CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Virginia hired Bronco Mendenhall as its football coach in a surprise move Friday, luring him away from BYU after an 11-year run with the Cougars.
There had been numerous reports about various coaches such as former Georgia coach Mark Richt, California coach Sonny Dykes and Western Kentucky coach Jeff Brohm being linked to the vacancy at Virginia, but Mendenhall's name had never come up.
As they did with basketball coach Tony Bennett, the Cavaliers pulled a surprise.
''Bronco Mendenhall's teams have consistently won at a high level and he's demonstrated the ability to create a strategic vision to build a program and then implement his plan to be successful,'' Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage said in a statement. ''His emphasis on the overall development of student athletes and a commitment to academic achievement is in line with our goals of uncompromised excellence. We're excited to begin a new era of Virginia football and support Bronco and his staff.''
Virginia finished 4-8 this season and fired Mike London after six seasons, during which he had only one winning record.
Mendenhall was 99-42 with the Cougars, including splitting a home-and-home series with Virginia, and took the Cougars to a bowl game every season while never having a losing record. The Cougars are one of only 11 teams to advance to a bowl game in each of the past 11 seasons.
Mendenhall reached a five-year agreement with Virginia that starts at $3.25 million per year.
''Professionally and personally I seek to embrace the highest standards in college sports, on and off the field, and I love the high standards both academically and athletically at Virginia,'' Mendenhall said. ''I am excited to not only help provide the continual growth and development of the student athletes academically but also re-establish Virginia as a consistent winner with a fiercely competitive and winning product on the football field."
BYU went 9-3 this season and Mendenhall will coach the Cougars in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 19.
''I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I've had to work with Bronco as our head football coach. He has worked tirelessly on behalf of our student-athletes to give them the best possible collegiate experience, on and off the field. Bronco has been loyal through and through to BYU,'' BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said. ''I'm grateful for everything he's done for the football program.''