NCAA Football: Liberty at Virginia

Bronco Mendenhall is returning to coaching. New Mexico has hired the former Virginia and BYU coach for its opening, the school announced on Wednesday. Mendenhall, 57, has been out of the profession the past two seasons after resigning following his sixth year leading the Cavaliers.

New Mexico moved on from ex-coach Danny Gonzales after he posted an 11-32 record in four seasons on the job. Landing a candidate of Mendenhall's caliber marks a strong hire for the Lobos, who have been to just two bowls in the last 15 seasons.

"We are excited to welcome Bronco Mendenhall as our new head football coach," New Mexico athletic director Eddie Nuñez said. "Throughout this process, we were looking for not just a proven winner, but a leader of men that has a clear vision for what our program can be.  Coach Mendenhall has twice taken over programs that were struggling, turning them into winning, championship programs.  I look forward to having Bronco and Holly here and becoming assets for our great community and leading Lobo Football."

Mendenhall is 135-81 in 17 seasons as a head coach. He led BYU to 11 straight bowl appearances from 2005-2015 before taking the Virginia job after the 2015 season. After a 2-10 start, he guided the Cavaliers to three bowl appearances and two more .500 seasons. Mendenhall did not rule out a return to coaching when he resigned in 2021, but sounded like a man who needed a break.

"I've been a head coach for 17 years in a row. I was an assistant 11 before then, and I was a graduate assistant two years before then," Mendenhall said at the time. "That's 31 years straight of football. My wife and I will have been married 25 years in March. All we've known together is the rhythm of a football season."

A return at New Mexico makes sense for Mendenhall, who was on staff there from 1998-2002 as defensive coordinator before taking the defensive coordinator job at BYU. The Utah native played defensive back at Snow College and Oregon State before entering coaching.

"After 25 years, Holly and I are excited to be returning to Albuquerque where we have many fond memories," Mendenhall said in a statement.  "We welcome the challenge and opportunity of building a program of excellence. We are excited to get to know the players, assemble a world-class group of people, immerse ourselves in the community and truly make a difference at UNM."

Mendenhall has now joined a Mountain West makeover as five head coaching jobs in the league are changing hands. San Diego State hired Colorado offensive coordinator and former Kent State coach Sean Lewis. Boise State promoted defensive coordinator and interim head coach Spencer Danielson to replace Andy Avalos. UTEP hired Austin Peay coach Scotty Walden to replace Dana Dimel. Nevada hired Texas co-defensive coordinator Jeff Choate to replace Ken Wilson. 

Some fresh blood could be a good thing for the league after the regular season ended with no Mountain West squads ranked in the AP Top 25 poll or College Football Playoff Rankings.