PSU buzz: Did London rebuff a pre-fire call?
Mike London wouldn't have liked it, but the buzz in the stands during the Duke game was all about Penn State courting him.
No matter who first floated the idea (word on the street says ESPN started it), by November 11, the college football web-universe, including fairly reputable sites like the Washington Post and CBS Sports, were crazy with rumors that Penn State had gone hat in hand to London before firing Joe Paterno.
Mike London immediately and angrily denied the rumor (CBS Sports retracted its story just four hours after posting it), but so what? Denying contact with other schools is rule #2 in the college athletic handbook, sandwiched between the rules that consider a coach’s contract just paper with no binding value and that require at least three minor NCAA infractions a year. So UVA and London denied the rumor; what else could they do?
We’d like to believe Mike London bears zero resemblance to Rich Rodriguez or any number of other coaches who flit from team to team like bees. When London said he didn’t talk to Penn State, he might well have been telling the truth, but when it comes to coaches’ switching jobs, even adamant denials are suspect.
“I don't even want to start to get into all that stuff like that," said London. "No, I haven't heard from them, and I don't expect to. ... I can tell you no one [from Penn State] has reached out to me, or talked to me. It's way, way, way, way premature for anyone to credibly think that's the case.”
Are Mike London’s words really any more reassuring than these? “I’m not going to be the Alabama coach”– Nick Saban, who landed two weeks later in Tuscaloosa to chants of “Roll Tide!”
“I just want to get this out of the way; I’m staying"– Now-Maryland-but-then-Wichita State basketball coach Mark Turgeon in 2006 on speculation he would go to a larger school. The next season he was head coach at Texas A&M.
Saban and Turgeon aren't the only NCAA coaches to say they’re staying when they’re leaving. The epic list includes Lane Kiffin, Bobby Petrino, Urban Meyer, Gene Chizik– and perhaps most notably, current Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville, who made his famous statement about staying at Ole Miss (“They’ll have to carry me out of here in a pine box”) just two days before he departed for Auburn in the dead of night.
In “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” Aesop makes no mention of the poor kid who inherits the shepherding job from the ne’er-do-well whose lies led to the decimation of the village flock. Since the wolf ate all the sheep, maybe there was no job to fill, but if indeed there were, how could the new shepherd prove himself not a liar? If a shepherd sees a wolf, he’s going to yell, “wolf.” But if that’s what liars yell, how can anyone trust him?
Perhaps Mike London is the Chris Christie of NCAA football, and when he says he didn’t talk to Penn State and that he wants to stay at UVA as long as possible, he means it. But unfortunately for Mike London, in collegiate athletics, a denial is tantamount to an admission.
So there's really no way the University or London can convince anyone that Penn State didn’t call. Getting mad won’t change that. They should just stay away from statements about pine boxes.
One final note: Really, Floyd Mayweather? Burning money in a club is bad enough, but burning a Benjamin when you’re supposed to be giving a deposition means you were in a club during the day. That’s just pitiful.
Juanita lives on a farm in Charlotte County with her husband, son, and many dogs.
(The original online headline for this story was "Liar, liar? Who believes PSU didn't call London?")Read more on: mike london