The Mike London era is over for Virginia meaning the Cavaliers are now in need of a new head coach.
UVa offers candidates a Power Five job in the very winnable ACC Coastal Division. They can't match teams like Texas or Alabama in terms of salary, but coaches won't be playing for peanuts as London was the third-highest paid coach in the ACC in 2015. On the negative side, the new coach will have to deal with strict academic guidelines and a stagnant fan base.
With that in mind, here are some possible coaching candidates for the Cavaliers:
Mark Richt: When Richt was fired at Georgia, there were some who thought he would step away from coaching. Richt quickly countered that notion at his press conference on Monday saying "I'll listen to anyone who has interest in me coaching or not." With that, Richt shot up to the top candidate for every job opening in the country.
Richt was run out of Georgia despite a .740 win percentage thanks to the ridiculous expectations of the fan base. The strict discipline with which he ran the Bulldogs program would fit in well in Charlottesville. He interviewed with Virginia and was thought to be interested before accepting the Georgia job. Athletics director Craig Littlepage will have plenty of competition if he hopes to bring in Richt considering what he accomplished while in Athens, but UVa would not be doing its due diligence if Littlepage did not at least reach out and gauge Richt's interest.
Dan Mullen: Why would an SEC coach whose team was ranked No. 1 just last season leave for Virginia? The rumblings out of Starkville indicate that Mullen wants out. It's hard to win in Mississippi State and what he accomplished in 2014 is likely the team's ceiling. Leaving the SEC West for the wide open ACC Coastal has to be an appealing thought. According to Jacquie Franciulli of Scout.com, Mullen has shown "significant interest" in Virginia.
Al Golden: Golden wore a tie on the sidelines so clearly he's a good fit in Charlottesville. All kidding aside, Golden was a graduate assistant at Virginia under George Welsh and returned as the defensive coordinator for five years under Al Groh. Undoubtedly fans would not be too thrilled about this hire after Golden went 1-3 against UVa while he was at Miami, but Golden rose to prominence during his time as the head coach at Temple so you already know he can recruit this area.
Matt Rhule: Speaking of Temple, current Temple coach Matt Rhule will also likely be a popular name this offseason because of what he has done for the Owls. He has recruited well in the mid-Atlantic and can develop an offense which should generate some much needed excitement for Virginia.
Greg Schiano: After a disastrous move to the NFL, Schiano is expected to move back to the college ranks. With all the jobs that are available, he will likely get a lot of consideration this offseason, as well he should. Schiano built a winning program at Rutgers which is really hard to do. Just ask Kyle Flood. With a proven background at the college level and recruiting ties in the northeast, he's someone Virginia should absolutely consider. For what it's worth, Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated predicted Schiano would ultimately be UVa's next coach.
Mack Brown: Known mostly for his time in Texas, Brown cut his teeth in the ACC spending 10 seasons as the head coach at UNC. His daughter also works for UVa according to The Daily Progress. Brown is reportedly very interested in Virginia, but that interest is not yet reciprocated by the school. Though he does have a national title on his resume, Brown is 64 years old and left Texas in rough shape. Should Littlepage strike out on other targets, Brown could emerge as a potential candidate later on. He would very much be a short-term solution and an exit strategy would have to be considered if this is the route Littlepage ultimately goes. The only way this could work is if Brown is able to bring in strong coordinators to eventually succeed him.
Mike Sanford: Sanford is an up-and-coming coordinator who is destined to become a head coach at some point. He currently is the offensive coordinator at Notre Dame and has recruited for the Irish and for Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw at Stanford. If there is one guy who understands the challenges of recruiting at a school with strict academics, it's Sanford. He is originally form Virginia as he was born in Lexington, Va. and his father was the quarterbacks coach at VMI. Being the coordinator at Notre Dame, however, means you can be picky. Sanford makes a lot of sense for the Cavaliers, but If he's not interested in UVa there's no need for him to reach.
Bill Lazor: Lazor's background is largely in the pros, but he did serve as the offensive coordinator at Virginia from 2010 to 2012. He was fired by the Miami Dolphins on Sunday so obviously he is available. Lazor will likely remain in the NFL, but considering his history with the school, he has to at least be on their radar.
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