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Rebuilding a program: Bronco Mendenhall’s legacy at Virginia

Published: Dec. 29, 2021 at 5:54 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 29, 2021 at 6:25 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - When the Virginia football team had to withdraw from the Fenway Bowl due to COVID-19 issues in the program, Bronco Mendenhall lost his last opportunity to coach the Cavaliers.

Earlier this month, Mendenhall announced he would be stepping down at the end of the regular season, after six seasons with the ‘Hoos.

The announcement by the coach caught many by surprise, just like his hiring did.

Bronco Mendenhall was an unlikely candidate to take over the Cavaliers’ football program in 2015, because of his previous success.

Mendenhall had won 99-games over 11-years at BYU, and went to a bowl game every season.

He faced a massive rebuild in Charlottesville.

At his introductory press conference, Mendenhall said, “I love challenge. I love opportunity. I love growth. And I love continued progress. And I saw every one of those things as a possibility here.”

Mendenhall’s team struggled to a 2-10 record in his first year in 2016.

But behind mottos like “Earned, Not Given,” and “The New Standard,” the improvement started to take place.

Six wins and a bowl game in 2017.

Eight wins and a bowl victory in 2018.

2019 brought nine wins, a Coastal Division Championship, and a trip to the Orange Bowl.

It also saw the return of the Commonwealth Cup, after a 15-year stay in Blacksburg.

The Cavaliers navigated Pandemic Protocols very well in 2020, but finished with a .500 record.

They ended up 6-6 this season, and even while preparing his team for the now-canceled bowl, Mendenhall continued to build.

“I’m spending an hour or so per day right now with Tony (Elliott), every morning,” says Mendenhall, “just talking about everything in our program, which is pretty unique in college football.”

New UVA head coach Tony Elliott adds, “He cares deeply about the Virginia football program. He cares deeply about this university, and he wants to see this program be successful, and he’s willing to invest his time, when he doesn’t have to, to help me continue to learn and grow, so I can be prepared to take it to the next level.”

Tony Elliott is the 42nd head coach in the history of the Virginia football program.

Copyright 2021 WVIR. All rights reserved.

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