Virginia football coach Bronco Mendenhall is stepping down after the team’s upcoming bowl game, he said Thursday.
Mendenhall, 55, said it was solely his decision to leave.
“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,” he said. “I was requested to stay by our athletic director. I was requested to stay by our president. It’s my decision only.”
The Cavaliers have gone 36-38 in his six seasons, including a 2019 ACC Coastal Division championship and the team’s first New Year’s Six appearance in the Orange Bowl.
Virginia finished 6-6 this season, the fifth straight year the Cavaliers are bowl-eligible.
Mendenhall said he started thinking about his future on Sunday, and decided in fairly short order he needed to take a step back after 31 straight years in coaching, both as a head coach and an assistant. When he delivered the news to his staff and players, they were all stunned.
Mendenhall said he never told anyone he was contemplating stepping away.
“Every year I redefine my purpose, and I have a purpose statement, and I put that on the screen, and then showed how this choice reflects that,” Mendenhall said of his message at his team meeting. “That’s the framework I started from, and hard to talk and be emotional at the same time in front of people that you love. But I wanted them to understand that it’s nothing they did. I love them and trying to say, ‘OK, How can I add more impact to the world? Maybe after a refresh, a recalibration. It’s not sustainable, this pace, as a college football coach and as a head coach for that many years.'”
Mendenhall reiterated multiple times this is not a retirement, but a way for him to take a step back after 31 straight years in coaching to help him ultimately become a better person and better coach.
“If you really, really want to do it, right, not just winning, but if you really want amazing academics, if you want to really build great people, if you really want amazing character, if you really want to teach values, if you really want service to happen, that’s harder rather than easier,” Mendenhall said. “I want all of that and, I’m not gonna do it unless I feel energetic enough to do all that. I’m looking to continue to add value, not just ride it out.”
Mendenhall said he is looking forward to helping his team win one final game, but that he doesn’t have a plan yet for how he will approach the coming months. He noted he’s looking forward to spending more time with his wife, Holly.
“I don’t know what’s next. But if I didn’t think the decision was necessary to add more value, then I wouldn’t have done it,” Mendenhall said. “So this isn’t to break and pause and then become irrelevant. This is actually to break and pause to then become hopefully more impactful and helping and developing and teaching and serving others. So I’m excited about that. What is it going to look like? I don’t know. There’s no remorse. There’s emotion.”
Before arriving at Virginia, Mendenhall spent 11 seasons at BYU, going 99-43 with 11 bowl appearances.
In 17 years as a head coach, Mendenhall has gone 135-81, ranking eighth among current FBS head coaches in winning percentage (.625).