PROVO — Bronco Mendenhall left coaching at BYU five years ago, so why run a big piece on him in the Deseret News during the second week of May 2020?
Well, for a lot of reasons.
It isn’t to compare Mendenhall to current coach Kalani Sitake, although some like to do that.
It isn’t because Mendenhall has replaced Nick Saban or Bill Belichick on the interview priority request list.
It’s because Mendenhall left a successful rebuilding job coaching BYU and accepted another rebuilding job at Virginia. That’s intriguing to many.
It’s because Mendenhall, once considered one of the most influential sports figures in Utah, remains an interesting personality who is contributing at a high level.
It’s because it’s the third month of no actual sports competition to report on and our business is obsessed with local history, personalities, projection of facts, all-star teams, biographies, trends, what-ifs and memories.
It’s because Mendenhall went to American Fork High and Snow College. He’s one of us.
It’s because he’s a surfer, a philosopher, a deep-thinker who interviewers always find forthright, honest, quotable, full of contemporary ideas and unique approaches to football and life.
It’s because he is an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a major religion in this state, as are the majority of those on his Virginia coaching staff who still have ties to Utah and by all accounts are respectable examples of their faith.
It’s because Mendenhall and his staff have turned Virginia’s football fortunes around, leading the Cavaliers to the ACC championship game against Clemson this past season.
It’s because his staff is the only one in the ACC that doesn’t work on Sundays.
It’s because ESPN.com found Mendenhall worthy of a lead piece the third week of September 2019 when Virginia was ranked nationally for the third consecutive week and 4-0 for the first time since 2004.
It’s because Virginia was in the dumps six years ago, Mendenhall is a reconstructionist and therefore it makes for a good tale.
It’s because Bronco’s wife Holly is extremely fun to be around, a native Montana character.
It’s because Virginia might recruit heavily in the East, but consistently recruits Utah, California, Colorado, and Hawaii against Utah, BYU and Utah State for the same prospects, and they are winning some of those battles.
It’s because of his statement that after being the guy tasked with taking BYU football into independence in 2010, he’s been unwavering in his belief that Cougar football independence is unsustainable. That is an interesting and much-debated proclamation for those who follow BYU.
It’s because our Jeff Call was able to score a 90-minute interview with Mendenhall, and that is a big yield for Division I coach availability. Again, a pandemic threw us an assist.
It’s because Mendenhall may have left Provo, but he loves BYU and credits his coaching experience at the school as a major development in his approach as a head coach. It was the longest stay he’d had since he decided to become a coach.
It’s because his son Cutter, an academic type who was looking to go to Oxford or an Ivy League school, came off a church mission and decided to attend BYU. That is intriguing, backing the family’s claim that they have loyalty and love for the experience in Provo.
It’s because Mendenhall was 99-43 in 10 seasons at BYU.
It’s because he is now earning $3.4 million at Virginia and is 25-27 but his records have steadily climbed in wins beginning with 2-10, 6-7, 8-5, and 9-5 with an Orange Bowl invite this past season.
It’s because, well … we can.