It's a new era in Virginia football.
New Cavaliers coach Mike London has one tall task in front of him.
He is taking over a team without a proven quarterback, running game, or wide receiver, and is losing a top lineman on defense.
However, despite putting in new coordinators, new players, and new schemes, his task is far more than just X's and O's.
London's task is clear: He must re-brand Virginia football.
He must make the Cavaliers relevant, not just on a national scale but specifically within a Commonwealth that has been overtaken by the Virginia Tech Hokies this past decade.
His predecessor won once again his arch-rival on the gridiron in nine tries; he lost even more on the recruiting trails.
If London is going to turn things around in Scott Stadium, he has to turn things around in high school gyms from Hampton Roads to Ashburn, Virginia.
Fortunately for Virginia fans, this is a challenge he has taken on with everything he's got.
London is everywhere. He's talking to bloggers on ESPN, interviewing with Comcast Sportsnet, running scrimmages at Old Dominion University, and leading a mini-series that is being syndicated on television throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.
London is talking, but talk is cheap. What can he do to re-brand Virginia? What can he say to bring the top notch recruits into the orange and blue?
Here are a few ideas.
Anytime a program hits rock bottom and tries to turn things around, there is one simple selling point to a recruit.
If you come here, you get to play early and play often.
Virginia football has plenty of openings on the roster, for boys and girls.
Coach London clearly needs a quarterback for the future to build around.
Last year the Cavaliers struggled mightily on offense and it centered around three underwhelming signal callers. Quarterbacks Jameel Sewell and Vic Hall have graduated, leaving Marc Verica as the winner by default.
Verica and his interception-happy trigger finger is not a solid option to build a program around. London's incoming recruits feature some prospects, but nothing definite.
Quarterbacks across Virginia should know that they're going to get an opportunity to shake up the depth chart instantly.
Oh yeah, that goes for just about every position.
Virginia Tech, on the other hand, is loaded with talent and that leads to some disgruntled players.
The Hokies already must contend with Ryan Williams and Darren Evans, two freshman sensations battling for time at running back.
How many more top runners can they expect to grab when these top recruits know they can play at another ACC school and walk into the starter's position?
Not many, if London knows what he's doing.
Maybe I'm biased, but the University of Virginia is a beautiful place.
The pristine beauty of the Rotunda, the Lawn, the mountains in the background, and the tranquil scenes of nature make Virginia a place to behold.
In fact, it's almost comical watching sports broadcasts featuring the Cavaliers these past few seasons. The product on the field has been so bad, the announcers are relegated to commenting on the beauty of Charlottesville ad nauseum.
I know it's beautiful guys, but it's hard to ignore some of the ugliness on the football field.
Football recruits are going to spend a lot of time on campus (or in the case of Virginia, "Grounds"). They might as well be surrounded by something worth looking at.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to say that Virginia Tech is ugly, it's just different. The Hokie Stone gives the place a very different feel from Charlottesville.
Some might like the Drill Field and the workman-like nature of Blacksburg, but there are plenty of people blown away by the beauty of Virginia.
It's a battle that I'm far more confident the Cavaliers can win than arguing over the current state of the football programs.
Recruits want to know that you can take them to the next level.
Fortunately for the Cavaliers, they have plenty of NFL poster boys that they can wave in front of recruits on their trips to Charlottesville.
Thomas Jones has become one of the top running backs in the league.
Matt Schaub led the NFL in passing yardage last season, more than Drew Brees or Peyton Manning.
Virginia has produced offensive linemen that have gone in the top 10 of the NFL Draft, including D'Brickashaw Ferguson, who went fourth overall.
There's also Super Bowl champion and NFL mainstay Ronde Barber anchoring the Tampa Bay defense.
Need I mention Heath Miller, one of the best tight ends in the league and two-time Super Bowl champion?
Virginia can boast and brag that they have some big NFL names. They also have plenty of other guys on NFL rosters battling for playing time and building a reputation as hard workers and tough minded individuals.
You need both the stars and the walk-ons in the NFL, so that high school recruits can imagine themselves in those positions. Virginia has that luxury.
Virginia Tech certainly has plenty of good players in the NFL too. However, the bigger names right now belong to the Cavaliers.
It's time to use that edge.
Alright let's face it. The academics card gets used a lot in this Virginia/Virginia Tech debate.
In truth, some football recruits could care less about academics.
The University of Virginia has suffered academic casualties over the years, mostly because coach Al Groh never learned how to find the right guys to fit into the culture at Virginia.
However, academics are still important, particularly to parents. Virginia is one of the top rated public universities in the country. They offer some of the best faculty in a multitude of academic fields.
Sure, Virginia Tech has a wonderful engineering program but just about everything about Virginia is wonderful. They have an administration determined to become better until they are masters of all.
As a result, Virginia has an impressive list of alumni: Tina Fey, Sean Patrick Thomas, Katie Couric, Ted Kennedy, and not to mention figures like Woodrow Wilson, Edgar Allen Poe, and William Faulkner all lived on Grounds for a time.
London has taken the right attitude, treating academics like a treasured commodity and not an albatross that hinders him from being successful.
Kids want to be successful in and out of the classroom. Virginia needs to cater to that audience.
Athletes are competitive guys.
Often they just love to watch sports and they certainly want to cheer on their fellow brethren.
Fortunately, Virginia has some of the best Olympic programs in the entire country.
The Director's Cup ranks schools on their overall success in all sports using a ridiculously complicated formula. Virginia finished in the top 10 last season and is likely to do so again in 2010.
Let's remember, that's without basketball or football doing anything at all.
Virginia is a place where sports do not end in January.
In fact, some of the best days involve a baseball-lacrosse doubleheader.
Earlier this year, Virginia had three teams ranked No. 1 in the country play at home on the same day.
Virginia Tech has never had a program ranked No. 1 in the history of the school.
That doesn't mean the other sports at Virginia Tech are not improving. They certainly are. The baseball team is nationally ranked.
However, if you want variety, you want Virginia.
HBO Sports has really revolutionized how we view sports in America.
Their "Hard Knocks" series has become a cult favorite within the sports community.
So much so, Virginia has created their own version and it currently airs on cable networks throughout the Commonwealth.
We all know that being worse than bad is being irrelevant.
The Hokies know how to steal the headlines when they're winning ACC Championships and finishing in the top 10.
The Cavaliers, however, are doing a good job taking over the front page during these lean months with open scrimmages and media spectacles.
Effective advertising for a new era in Virginia football.
While this not really a "reason" or a "pitch", it is certainly an effective strategy, and one that Virginia wants to use as much as possible.
Now can the Hokies do the exact same thing? Of course they can.
Hopefully, it won't happen for a few years though.
Being a college football player is an around the clock engagement.
These teammates become part of a family and, as a result, do not get much time away from college.
Summer is a time for classes and the weight room. It would not hurt to see some friendly faces during your travails.
You can debate as much as you want whether or not Charlottesville or Blacksburg has a better atmosphere or college town criteria. However, what everyone knows is that Blacksburg becomes a ghost town when the spring semester ends.
The University of Virginia is interlinked with the city and students are always around, even during the summer months.
Having a night life even in the dull months of the college year makes a good sell to recruits. They want to be able to work hard and play hard.
Charlottesville can offer that.
Football programs have to create an image.
For Virginia Tech, that image has become very successful.
Behind the experience of coach Frank Beamer and the jaw of defensive coordinator Bud Foster, the Hokies have terrified the ACC football community as they have strung together 10-win seasons like it was nothing.
That's a hard thing to fight. Particularly when Coach Groh permeated a culture of haughtiness, arrogance, and all-around entitlement for a program that has been mired in mediocrity.
Fortunately, that image is gone and Coach London can bring a new selling point. This Virginia program is full of fire and determination.
It's not odd to see Mike London jumping around on the sidelines and he has built a staff full of lovable personalities and Virginia all-time greats.
With former All-American safety Anthony Poindexter and Heisman finalist quarterback Shawn Moore back in the orange and blue, Virginia has a young staff that is still connected to the glory years of the program.
Sometimes, football recruits just like to be able to connect to the coach and these new faces certainly increase Virginia's likability and popularity. Their style is going to be different and that will hopefully result in a better product on the football field.
During practices, Coach London makes sure that after every score, the entire team goes out to jump around and celebrate. It's a celebratory culture that is replacing the old and dull practices of the past.
Sure, Virginia Tech has built a stellar program the past few seasons. However, if you want to be part of a new era and a new tradition with guys that care and will fight for you, Virginia is the place to go.
Oh my, I forgot the most important thing!
The University of Virginia has girls. When it comes to recruiting young males from across the country, nothing else really matters.
Now you can debate whether a girl with brains can or cannot be attractive. I think the whole argument is ridiculous.
Virginia has some of the prettiest girls in the land, not to mention that most of them like to wear sundresses on crisp autumn Saturdays.
The vibrant Greek life at Virginia will tell you that there are plenty of sorority girls and a party atmosphere any young teenager will find exciting.
The fact is that Virginia Tech is one of the few schools that actually has a male majority. They had one of the largest all-male dorms in the country.
Virginia, on the other hand, has a female majority and a quick look around Grounds will make you happy to be a man.
It's a numbers game, boys and girls.
Not to mention that Virginia has quite the tradition for streaking. Things just keep getting better and better.
I mean really, do I want to celebrate a castrated turkey as my mascot???
The Hokie actually doesn't mean anything at all as the real Virginia Tech fans can tell you. Over time, it has taken on its Hokie Bird persona. These fighting gobblers actually like to eat turkey legs on Saturday.
That's not just cannibalism, that's masochism.
I'd rather pick a dude with a sword any day of the week. Sure the Cavalier is seen as a bit upper class. I even admit it's most recent incarnation has a rather odd "Fu Man Chu" thing going on, but its unique and deadly.
If Thanksgiving has taught us anything, it's that you should always pick the guy with the weapon over the turkey any day of the week.
Besides, maroon and orange has to be one of the weirdest color combinations ever constructed by man. Could you really imagine having to wear that every day of your collegiate life?
Would anyone not associated with Virginia Tech ever wear those colors together unless they had dressed in the dark?
Orange and blue for me, sir.