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Bronco Mendenhall agrees to 5-year deal with New Mexico

Mendenhall will take over the New Mexico Lobos football program, which went 4-8 this year

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Is Bronco Mendenhall headed to New Mexico to become the school’s football coach?

Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall watches from the sideline during the an NCAA college football game against BYU on Oct. 30, 2021, in Provo. Is Mendenhall headed to New Mexico?

George Frey, Associated Press

Bronco Mendenhall, former head football coach at both BYU and Virginia, is a college football coach once again.

Brett McMurphy, a college football insider for Action Network, reported Wednesday that Mendenhall has agreed to a five-year deal with New Mexico.

The school then confirmed the news on social media, saying “We got our guy!”

The Athletics’ Chris Vannini and Bruce Feldman reported Tuesday that Mendenhall was among the finalists for New Mexico’s open head coaching position.

ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported later Tuesday that Mendenhall was the school’s No. 1 target for the job.

A former assistant at New Mexico, from 1998 through 2002, Mendenhall checks off all of the boxes as far as what the leadership at New Mexico was looking for in a new head coach, Vannini reported.

“Mendenhall was in the mix for the Colorado job last year and has been around several other openings in this cycle. He went 135-81 as a head coach from 2005 to ’21, a consistent winner with 11 seasons of at least eight wins. The Utah native was also New Mexico’s defensive coordinator from 1998 to ’02, where he, too, coached (Brian) Urlacher into a first-round pick. Mendenhall is plenty familiar with the region and the Mountain West.”

Mendenhall did have real competition for the gig, though, with former San Diego State head coach Rocky Long and former Utah State/Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells standing as other finalists, along with North Dakota State’s Matt Entz.

Both Mendenhall and Wells have had considerable success coaching in the Mountain West Conference. Mendenhall coached teams that won 10 or more games in four of six seasons when BYU was still a member of the MW, while Wells-led Utah State won nine-plus games in three of six seasons.

New Mexico fired Danny Gonzalez at the end of the regular season, after the Lobos finished the year 4-8 overall.

That was an improvement on previous campaigns, but Gonzalez finished his four-year tenure leading the Lobos with an 11-32 record.

When Mendenhall stepped down as the head coach at Virginia in 2021, he said that he needed a chance to “re-become.”

“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 never closed the door on a return to coaching, though, and will now reenter the coaching ranks at a place he has great familiarity with.