The morning after a ham-handed coup removed Teresa Sullivan as University of Virginia president last month, Mike London stood on a platform of the Charlottesville train station. He was taking his kids to New York for a viewing of The Lion King.
Before boarding, London glanced over. There stood Sullivan.
“I just kind of looked at her, went up to her and hugged her,” said London, the school’s third-year football coach. “She said, ‘I’m really going to miss the football games.’ I thanked her for everything and I thought that was the end of it.
“Next thing you know, she’s back.”
Indeed, and count London among the thousands of Virginia loyalists thrilled that after a storm of protests from every imaginable quarter, the Board of Visitors reinstated Sullivan.
“I think a head coach establishing a good relationship with a president is a good thing,” London said Thursday before speaking at the Virginia High School Coaches Association clinic in Hampton. “Being on the same page, the expectations for the program.
“She values the term student-athlete, values Saturday and getting people together at [the stadium for] that social function.”
Sullivan was elected Virginia’s president Jan. 11, 2010, barely a month after London was hired. She assumed office Aug. 1, and not only London but also the entire athletic department found an ally.
As a former administrator at Michigan and Texas, and student at Michigan State, Sullivan is accustomed to major college athletics. She immediately became a visible supporter of the Cavaliers, attending games of all sorts, where she was not always hidden away in some suite with donors, but spent time with fans in the stands.
Football, basketball, baseball, Olympic sports. TheChick-fil-A Bowl, College World Series. Sullivan was there.
She also spoke to recruits and their parents visiting Virginia and supported the construction of an indoor practice complex for football.
With a wide smile, London recalled his first meeting with Sullivan.
“She said, ‘Don’t worry, I know the difference between man coverage and Cover 2.’”
London is scheduled to throw out the first pitch at the Norfolk Tides game Friday night. He was a touch nervous and planned to purchase a baseball for some prep work Thursday.
"How far is it?" he asked. "Sixty feet? Ninety?"
"Sixty feet, 6 inches," I told him.
"And off a raised mound," London said, noting his youngest son had warned him not to embarrass himself by "rolling" a pitch to the plate.
Alas, London has no pitching experience. He played outfield and catcher in the Northampton Little League.
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