Howard University is banking on football coach Mike London – for the long haul
He brings experience as a winner and a slogan: ‘Go to class. Show class. Treat people with dignity and respect.’
Mike London is a lot of things: accomplished, engaging, aspirational, loyal, thoughtful. But patient? No. London isn’t that, and he’ll tell you that he’s working on himself … one day at a time.
Perhaps it’s symptomatic of a football coach, where “win now!” — not “trust the process” — is an expectation and an unwritten part of the job description. But London ought to give himself some credit. Before being named Howard University’s 36th head coach in January, his coaching career indicates that he’s been the patient one.
Except for his stint at the University of Maryland, where he served as associate head coach for one season, building a reputation as a strong recruiter, London has sought to stay the course in an industry that doesn’t like to wait.
Before Maryland, London, 56, was the head coach at Virginia for six seasons. Before that, he coached at the University of Richmond for six seasons, the unquestioned zenith of his career. When London was head coach for two seasons beginning in 2008, the Spiders won the national championship that season. But his is a career that hasn’t always been roses; after going 4-8 in his first season at Virginia, the Cavaliers won eight games in 2011 and played in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, where they lost to Auburn. London was named the ACC’s Coach of the Year.
That was his only winning season in Charlottesville; his last four teams finished 4-8, 2-10, 5-7 and 4-8 in 2015. Still, Howard is banking on London – that he’s the man for the job, that he’s the man to help the school and alumni forget about the last five seasons under Gary Harrell, when the team went 20-36.
London knows a turnaround will take time, and he’s convinced that athletic director Kery Davis and president Dr. Wayne Frederick are aligned with him. Wins don’t come overnight — regardless of the coach. London understands this. Howard needs players — really good players, from across the country, not only players within a stone’s throw of the campus. Howard needs to flip the current script — or at least add to the narrative that football matters. London knows it all falls on him.
“It’s a process,” he told The Undefeated. “It’s a sprint, but at the same time, it’s something that I enjoy doing.”
More on Mike London
Career coaching record: 51-51
Hometown: Hampton Roads, Virginia
Family ties: Married; father of seven; grandfather of two
Playing career: Richmond Spiders; Dallas Cowboys
Career before coaching: Police detective
Coaching awards: FCS Coach of the Year (2008); BCA National Coach of the Year (2008); ACC Coach of the Year (2011)
Credo: “Go to class. Show class. Treat people with dignity and respect.”