Virginia Football Hires Bronco Mendenhall

Just days after missing out on perceived top target Mark Richt, Craig Littlepage pulled off an impressive hire by bringing in Bronco Mendenhall to coach Virginia Cavalier football.

Mendenhall has coached at BYU for the past 11 seasons where he’s amassed a 99-42 overall record. He’s qualified for a bowl game every season as a head coach and has posted a 6-4 mark in the postseason. In 2006, Mendenhall was named Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year for guiding the Cougars to an 11-2 overall record with a perfect 8-0 mark in conference play. The Cougars then posted the exact same records in 2007 in the process of winning back-to-back conference championships.

Mendenhall replaces Mike London who was well-liked, but failed to produce results on the field going 27-46 over six seasons in Charlottesville.

Reaction to the news has been positive and most everyone is impressed and stunned as this came virtually out of nowhere. Credit to Littlepage and Executive Associate Athletics Director Jon Oliver who combined to make a great hire while keeping it on the down low in a way that rarely happens anymore.

If Mendenhall can even begin to approach his success from Provo again, he may get a statue from the folks in Charlottesville. Virginia hasn’t had much success since mid-vintage Al Groh and the only truly consistent winner in program history was George Welsh. This hire reminds me a lot of when Buzz Williams was brought on to coach basketball at Virginia Tech. It was kept very quiet and came as a major surprise.

A hire like Buzz Williams at Virginia Tech sends a message.
A hire like Buzz Williams at Virginia Tech sends a message.

Both hirings also send a signal to those throughout college sports. In Virginia’s case, Littlepage and company are telling the country that UVA is taking football seriously again. If you aren’t convinced, there’s also the five-year $16.25 million contract Mendenhall signed which quite clearly states that the ‘Hoos mean business.

Scott Stadium is a nice facility when full, which has been a rarity in recent years. The ‘Hoos have already opened a new indoor practice facility and there are talks for even more increased funding directed at football for capital projects. Couple that kind of commitment with the fertile recruiting ground in the Commonwealth that UVA already does well with, and it’s easy to see why the job was attractive to an established coach like Mendenhall.

The ACC Coastal Division has suddenly become a coaching hotbed with Virginia right in the middle of it with a proven coach who has won six bowl games in the last eight seasons. Just in the last week, Justin Fuente was hired at Virginia Tech and Mark Richt signed on at Miami. They join Pat Narduzzi (Pittsburgh), Larry Fedora (North Carolina), Paul Johnson (Georgia Tech), and David Cutcliffe (Duke).

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better coaching lineup in one division in the country. With guys like Dabo Swinney, Jimbo Fisher and Bobby Petrino in the Atlantic Division and with Syracuse still yet to make a hire, the ACC has to now be considered one of the best-coached conferences in the nation.

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