KEY HIRING—New University of Virginia head football coach, Mike London, left, speaks during a news conference with athletic director, Craig Littlepage, right, in Charlottesville, Va., Dec. 7. by Hank Kurz Jr.CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP)—Mike London said all the right things in accepting the job to rebuild Virginia’s football program, talking of how high academic standards shouldn’t rule out success on the field and the importance of building deep and personal relationships.The latter will be especially true as it relates to high schools and recruiting. “I think we have to recapture the state of Virginia,” the former Richmond coach said Monday. He succeeds his former boss, Al Groh, who was fired last Sunday after nine seasons and a 1-8 record against Virginia Tech, the dominant team in the Atlantic Coast Conference.London agreed to a five-year contract that will pay him $1.7 million per year to take over a team coming off a 3-9 record, its worst since 1982. It has had three losing seasons in the last four and fallen behind the rival Hokies in the minds of many in-state recruits.London will be just the second current Black head coach in the six conferences with automatic bids to the BCS, joining Miami’s Randy Shannon, but said he wanted to be hired on his merits, not his skin color.“I guess you guys can talk about the historical significance of it,” he said.His hiring, though, was celebrated elsewhere.Former NFL head coach Tony Dungy, who on Sunday night called the low number of Black head coaches in the college game “disgraceful,” said in an e-mail that he applauds Virginia “on doing an inclusive search. I hope this will be an encouragement to other universities to do the same—to look at a broad picture of candidates and hire the best person for their job.”London is just the 10th Black coach at the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision schools.Widely respected as a recruiter, London says he intends to build a network that reaches not only into high schools, but into the surrounding communities because, he said, “people don’t care about how much you know until they know about how much you care.”He also had a message for high school coaches, particularly in the state:“If Virginia hasn’t been there, we’ll be there,” he said.London left a team that won the Football Championship Subdivision national championship in 2008 and reached the quarterfinals of the playoffs this year to return to a place he knows well, having spent six years as an assistant under Groh in two stints between 2001-07.The courtship was “a whirlwind,” according to London, who said the downer of his Spiders losing to Appalachian State in the last 10 seconds on Saturday night was replaced early the next morning by “euphoria” once Virginia asked for permission to speak with him.Athletic director Craig Littlepage said once he knew he was in the market for a head coach, “one coach, just one, stood out,” and he was delighted that London was available.“There have been a lot of athletic directors who have asked me about him. I was hoping they wouldn’t hire him for that maybe one day we’d have this sort of predicament,” he said.London’s background as a college coach also includes stops at Boston College and William & Mary, similarly strict academic schools, and he said his recruiting approach will be to seek players who view playing football at Virginia as a best of both worlds opportunity.“It’s a fit, a perfect fit for me,” he said.
Favorite summer flowering plant hit by disease Lush, beautiful impatiens in pinks, purples, brilliant white and deep oranges are a favorite annual of almost any gardener with a shady growing area. But this year, nurserymen, garden centers and growers are advising against planting them.Impatiens walleriana has been hit with an emerging disease called downy mildew that infects the plants and results in leafless stems that then collapse. The disease was first seen in Florida a number of years ago and has been on the move ever since and is now in more than 30 states, including the Garden State.The good news is that there are lots of other showy plants that do well in the shade that garden centers and landscapers in the area are stocking this growing season.Paul Molzon of Molzon Garden Center in Lincroft, called impatiens downy mildew “a terrible thing.“There’s no actual cure for it,” he said. “Most of the growers just aren’t growing it because people aren’t going to buy it. Most of the landscapers are just going to switch to using other plants.”Impatiens downy mildew only infects the Impatiens walleriana, not New Guinea impatiens or sunpatiens, which look remarkably like the impacted variety of impatiens, or other plants.Plants that are infected will get a fuzzy, white growth on the underside of the leaf.“That’s the first sign,” Molzon said. “The next step is a lot of the foliage will fall off. There might be just a few small leaves left with a few flowers on the top. The next step is … the stems will just fall down as if they had melted,” he said.“The big problem is (growers and experts) don’t know how long this will last in the soil. It’s out there. It handles the cold; it overwinters in the soil. So, if you had a problem, you don’t want to plant impatiens there again because you’ll definitely have the problem again.”The Master Gardeners at Sickles Market in Little Silver have assembled a collection of hearty, colorful alternatives to impatiens, making selections that are particularly suited to conditions at the Shore. The easy-to-grow, shade tolerant and fungus-resistant plants include New Guinea impatiens, sunpatiens, angel wing begonias, torenia, angelonia, ivy geraniums, caladium and coleus, and they will prove a worthy replacement to the fungus-prone impatiens.“These substitute plants are so easy to care for and give a wider range of colors and textures that were lacking with impatiens,” said Natale Siclare, garden center manager.Molzon also is recommending substituting impatiens with such plants as begonias.“There are tons of great begonias that will handle the shade … They come in all different colors” and varieties, including common garden begonia that come in flats, the dragon wing begonias and a variety called “Big” that grow to about 24-inches tall, he said.Coleus, which come in a variety of vivid colors, lobelia and New Guinea impatiens and sunpatiens are also recommended to take the place of the annual favorite.Molzon has been proactive about letting his clients know about the problem by sending information weeks ago in his newsletter and putting it on his Facebook page. “I’m going to have a few impatiens in but have a big sign on them to educate people,” Molzon said.“All the large seed companies are working on this like crazy because it will be a big hit,” he said.