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Mendenhall brings welcomed vision to Virginia football

<p>Newly-hired football coach Bronco Mendenhall met members of the University community and media for the first time Monday</p>

Newly-hired football coach Bronco Mendenhall met members of the University community and media for the first time Monday

The Virginia football masses gathered in John Paul Jones Arena Monday morning for new coach Bronco Mendenhall’s well-anticipated introductory presser.

Athletic Director Craig Littlepage and President Teresa Sullivan were in attendance. As were donors, current players and former coach George Welsh. Even basketball coach Tony Bennett stopped by.

Hopefully they brushed up on their Michael Porter, an economist and professor at Harvard Business School, readings beforehand. If not, they have some catching up to do.

To Mendenhall, football is more than just X’s and O’s. Don’t be mistaken – he knows how to draw up plays. In fact, he indicated he will also call Virginia’s defense while patrolling the sidelines as head coach.

The former Brigham Young coach, however, was serious when he referenced the Harvard economist. To him, football is a series of interrelated parts that extends beyond the football field – every decision his staff makes in the office plays a role in the program’s on-field success.

“I spent over 500 hours in organizational design and behavior designing BYU’s program specific to BYU, and this program will be designed specific for the University of Virginia,” Mendenhall said.

Mendenhall made clear he wants the Virginia football program to run like a well-oiled machine – better than his Harley Davidson, even. He wants the Cavaliers working harder and smarter. So much so, he never plans to cut out his mandatory 90 minutes of relaxation during the day.

“I’m going to have the renewable part because the organization is so efficient and so fast that it can be accomplished,” he said.

And it’s easy to buy into his ideals, especially given the success he had at BYU. To those who think Virginia is limited by its academic standards, it’s nothing compared to what Mendenhall dealt with at BYU, which must find players willing to go on a two-year mission and abstain from the traditional college nightlife.

Furthermore, as Mendenhall talked about the success his players need to have in the classroom and on the field, it became increasingly apparent why he was the man chosen for the job.

As far as Littlepage and associate athletic director Jon Oliver were concerned, he checked off every box on their wish list. He has a proven system and is a consistent winner. He’s an experienced recruiter who can develop student-athletes.

“We were able to find a coach who fit the University of Virginia,” Littlepage said. “He was able to fulfill all of the requirements we had for the new head football coach.”

But paramount to all, he brings a vision. Not a wishy-washy ‘let’s win football games’ vision, but one backed by analytics.

In a quest to find the secret formula for winning, he dug through BYU data going back 25 years. His takeaway? The number one predictor of success is how many points you score. The next best predictor? How many points you give up.

It all sounds rather elementary, but then he found an exact number showing if his teams scored a certain number of points, they would win 85 percent of their games. Mendenhall is not only well versed in organizational behavior, but apparently statistics too.

“Results are not an accident,” he said. “Results are intentional and they’re planned and they are coordinated.”

When Mendenhall talked in front of his team Monday morning before speaking to the media, he first welcomed the players. His words, however, became harsh as he went on.

For a team that needs a facelift, he made clear he will provide it. Some may decide to transfer away, but if they do, he wouldn’t want them anyway. Mendenhall desires players that fit the mindset of his program.

He stated he will rebuild Virginia football by instilling accountability, discipline and effort – characteristics that were talked about, but not necessarily enforced, under former coach Mike London.

Mendenhall said the only off-day his players will have this offseason is Christmas. Junior quarterback Matt Johns, however, left under the impression everyone should get in a workout Christmas day. Before he flew back from Charlottesville to Provo, Utah Monday evening to prepare for BYU’s bowl game, the players knew what challenge awaited them.

“I don’t know how ready they are, but they better be – and they have to be,” junior running back Taquan Mizzell said. “It’s either you’re with it or you’re not. You’re either on this side or you’re on that side.”

Added Mendenhall: “I will outlast you.”

Virginia found its man in Mendenhall. When the media speculated Littlepage was scouring for an offense guru, up-and-coming coach, he snatched the BYU great out of left field. Searching for a new leadership and direction in the football program, Virginia made an A plus hire.

“I want [uncompromised excellence] in the most fiercely efficient organizational design that exists in college football,” Mendenhall said. “We will work harder but more efficient and faster in less time than what anyone else does in the world.”

Virginia fans might want to brush up on their Porter readings. Maybe even go through with a highlighter. School is now in session.

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