Virginia football coach Bronco Mendenhall is stepping down after the team’s upcoming bowling game, he said Thursday.
Mendenhall, 55, said it was solely his decision to leave.
“I would like to say that there has been a build-up and a long amount of revelations and thoughts, but this week there was clearly a sense of clarity for me that I needed to step away from college football and reassess, innovate, reframe and reinvent – — with my wife as a partner — our future and the next chapter of our lives,” he said. “Our athletic director has asked me to stay. Our president has asked me to stay. It is only my decision.”
The Cavaliers have gone 36-38 in its six seasons, including an ACC Coastal Division Championship in 2019 and the team’s first New Year’s Six appearance in the Orange Bowl.
Virginia finished this season 6-6, the fifth straight year that the Cavaliers have been eligible for the bowl.
Mendenhall said he started thinking about his future on Sunday and decided in a fairly short time that he needed to take a step back after 31 consecutive years in coaching, both as head coach and assistant. When he broke the news to his staff and players, they were all stunned.
Mendenhall said he never told anyone he was considering leaving.
“Every year I redefine my goal, and I have a statement of purpose, and I put that on the screen, and then showed how this choice reflects that,” Mendenhall said of his message at his team meeting. “That’s the framework I went from, and it’s hard to talk and be emotional at the same time in front of people you love. But I wanted them to understand that it’s nothing they were doing. I love them and try to say, ‘OK, how can I add more impact to the world? Maybe after a refresh, a recalibration. It’s not sustainable, this pace, as a college football coach and as a head coach for so many years.'”
Mendenhall reiterated multiple times that this is not retirement, but a way for him to step back after 31 consecutive years in coaching to help him ultimately become a better person and coach.
“If you really, really want to do it, not just win, but if you want really great academics, if you really want to build great people, if you really want to have great character, if you really want to teach values, if you really want service, that’s more difficult than easier,” Mendenhall said. “I want all of that and I’m not going to do it unless I feel energetic enough to do all of that. I want to keep adding value, not just riding out.”
Mendenhall said he is looking forward to helping his team win one last game, but that he has no plan yet for how he will tackle the coming months. He noted that he is looking forward to spending more time with his wife Holly.
“I don’t know what’s next. But if I didn’t think the decision was necessary to add more value, I wouldn’t have done it,” Mendenhall said. “So this is not to pause and then become irrelevant. This is really to pause and pause and then hopefully have more impact and help and develop and educate and serve others. So there I am excited about it. What is it going to look like? I don’t know. There’s no regrets. There’s emotion.”
Before arriving in Virginia, Mendenhall spent 11 seasons at BYU, scoring 99-43 with 11 bowling appearances.
In 17 years as head coach, Mendenhall has gone 135-81 and is eighth among the current FBS head coaches in win percentage (0.625).
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