The Virginia Athletics program announced on Thursday afternoon the sudden resignation of Virginia Cavaliers’ Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall, news that came surprising to both the football media and UVA fans. Shortly following the release, Mendenhall addressed the media regarding this decision.
To start, Mendenhall emphasized that as his sons are leaving the home and he and his wife are becoming “empty-nesters,” and that “this is a personal and bigger picture decision.”
Mendenhall says that, in his coaching career, “it’s 31 years of straight football,” while “my wife and I will have been married 25 years in March.” He notes how “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.” Clearly, this was a personal, family-related decision for the head coach of seventeen years.
Mendenhall continues, adding that “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.”
He says that the idea to step down came to be this past Sunday and that he’s been contemplating the decision since before coming to a decision on Wednesday.
This clearly was a decision that Mendenhall made himself and that was opposed by the UVA administration. “I was requested to stay by our athletic director,” he says, adding that “I was requested to stay by our president,” and emphasizing how “It’s my decision only.”
Extending on that, Mendenhall touches on how his wife Holly is “a little stunned and shocked too,” but that “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.”
For Mendenhall himself, he points to “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,” as he says that “I’m looking forward to the chance to renew and reflect and reinvent and re-become and then reenter someplace at some time on rocket fuel to become even a better version of maybe who I currently am.”
In regards to the UVA football program and his team, Mendenhall underscores how “I love, love my team,” as they’re looking ahead to the final game with Mendenhall at the helm. “I just met with them and I’m so hopeful to be able to have us perform well and be together and have another bowl victory for this class and this team, to culminate this for them,” he says. “And the reason the announcement now is to allow it to then be about our team moving forward as much as possible.”
When asked if this decision to step away was at all impacted by the team’s four game losing streak to close out the season and the devastating defeat to Virginia Tech, Mendenhall emphasized that this was a personal decision alone. “In the coach’s mind, [it’s been] almost an eternity from whenever the last game was. So this is a personal and bigger picture decision.” He says that “I don’t see a correlation there. And I would tell you if I did. I just don’t sense that.”
As for the reactions of his coaching staff and players, Mendenhall says they were full of “tears, shock, sadness, disbelief,” as he knows that “it’s going to take time to process.” He says that he is well aware of what impact his decision has, noting that “I know exactly the implications of people because that’s the world I live in. The decisions I make impact families and young people. And so I don’t take it lightly.”
That said, Mendenhall says that “most importantly, my partner, Holly, it’s 25 years straight [of coaching], 17 of which I’ve been a head coach,” as he acknowledges what a challenge that must have been for her. He says that what “I do know is I want to spend a lot of time with her together, reconsidering the next thing we’re going to do together. And that would be my first priority is what are we going to do together and what’s next for us before we take on anything else.”
This is an undoubtedly shocking move from Mendenhall. While it is obviously his prerogative to do what is best for him and his family and nobody blames him for making a decision based off that, it is difficult to comprehend what this means for the Virginia football program moving forward. Numerous pieces will be moved and the next head coaching hire will be incredibly significant.