CHARLOTTESVILLE — There is no question about the angle for Virginia’s home football opener Friday night against William and Mary.
Returning to Scott Stadium for the first time as a visiting head coach is Mike London, who is in his first season as the head coach at William and Mary.
It won’t be the first time that London and Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall have met. Mendenhall was the head coach at Brigham Young when UVa and BYU played a home-and-home series in 2013-14.
In fact, London is 1-1 against Mendenhall, whose 2013 Brigham Young team lost 19-16 at Scott Stadium.
The next year, the Cavaliers traveled to Provo, Utah, where the Cougars prevailed 41-33.
“I never spoke with Mike after he left and before I came,” Mendenhall said Monday.
London was not retained following the 2015 season, and Mendenhall took the job within days after a 23-20 home loss to Virginia Tech.
London returned to the head-coaching ranks prior to the 2017 season and compiled an 11-10 record in two seasons at Howard before returning to William and Mary, where he succeeded the retired Jimmye Laycock.
“When Mike became the head coach at William and Mary, there was an award banquet where we had a chance to say hello and catch up a little bit,” Mendenhall said Monday.
“Then, when Mike was hiring Matt Johns, who was a defensive graduate assistant for us a year ago, Mike was just really professional and first-class in his communication with me.”
Johns, a former UVa quarterback, is one of a handful of former UVa players and coaches who have joined the William and Mary staff, which includes former NFL players Darryl Blackstock and Ras-I Dowling.
London won’t be the first ex-UVa coach to return to Scott Stadium as an opponent. Bill Elias was the Virginia coach from 1961-64 before taking the job at Navy, whose Middies came to Charlottesville for a 1968 game, won by the Cavaliers 24-0.
Another former Navy coach, George Welsh, made the opposite move when he left Navy for UVa prior to the 1976 season.
Changes at Scott
Mendenhall said he had advance notice of the announcement put out Thursday in which Virginia revealed changes that were made to the game day experience, including the in-stadium sale of alcoholic beverages.
“I guess ‘enhancements’ would mean alcohol sales or the beer garden,” said Mendenhall, who belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter -day Saints, widely known as the Mormon church. “I was told about that from [UVa’s] administration.
“I had no involvement in the process whatsoever. I was just notified that it was approved and that [it was] going to happen. It appears that college sports is following suit of the NFL, and I’m sure there is a revenue component to that.
“As a non-alcoholic drinker myself, there is a personal view and then there is kind of an amateur sport view and then an entertainment view and also a revenue view.”
Jack of all trades
Nash Griffin, who had served exclusively as Virginia’s holder for the past two seasons, took over as the Cavaliers’ punter Saturday and averaged 45.5 yards on four punts, three of which were downed inside the Pittsburgh 20-yard line.
“I was really impressed with his performance,” said Mendenhall, who awarded Griffin, a third-year walk-on, with a scholarship at the end of fall camp.
“In terms of holding, I would really prefer a back-up quarterback to be in that position. Nash is a good enough athlete to where it doesn’t limit the fake possibilities as much as what a traditional punter might look like.”
Griffin is from Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis, where one of his classmates was 2019 Final Four Most Outstanding Player and UVa basketball star Kyle Guy, who left school a year early to enter the NBA Draft after the Cavaliers won the national championship.