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Zoom Rules: UVA football coach Bronco Mendenhall lays down the virtual law

uva footballUVA football coach Bronco Mendenhall is known for his attention to detail. So, you’re not surprised that his detail for his players these days includes something called Zoom Rules.

“I love habits. I love learning. And I think that a Zoom screen can reflect intent. I think it can prove intent,” said Mendenhall, who like other college football coaches across the country has been tasked with trying to keep his team together virtually through the COVID-19 lockdowns.

His Zoom Rules give him and his staff a window into their players’ worlds.

‘We ask our players to prove their intent by what their screen looks like. I’m talking about lighting. I’m talking about notebooks. I’m talking about pens. I’m talking about what they’re wearing. Their countenance,” Mendenhall said.

Most of us who had never heard of Zoom until a couple of months ago, and now have it as part of their daily lives, can identify, and also not.

Maybe at first, we made it a point to wear a collared shirt, make sure the background was tidy, turn off the TV.

Now, how many ever weeks we’re into this now, yeah, slippage.

You don’t play for Bronco Mendenhall if you allow things to slip.

“We hold them accountable to those Zoom rules,” Mendenhall said. “I’m not currently evaluating practice, but what I can evaluate is their attempt to learn, and not what they’re saying, but just by looking at the screens. We make a point to ensure that we’re showing what the proper comportment looks like, and what it doesn’t, and that’s transparent in front of their peers.”

Update on June 1

Mendenhall said his team will not be able to permit players to participate in voluntary workouts on Grounds beginning June 1 despite the NCAA announcement allowing that. School officials are waiting to get clearance from the state and the university.

“All of those plans are still in the works, and there are so many variables in so many different time frame,” Mendenhall said. “Literally, I’m on meetings almost every day, and I haven’t found any consistency yet, from one day to the next. It changes so fast. New dynamics, new problems come up. But there’s a lot of moving parts in terms of the housing of the players, the meals for the players, the transportation. This would be for all students as well, not just the players, so for all students, and how to keep them safe and how to keep them and give them the best care, let alone practice, and work out and train with weights and possibly share equipment. And so, no modifications have been done to this point. But about every scenario possible is being considered on how we might take this on when given the clearance to.”

Listening to Mendenhall think out loud through the moving parts, it sounds like it’s probably the best move to take a wait-and-see approach.

“What’s unique about this year, this set of circumstances, is the variance by state. The variance by state is changing the whole model. It’s really making it very difficult to have universality in start times when it comes to returning to Grounds for voluntary workouts. I hope at the very, very minimum, there’s established a uniform or universal start date or number of practices before first game, some kind of equality that way,” Mendenhall said.

“June 1 is some magical date where the data has now supported people coming back. It might work just the other way, where those coming back early might then have to stop, regroup and hold because it’s too early. All things being equal, if all circumstances are healthy, and we’re allowed, it’s great to have our team back and the more motivated teams train like crazy in the voluntary setting. And there’s a lot of camaraderie and continuity as well as physiological benefits to doing so. The biggest question right now is, I think that each state is wrestling with, each institution is wrestling with, and we’re relying on the medical community to help us is, it is it appropriate to come back yet?”

News and notes

  • Since finals, coaches have been able to be in contact with players for team and position group meetings for a total of eight hours a week, no more than two hours in any single day.
  • Mendenhall said a small number of players are enrolled in the first session of summer school, which is being conducted online. He expects the majority of the team to be enrolled in the second session, which will also be online. A third session may be on Grounds.
  • Indiana transfer running back Ronnie Walker is already participating in team activities. St. Francis grad transfer wideout Ra’Shaun Henry will be able to participate in team activities next week. Mississippi State grad transfer quarterback will not be able to participate until he finishes his last class at Mississippi State in mid-June.

Story by Chris Graham