Though his tenure at the University of Virginia did not end on a positive note in the standings and led to his unfortunate departure, here is a reminder that Mike London is the type of coach any parent would want to coach their child.
A chance autograph request in 2011 led to a friendship between Coach London and Kendall Bayne, a UVA fan and high school student at the time who was fighting cancer. They were very supportive of one another through the years and he was looking forward to helping Kendall with her transfer application to UVA before she passed.
Excerpted articles are below. Any football program will benefit greatly from Coach London’s character and leadership.
In 2013, London invited Kendall to serve as an honorary coach for the Cavaliers’ home game with Duke, and she and her father had a sideline view of the action.
A signed UVa jersey that she received on the trip was placed in her casket with other keepsakes before it was closed.
After graduation from Cave Spring High School in 2014, Kendall enrolled at Virginia Western Community College because it offered the chance to be around family and friends while undergoing treatment.
As late as the fall of 2014, she had spoken with London about the possibility of transferring to Virginia, a process made difficult because her cancer fight prohibited her from completing the required credit hours.
“I told her just to let me know and I would do what I could to make it happen,” London said.
The Baynes would congratulate London after a win and console him after a loss.
“She’d send me a text message, ‘Hey, hang in there; thinking about you,’ ” London said. “Jere would do the same thing. I thought about Kendall all the time and how it puts things in perspective. With all the pain and everything she was going through, she was always so positive.”
In his phone, London has a photograph of Kendall in a UVa football jersey from the time she was his honorary coach.
“It’s affected me profoundly because it was through words, it was through gestures that I developed a friendship with this young lady and I never knew the power of what that did for her. This is a tough profession. I’m at peace with who I am and what I am. I’m a football coach. That’s what I do for my job. But I’m a father, husband, all those other things and if it works out that we get these wins and do this, OK fine.
“But there’s just more to life. Who decides who comes, who goes, who stays, who leaves? Look at a young lady that lost her battle. I look at my daughter making dean’s list and having opportunities. … It’s all so awe inspiring to me. Having been in Kendall’s life and not knowing what type of influence I had, I can’t wrap my mind around it. To be shown such favor in a situation like that, I feel really honored and blessed to have that opportunity.”
When London got back to the office on Monday evening, he gathered his coaches around and put the game against Miami on Saturday into perspective. He told his coaches if your children have activities, whether a game or a recital, go see them. Don’t miss those moments because you just don’t know how many you have.
“I believed it before,” London says. “But I believe it now more than anything.”