For college football coaches, October 11th was a mini Bloody Sunday. From the little guys like North Texas to the big guys like Southern Cal, the coaching carousel is officially off and running. That includes Virginia's neighbors to the north, who gave Randy Edsall the heave-ho.
Testudo Times' Edsall coverage included a rundown of why the Maryland job would be attractive to potential coaching candidates. Which got us thinking: If Virginia looks to make a change at some point, why would an up-and-coming coach see Charlottesville as the smart place to land?
We've tackled the canard that Virginia's academics are actually a hindrance. But is it possible that instead of being a drawback, U.Va.'s academic standards give the Hoos an edge? There's a passage in a great article about what David Shaw has done at Stanford that shows how Virginia could play this to its advantage.
[A]t Stanford, everyone will be speaking or at least thinking like you.
"Sometimes they will live in a town someplace and they will be nervous about going across the country because they'll think, 'will anybody be like me?'" Shaw said. "We say, 'You have to come for a visit because what you are going to find is you have more in common with the guys on our campus than where you are from.'
"This is a kid that is in a small town and has a 3.8 GPA and is a great football player and has aspirations to be an astronaut or a physicist or something like that. And he comes here and realizes, 'Wait a minute, I'm like these guys right here. I go back home and I'm not like those guys back home, I'm not like those guys that go to my local college because if I go there I'm going to stand out. I'm going to be the one guy that says, 'Hey, you know what, yeah I'll come to the party later but I have to finish [school work] first.'
"Our guys all do that."
For a lot of smart football players, they've never fit in in their high school locker room. If Virginia bills itself as a place where those player's smarts are not just tolerated but welcomed—where they'll finally be part of a team where their teammates are like them—then it gives the Hoos a huge edge.
And most importantly, any coach who thinks Virginia's academic standards are second to her athletic standards isn't going to be the right fit at U.Va.
The new indoor practice facility already represented a major upgrade when it opened in 2013. But the University is also fundraising for a colossal expansion of the football team facilities that will blast the McCue Center from the past into the future. It's no secret that top recruits want top facilities at the schools they attend, but the same is true of top coaches. Does anyone think Tony Bennett would have come to Virginia if he was playing and practicing in U-Hall? Virginia's facilities in the next five years are in line to be the holy trinity of recruiting: a picturesque stadium, a top-of-the-line indoor practice facility, and a shiny new building with weightrooms and team meeting rooms.
The biggest gripe from Virginia fans has been that this team isn't playing up to its talent. When the Gatorade National Player of the Year can't break into the stat lines, and the nation's top RB recruit takes three years to be even a shadow of the player he was in high school, and an All-American safety somehow disappears through five games... Look at the depth chart. Sure, there are seniors here and there. But the 2015 Virginia Cavaliers are a junior- and sophomore-heavy football team. And there's a small army of solid freshmen who aren't even on the two-deep. A coach coming in before 2016 is going to have plenty of raw material to work with.
ACC =/= Big Ten
This seems paradoxical. After all, players want to play and coaches want to coach in the biggest best conference, right? Sure. But they also want to win. A school like Maryland has to play Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, and a surprisingly resurgent Michigan squad year in and year out. Meanwhile, the ACC Coastal could very easily have three new head coaches in 2016. A coach who comes to Virginia, coaches up its talent, embraces its academic prestige, and recruits to its facilities is going to be in a position to win, to win a lot, and to win immediately.