CHARLOTTESVILLE — Virginia football coach Bronco Mendenhall needed just three years to elevate the Cavaliers to their first winning season since 2011 and first bowl victory since 2005.
Now, UVA heads into 2019 as a legitimate title contender in the ACC’s Coastal Division. So, has the mindset of Mendenhall’s program changed, the proverbial ‘chip on the shoulder’ a thing of the past?
“That chip is still there and it’s giant,” Mendenhall said this week. “We have plenty to accomplish. We’re just beginning. It’s just getting started in terms of a baseline and a reference point to launch from. I’m really realistic about that and anxious to keep working.”
Thursday, UVA took a step to make sure Mendenhall keeps working for it, announcing a contract extension with the coach that runs through 2024. Terms of the extension were not revealed. Mendenhall’s original five-year contract, signed before the 2016 season, calls for him to be paid $3.5 million this season and $3.7 million in 2020.
It included automatic one-year extensions after the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Mendenhall, who took over at UVA before the 2016 season after 11 seasons at BYU, led the Cavaliers to an 8-5 record and a Belk Bowl win over South Carolina this past year.
In three seasons in Charlottesville, he’s 16-22 but he’s taken Virginia to bowl games each of the last two seasons.
“We are excited about the direction of the Virginia football program under the guidance and leadership of Bronco Mendenhall,” UVA athletic director Carla Williams said in a statement released by the school. “He has done an exceptional job of establishing a culture of excellence on the field, in the community and in the classroom. He is driven to elevate Virginia Football to a championship standard in all areas and the Athletics Master Plan is evidence of our commitment to Coach Mendenhall, his staff and our student-athletes. I am excited about the future and we look forward to continued progress under his leadership.”
This coming season, Virginia returns star quarterback Bryce Perkins and cornerback Bryce Hall, along with 11 other starters on offense or defense.
Wednesday, the day before the extension was announced, speaking to the media to promote his women’s football clinic, Mendenhall said, despite being a trendy pick to contend for the division this year, his program is as hungry and as much of an underdog as ever.
“It might be fun, exciting and intoxicating to read that, but really it doesn’t matter,” Mendenhall said. “We were picked last last year and it didn’t have anything to do with us beating South Carolina in the bowl game. We still have to play. We still have to earn whatever our ranking or position will be. It’s nice to be considered and that folks have paid attention to what’s happened the last two years but it has no impact on what we do.”