CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WFXR) — It’s a homecoming that Bronco Mendenhall has kinda dreaded for quite some time.
“I’m passionate about any place that I coach and I don’t think you can lead it effectively without it going stronger than your contract. I think you have to believe in the ideals the young people values in an institution to lead effectively,” Mendenhall said at ACC Kickoff last July. “And I do, and I did at BYU, and I still do, and I do the same at Virginia. I couldn’t reconcile how I’m going to coach against this place. What I’ve realized along the way is I don’t make the decision.”
The topic came up during the head coach’s first media availability before the season in Charlotte, which gives you a sense of the anticipation surrounding the match-up, which is now less than a week away.
Mendenhall is set to return to BYU on Saturday night for the first time since taking over the UVA program in 2015.
It’s been six years since Mendenhall has coached in Provo, Utah, where he spent 13 years, 11 of them as a head coach. He left a lasting legacy at BYU with 99 head coaching victories and a bowl invite each and every year at the helm.
“I’m much better now because very few, if any, players are left and that makes it easier,” Mendenhall said. “Not easy but easier.”
Mendenhall will be taking a UVA squad that is riding a four-game winning streak and just became bowl eligible.
Saturday is a game years in the making and was scheduled before Mendenhall took over the Cavaliers program. It’s also a game he didn’t really want to coach in.
“I do remember when I was announced (I was) leaving BYU that I wouldn’t play this game. I didn’t know how to make it any clearer, but that didn’t happen,” Mendenhall said. “I’ve been through all the emotions. I’ve had six years to go through the emotions. My job is to do the very best that I can for my team.”
It’ll be a late kickoff for the Cavs and Cougars, set for 10:15 p.m. Eastern on Saturday night.
“To be clear, I’m normally in bed at 9:30,” Mendenhall said. “So yeah, I’m going to have to work my sleep schedule a little bit this week.”