Bronco Mendenhall leaves BYU to take over at Virginia

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Bronco Mendenhall had been pushing hard for football independent BYU to join a Power Five conference.  With that not on the horizon, Mendenhall decided to go and move himself into one.

In one of the most surprising developments of the 2015-16 coaching carousel — check that, THE most surprising development — Virginia announced Friday evening that it has hired Mendenhall as its new head football coach.  The 49-year-old Mendenhall, who will reportedly guide the Cougars through their bowl game, will replace Mike London, who was fired earlier this month after six years with the Cavaliers.

This will be Mendenhall’s first job in a coaching career which spans nearly three decades that is east of the Mississippi.

“Bronco Mendenhall’s teams have consistently won at a high level and he’s demonstrated the ability to create a strategic vision to build a program and then implement his plan to be successful,” UVa. athletic director Craig Littlepage said. “His emphasis on the overall development of student athletes and a commitment to academic achievement is in line with our goals of Uncompromised Excellence. We’re excited to begin a new era of Virginia football and support Bronco and his staff.”

Mendenhall had been at BYU for the past 13 years, 11 as head coach. He started as the defensive coordinator under Gary Crowton, then replaced his boss — after it was initially offered to current Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham — when Crowton resigned at the end of the 2004 season.

In 11 seasons, Mendenhall compiled a 99-42 record. The Cougars have played or will play in a bowl in all 11 of those seasons.

“I wish to express my appreciation to President Teresa Sullivan, Director of Athletics Craig Littlepage and Executive Associate Athletics Director Jon Oliver for their belief and trust in me to lead and guide the football program at the University of Virginia,” Mendenhall said. “Professionally and personally I seek to embrace the highest standards in college sports, on and off the field, and I love the high standards both academically and athletically at Virginia. I am excited to not only help provide the continual growth and development of the student athletes academically but also reestablish Virginia as a consistent winner with a fiercely competitive and winning product on the football field.

“BYU has played the pivotal role in my professional and personal life and I will be forever indebted to the outstanding young men and exceptional people I have had the opportunity to work with at BYU. My success at BYU was possible because these great people chose the phenomenal, unique and faith-based experience available at BYU.”

Mendenhall’s five-year contract at UVa. will have an annual compensation starting at $3.25 million; London made just under $3.2 million in his final season, which was third among the 12 ACC coaches listed in the USA Today database.  Mendenhall’s BYU salary was not listed.

UPDATED 5:52 p.m. ET: In a statement, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe confirmed that Mendenhall will coach the Cougars in their bowl game.

“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to work with Bronco as our head football coach. He has worked tirelessly on behalf of our student-athletes to give them the best possible collegiate experience, on and off the field. Bronco has been loyal through and through to BYU. I’m grateful for everything he’s done for the football program. He has a strong desire to complete this season and will coach our team at the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl. We wish Bronco, Holly and their family the very best as they move on to this new opportunity.
We will begin a national search for the next BYU head football coach immediately.”