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Why Bronco Mendenhall said he resigned from Virginia

Virginia Cavalier coach Bronco Mendenhall walks onto the field prior to a game with Notre Dame.
Virginia Cavalier coach Bronco Mendenhall walks onto the field prior to a game with Notre Dame in Charlottesville, Va., on Thursday Nov 13, 2021. Mendenhall is stepping down as coach.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

On Thursday afternoon, a shock was sent through the world of college football as Virginia Cavaliers head coach Bronco Mendenhall abruptly resigned from his position.

Soon after the announcement was made, Mendenhall met with reporters via Zoom to address why he made the decision.

Noting he’s been in the coaching profession for 31 years, Mendenhall said it was just this week that he felt he needed to step down.

“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 said.

He said he was asked to stay by both the university president and athletic director, saying “it was my decision only, and Holly my wife’s a little stunned and shocked, too still, 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.”

Mendenhall said he does intend to get back into coaching at some point.

“None of this I’m viewing as permanent,” he said. “This is just a chance to re-become.”

Observing that he feels college football needs “grown-ups,” Mendenhall said, “I’m not taking my decision lightly as I try to do those things and have tried.

“The next journey will be uncovered as we go. Hard to uncover it if there’s not a pause and contemplation and reflection, and so that’s what I’m choosing to do.”

Other highlights from the press conference, which lasted more than 40 minutes:

  • Mendenhall said the struggles Virginia has had this season did not contribute to his decision. The Cavaliers started 6-2 before stumbling down the stretch, losing the last four games of the regular season.
  • Despite his comment about the state of college football, he said that also was not a factor in his decision, reiterating it’s a chance to renew.
  • He said his coaching staff — many of whom followed him to Virginia from BYU — were shocked, as were his players.
  • Mendenhall said he had a “prompting” on Sunday (he later said that prompting came after prayer) that he needed to step down, and then he took “action steps in a different direction, and man, did that not feel good, and then returning to the first thought (Wednesday) afternoon, so short-term but impactful, and that’s after 31 years. That’s a pretty short window, but I know myself, and I know what that means, and man, does that take courage then to act on that, especially in a setting like this.”
  • He said numerous times that he loves his team.
  • Mendenhall was asked what role his faith (he is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) played in the decision. “I believe I have a Father in Heaven. I believe if I live and really try to connect, I can receive direction and promptings. Now, it takes courage to act on those in faith. Most every decision that’s been positive in my life has been when I’ve listened. Most of the time, kind of the natural part of me says ‘No, man, don’t do that,’ but inside I know that’s what I’m supposed to do.”
  • He was asked if he and his wife would be staying in Charlottesville (they will soon be empty nesters), to which he said he doesn’t know the answer to that yet.
  • Mendenhall noted how difficult his decision would be on the families of his staff, many of whom he has called his closest friends on numerous occasions.
  • On trying now to find a different identity away from being a football coach, Mendenhall said, “I don’t know how I’m going to do it. I don’t know how yet.”
  • Mendenhall said he’d be willing to help find his successor in any way he can.