Bronco isn’t a nickname.
Marc Bronco Clay Mendenhall, the son of a rancher, was born that way 50 years ago in Alpine, Utah. Before he hit the trail for Charlottesville, he coached football at several universities, but none east of Louisiana.
That changed in December when Virginia hired Mendenhall to replace Mike London, who left after six seasons. Known as meticulous and driven, Mendenhall brings with him a 99-43 record in 11 seasons as head coach at Brigham Young University. All of his teams went to a bowl game, and none of them suffered a losing season.
Saddle up for what could be an interesting ride.
Winning, by the book
Mendenhall wrote the book on building a winning football team using organizational strategies.
Specifically, Mendenhall shared thoughts for Running Into the Wind with management consultant Paul Gustavson, whose “five smooth stones” principles helped Mendenhall’s teams at Brigham Young University appear in 11 bowl games in 11 seasons.
As a rookie coach at BYU, Mendenhall says he bought into the theories of Gustavson, a BYU grad, after feeling “overwhelmed” by his challenge. Eleven winning seasons later, Mendenhall now speaks of preserving his “core” structure from BYU while “stimulating progress” at UVA.
“What we have is very effective, very efficient, and is one of the fastest models in college football,” Mendenhall says. That model includes Sundays off and staff members home to their families most nights by 6:30.
“I want it all—not only for the players, but for the coaches,” Mendenhall says.
At BYU, Mendenhall says he felt the weight of visibly representing the Mormon church, and so he worked to highlight the private school’s “unique strengths and position in the marketplace.”
While public and secular, Virginia is similar, he says, for its academic prominence and rich history.
“Virginia’s Honor Code and principles of learning and leadership go all the way back to Thomas Jefferson, and that can be leveraged through football,” Mendenhall says.
The common theme is Mendenhall’s relentless drive, by which he plans to restore UVA’s football pride, on and off the field.
In his first weeks at UVA, he created a vision for his teams’ future success: a Rotunda supported by pillars of family, toughness, talent, intelligence, accountability, discipline and effort.
“I want our student-athletes to excel in every area of their life, to take no shortcuts,” Mendenhall says. “Shortcuts are always a bad trade.”
A look back
Bronco Mendenhall brings the number of Virginia football coaches to 40. Here are some of the more illustrious, and ill-fated, men to coach the Cavaliers, and a list of the head coaches from the past century.
Coach photos courtesy UVA Media Relations