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Williams provides timeline for Mendenhall departure, hiring process

carla williams
Virginia Athletics Director Carla Williams. Photo by Crystal Graham.

Carla Williams first heard from Bronco Mendenhall about his thoughts on possibly stepping down from his job at Virginia the day after the home-finale loss to Virginia Tech.

The Virginia AD gave about as complete an accounting on the timeline of the Mendenhall departure and the process that led to the hiring of Tony Elliott at the introductory press conference for Elliott on Monday.

“We talked on Sunday after the Virginia Tech game, and he was thinking about it. We had a great conversation and talked again the next day, and thought we were moving in the same direction,” Williams said.

“I think it was on Wednesday or Thursday when he shared that he wanted to step away, which was shocking to me and our student-athletes and our staff and our coaches. I think everyone was shocked by it,” Williams said. “But knowing him as a person, and Holly (his wife), as well, I think it was the right thing to do for them. He made the decision for himself, for his family, and so we were very fortunate because he had laid such a great foundation here and established a strong culture, and I think part of that made it attractive to Tony.”

We’re getting ahead of ourselves there, though.

Williams was asked if she had a short list of coaches handy in the event that Mendenhall would step down, maybe express a desire to leave for another job.

“I think every athletic director probably has a list of coaches to consider when needed, and we’re no different,” Williams said. “Coach Elliott has been on everyone’s list for a number of years, and so the opportunity to talk with him was valuable. We had one conversation by phone, and then we had multiple conversations, and we were able to meet in person, and just every time we spoke and every time that I saw him speak, I became more convinced that he was the right person for UVA.

“There was a lot of craziness in our industry the last few weeks. We tried to stay above the fray and stay out of it and just keep our head down. We knew what we needed, and we knew that Coach Elliott would be a great fit for us here at UVA,” Williams said.

That’s as close as we would get to learning if there had been any other coaches that got interviews or at least additional consideration.

From the sound of it, Elliott was the first and really only target.

“I was impressed the very first time that we spoke, and I think I sent a text to my staff or even called my staff and just said, Wow, just super impressive,” Williams said. “Coach talks about alignment, and I think that’s so important. We’re aligned together. We’re aligned with President Ryan. You have to have that in order to do something special, and that’s our intent. Our intent is to do something special.”

Among the things that stood out to Williams from her conversations with Elliott was this tidbit:

“One of the things that Coach Elliott said to me during the meetings or conversation was a lot of people want to have good teams, and he wants to build a great program. There is a distinct difference between having a good team and building, creating a great program,” Williams said.

“So, yes, being able to see, have a vision that is beyond right now for the University and for our football program was really important for me to get some insight into, and so that was a clear indication to me that not only was he thinking about the immediate needs of the program, but also what we need down the road. What does the university need down the road to have a healthy, stable, competitive football program?

“So, that conversation, I don’t remember which one it was, but just in that conversation was inspiring, quite frankly to me, so, I do understand that it’s important to have a track record of success. You have to know what it looks like, what it feels like, what it means, what it takes. So, yes, that was really, really important, also.”

Story by Chris Graham

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