former San Diego Chargers Coach Norv Turner, has a strong track record as a coordinator and quarterbacks coach during his 31-year coaching career.
In 1997, he was the offensive coordinator when Colorado State had the No. 1 offense in the country. With the St. Louis Rams, Fairchild’s offenses finished among the NFL’s top 10 in yards per game all three seasons (2003-05).
He compiled a 16-33 overall record during four seasons as Colorado State’s head coach (2008-2011). His offenses never finished better than 60th in the country in scoring during that time.
Under Lazor in 2012, Virginia finished No. 96 nationally in points per game (22.8) en route to its second 4-8 season in three years. The Cavaliers never settled on a quarterback and their running game failed to consistently live up to expectations. Former signal caller Michael Rocco decided to transfer last month.
Redshirt junior Phillip Sims, redshirt sophomore David Watford and redshirt freshman Greyson Lambert will likely battle for the starting job under center throughout spring practice and training camp.
“I can’t wait to get started,” Fairchild said in a school-issued statement. “I’m excited about the type of football team we can have and anxious to get to Charlottesville and get to work.”