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Why Did Bronco Mendenhall Resign?

Hear what Mendenhall had to say during Thursday’s press conference about his decision to step down as the Virginia football head coach

After six seasons, Bronco Mendenhall is out as head coach of the Virginia football program. On Thursday, the team announced Mendenhall would be stepping down from his position following UVA’s bowl game at the end of the season.

Mendenhall addressed his decision to resign in a press conference on Thursday evening. Here are the main takeaways:

In his initial statement, Mendenhall stated that he developed a “sense of clarity that [he] needed to step back from college football…” this week.

“I've been a head coach for 17 years in a row, I was an assistant 11 before then,” Mendenhall said. “And I was a graduate assistant two years before then. And that's 31 years straight of football.

And, so, it's 31 years of straight football. And my wife and I will have been married 25 years in March. All we've known together is the rhythm of a football season. That's all my kids have known. And this January all three will be gone. And Holly and I are empty-nesters. And all they've known is the rhythm and cycle of football. And we know what that looks like really, really well.

And I would love to say there's been this buildup and a long amount of epiphanies and thought, but clearly this week there was a sense of clarity to me that I needed to step back from college football and reassess, renew, reframe and reinvent, with my wife as a partner, our future and the next chapter of our lives.”

Mendenhall asserted that it was his decision alone to step down as head coach and maintained that there was no pressure to resign from the administration in the UVA Athletics Department. In fact, Mendenhall indicated that Virginia Director of Athletics Carla Williams as well as University President Jim Ryan both asked him to stay on as head coach when he initially informed them of his decision:

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“I was requested to stay by our athletic director. I was requested to stay by our president,” said Mendenhall. “It's my decision only. And Holly, my wife's a little stunned and shocked too. But I believe a renewal and a pause and a reframing and a reinventing and a reconnecting is necessary to then become the very best person I can be moving forward. And as you know my passion and my wife's passion, we love to teach and inspire and build people, young people especially. And I know what that takes.”

Despite losing the final four games of the season, including a 29-24 loss to archrival Virginia Tech last Saturday, Mendenhall claimed that the losing streak at the end of the season did not play a very significant role in his decision:

“My first response would be no,” Mendenhall said when asked if the losing streak was a major reason for his resignation. “Because I like hard things. I know what it feels like. And I assess and I like challenges. And really there was enough separation from that time period -- and the coach's life, things turn over fast. So the clarity of this was really finalized yesterday in my mind. In the coach's world, that's almost an eternity from whenever the last game was. So this is a personal and bigger picture… And any other data point, it's hard for me to even remember, to your question, who we played the week before the last game and who we played the week before that. That's just how coaches are dialed because it happened so fast. So I don't see a correlation there. And I would tell you if I did. I just don't sense that.”

Mendenhall put his six seasons as head coach at Virginia in perspective when asked about the challenges of building a winning football program at UVA:

“I think we are a consistent winner. Year one reflected that it was harder than I thought. When I saw the first year of 2-10, I had to reframe everything. And that recalibration got us to 6-6. And that recalibration got us 8-5 and a Belk Bowl win. And that recalibration got us the Coastal championship and the state championship and a bid in the Orange Bowl. And I don't know how to calibrate for a pandemic. That wasn't in my manual.”

“And then we started again. And we're probably six plays short of winning the Coastal and winning the state. Probably six, arguably seven. And really disappointed because the expectation for our program now is to win the Coastal and the state. Right? And so that's a completely different place.

Finally, Mendenhall remarked on what must be done for Virginia to build a successful football program:

“Commitment. There's all kinds of seats you can buy for a concert. You can buy the price of admission and sit up in the rafters or you can buy front-row tickets and have a backstage pass. And both of those influence outcome. And so every institution decides what level of support and alignment they want with any program on their grounds. And so really it will just come down to decision-making and reallocation of resources but also leadership selection. And I'm responsible for everything that happened in the program. And independent of anything else, the record is mine. And I own all of that and I love it. And I love my team. And there's certainly things we can do better and could have done better. But my hope is that the past six years has shown specifically and decisively what the next steps are needed to be to launch us even farther forward than we are. And that's what I hope for players, the fans, this institution, our athletic director and everyone else is what I hope.”