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Virginia football coaching search: What is UVa looking for?

What can we learn from Craig Littlepage's statement after London's resignation?

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The burning question in every Cavalier mind is, "Who's next?" It's a bit too early to identify any sort of short list (but not too early for a long one). But what athletic director Craig Littlepage said in his statement on London's resignation does give us some hints about what Virginia's next coach will bring to the table.

First, there's a question of timing.

Littlepage has not specified a time frame for concluding the search, citing the fact that many of the possible candidates will be involved in postseason play.

That immediately sparked some speculation that the front-runners are coaches with conference title games still to play. But "postseason play" just as easily means bowl games. It would be unfortunate for the Hoos to wait too long to get their guy, but we should want them to go after someone who has at least enough success to be bowling.

Now, what traits will the next Virginia coach possess?

In our search, we will look for a coach who's demonstrated the ability to implement his system and achieved a consistent level of success," Littlepage said. "The coach will have experience recruiting and developing student-athletes who fit his profile for success on the field and in the classroom. We expect our football program to compete for the Coastal Division title on an annual basis, which puts us in a position to win the ACC championship and be competitive nationally. This is consistent with the expectations for each of our sport programs.

Some of that is standard AD-speak. But there's some substance there too.

  • "Ability to implement his system," and "student-athletes who fit his profile for success on the field" both read that U.Va. will be looking for a coach with an identifiable system. That could range anywhere from triple-option to Air Raid, but expect the new regime to establish a strategic/tactical identity for Virginia football
  • I'm not sure how to read this between preferring an established head coach or well-credentialed coordinator. Both "implement their system"—Gus Malzahn did as head coach, but so did Lincoln Riley as Oklahoma's offensive coordinator. Both recruit and develop talent. This may be Littlepage's way of keeping his options open, which in and of itself could be significant.
  • Academics are going to matter. That's never been a question. Does that mean the Hoos could be looking to pull directly from one of the successful academic powerhouses—your Stanford, your Duke? Or could a past stint at one of those kinds of schools be all but a requirement?
  • Virginia is looking for someone to establish a high floor, with hopes that that results in a high ceiling as well. When Groh came to U.Va., there was ill-advised bravado about playing for national championships. That isn't where Virginia is now or likely will be in the near future. But being in the Coastal Division race every year is a very realistic goal for a program like Virginia. Littlepage is looking for the coaches who will keep the Hoos up to at least that level year in and year out.

What do you see from this? Is there something we're missing?