Is UVA football coach Bronco Mendenhall on the hot seat?
You assume Bronco Mendenhall is secure at UVA in the second year of his five-year contract, and he probably is.
Meaning that the two guys who lured Mendenhall 2,200 miles east two autumns ago are no longer who the coach will answer to.
And meaning that whoever ends up being the new AD at Virginia won’t have the personal investment in Mendenhall of having hired him.
New AD hires rather famously like to be able to put their imprint on their new schools. Just look down the road to the job that Whit Babcock has done at Virginia Tech, where he has basically turned over everything of significance since he arrived in 2014, with pretty good results for the trouble.
The new AD at UVA won’t have much to do with, say, men’s basketball, except to tell Tony Bennett that he’s doing a good job. There might be a need to put extra attention on women’s basketball, but everything else seems to be working just fine, just fine.
But then there’s football, and what I’m hearing is that some in the base of donors who foot the bills at UVA are having second thoughts about the Mendenhall hire, and want the next AD to have full autonomy over what is obviously the marquee job in the department, to the point of being able to make a change whenever it would be deemed necessary to do so.
This is significant, because you have to think that the top qualified candidates for an AD job as high profile as the one at UVA is, with an annual budget of $103 million, third-highest in the ACC and 28th nationally, would expect to have that level of power.
Which is to say that if, say, Mendenhall figures out a way to squeeze four, maybe five wins out of his second bunch this fall, then you have to say, OK, things are moving in the right direction, nothing to see here, we’ll re-evaluate next December.
But if this season turns into the trainwreck that we saw in Year 1, which ended with a seven-game losing streak and a 2-10 finish, it could be an all bets are off kind of situation.
A win this week over a UConn team that struggled to beat FCS Holy Cross in Week 1 is paramount, with a road trip to Boise State and then a brutal eight-game ACC schedule in the offing.
Virginia enters the game as a 10.5-point favorite, but this might be the only game left on the schedule in which the Cavs will be favored, aside from maybe the Boston College game in Week 8.
(The ESPN Power Index has UVA a slight favorite in that one, basically giving the ‘Hoos the edge because of home field.)
Lose to UConn, and Virginia could well be staring down a 1-11 season, and Mendenhall might be the next former UVA coach on the open market sooner than you’d otherwise think.
Column by Chris Graham