The Collegian
Tuesday, November 28, 2023

New football coach calls Richmond 'perfect fit'

University of Richmond athletic director Jim Miller introduced Mike London on Saturday as the university's 33rd head football coach, an announcement that came eight days after former head coach Dave Clawson resigned to take over as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at the University of Tennessee.

London, who graduated from Richmond in 1983, spent the past four seasons as the University of Virginia's defensive coordinator, following a year as the defensive line coach for the Houston Texans of the NFL.

"Whatever barriers existed before to me becoming a head coach -- whether it's experience in the NFL, experience at a bigger school -- those have all been checked off the list," London said. "Now all that is left is head coach, which is what I am so anxious to do."

Clawson spent four seasons with the Spiders and finished with a 29-20 record, including two Colonial Athletic Association championships and the school's first NCAA semifinal appearance this season. The two-time CAA Coach of the Year had just signed a five-year extension to his existing contract, which was five-year deal that had been signed after the 2005 season, the week before.

According to Clawson, the latest extension included a clause permitting its termination if the coach were offered a job to coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) or NFL.

In the days between Clawson's resignation and London's hiring, Miller said he and the head coach search committee looked seriously at only two candidates, including London. The two had spoken four years earlier when Richmond last had a coaching vacancy, and Miller was clearly drawn back to London given his success at U.Va.

"He brings a level of excitement to our program," Miller said. "He is someone who can go to recruits and say, 'This is my school.' We have done a great job recruiting the last years, and he can bring a real personal touch."

Last year the Cavaliers' defense ranked 23rd in the NCAA, led by senior defensive end Chris Long, who many scouts predict will be picked in the top five of April's NFL Draft. London, who played one season for the Dallas Cowboys, has coached six future NFL players during his coaching career, four at U.Va., one at Boston College as the defensive line coach and one from Richmond, where he served at the outside linebackers coach from 1994-96.

At Richmond, London is determined to establish an "atmosphere of accountability," but not just athletically and academically.

"Because they are student-athletes, they must be responsible socially because people are always looking at you," he said.

London met with the entire team on Monday and has scheduled personal player meetings for the second half of this week to better get to know his players, many of who are excited about his arrival.

"I think it's a great hire," junior running back Josh Vaughan said. "I'm eager to see how the change [in the coaching staff] works. I don't think there are going to be any wholesale changes though."

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London does not foresee any major overhauls either: "My motto the whole time has been, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it,'" he said. "The scheme always has to fit the personnel. [Offensively] we are looking for schemes that will give the best players we have the opportunity to get the ball."

London's commitment to the school seems to be looking far beyond next season as well.

"I don't see this job as a stepping stone because I've already been to the highest level," he said. "This is my kind of environment. I've always thought this was a perfect fit."

In his acceptance speech at Tennessee, Clawson also noted how highly he regards the city of Richmond and the university community. He attributed his decision to move on as "too good an opportunity to pass up."

"Coaches are competitive, and this was a chance to keep challenging myself," Clawson said. "The school, the conference, the level of program, I had to consider the position."

London is hoping to build on Clawson's on-the-field success by becoming more active in the university community. London is also looking forward to the completion of the First Market Stadium expansion, for which funding was recently completed with a gift from the Robins family.

"I'm going to seek help from the students. I want to get involved. I want to get radical," London said. "It's a two-way street: I'm going to reach out to them, and I'm looking for the best 12th man in the conference. It will be so easy when students can walk right out of their dorm, tailgate on campus and not have to worry about transportation to and from the game. I think collectively it will make for a special place to play."

The rest of London's coaching staff will be finalized in the coming days, and he has given no indication of whether existing coordinators and assistant coaches will stay on staff, or whether he will look to bring in assistants with whom he is more familiar.

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