UVA Basketball inspiration paying forward for the football ‘Hoos

uva footballUVA basketball coach Tony Bennett famously got a call from Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney before the 2019 Final Four.

Remember that?

Swinney isn’t expecting a call from his buddy ahead of Saturday night.

“I doubt I’ll be getting a good luck call from him. He’s going to be pulling for those Cavaliers,” Swinney said Sunday. “If we’re fortunate enough to win the game, I’m sure he’ll send his well wishes for the postseason.”

Bennett told the story this past spring about how his team happened to drive past the Clemson football national championship celebration in January on its way to its game with the Tigers hoops team that day, and how he used the moment as inspiration for his squad.

Things get paid forward. The basketball team’s run to a national title has been an inspiration for the UVA football team this fall.

“At the University of Virginia, what I have learned in coming here is the university, as well as the athletic department, expects excellence. Football had been lagging behind, had kind of been supported and viewed as an afterthought for a significant amount of time. I was hired to influence and correct that, as well as our new administration. That is happening,” Virginia football coach Bronco Mendenhall said, noting the fall success of the men’s and women’s soccer teams, the field hockey team, and now the football ‘Hoos getting ready to compete in the program’s first ACC Championship Game.

“That seems normal and commonplace at the University of Virginia, which is not normal and it’s not commonplace. It’s pretty remarkable,” Mendenhall said. “But the culture you’re mentioning, as players and young people communicate, they certainly can say, If that person or if that team can do this, they don’t seem that much different than us, then maybe this is possible.

“I think it certainly helps. I can’t tell you to the degree of influence, but I think it does have an influence.”

Story by Chris Graham


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