In an emotional – and extraordinarily transparent – live stream interview, Bronco Mendenhall announced he is stepping down as head coach of UVA football. In the message, he expressed his intention to “renew, reflect, reinvent, rebecome, and then re-enter,” but likely not as a coach.
After 17 years as a head football coach – and having been widely regarded as successful, many coaches, athletes, fans, and journalists questioned, “why?” However, those who know Mendenhall best weren’t surprised at all. He’s known for sticking closely to his convictions (which are deeply rooted in the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
Mendenhall believes there’s so much more to coaching athletes than winning games. He believes it is the job of the adults in the program to instill “a sense of balance and wisdom” in the athletes and to “focus on the development of people.” He is not willing to compromise on that value, and yet he acknowledges that the pace required to achieve it is not sustainable. It is refreshing to witness a true leader acknowledge that they want to do something to the best of their ability and that anything less isn’t serving anyone well.
Mendenhall also believes he’s meant to find an endeavor with potentially greater impact than coaching. And while he’s not sure what that is yet, he wants time to discover what else there is for him beyond college football. He wants to focus on family and his faith. He’s given deliberate thought to priorities and chosen to pursue them.
Regarding the timing of Mendenhall’s announcement, some suggested a connection to recent losses. Mendenhall dismissed this notion and explained that his clear decision has nothing to do with wins or losses and everything to do with thoughtful reflection on a Sunday. Whether it’s services on Saturday, church on Sunday, or a Monday morning meditation, dedicating time to reflect helps us be intentional about our purpose.
At the time of the announcement, former UVA athlete and current NFL player for the LA Rams Bryce Perkins tweeted:
Thank you coach @UVACoachBronco for taking a chance on me out of juco. You changed my life and made me a better football player, leader and human being.
Perhaps Coach Mendenhall has yet to recognize the full depth of his impact with so many of his players.