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College coach warps reality to make point about NFL aspirations

Boston College v Virginia

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 21: Head coach Bronco Mendenhall of the Virginia Cavaliers reacts to a play in the third quarter during a game against the Boston College Eagles at Scott Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)

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Most if not all college football coaches recruit high-school talent with the vague notion that their programs provide a stepping stone to the professional game. Even if the percentage of players who make it through the NCAA to the NFL is way too small to justify putting such notions in the heads of young players, the college coaches don’t hesitate to do it, because they know that any football player who is successful enough to be recruited by an FBS-level school already has entertained the idea of getting paid a lot of money to do what he’s been doing (and will continue to do, for at least three years) for free.

Besides, college football coaches aren’t putting the notions in the heads of the players. The notions had been hatched from the moment the players first showed dominance against their peers; the college football coaches are merely giving giant buttons that long to be pressed a gentle nudge.

Bronco Mendenhall, the third-year Virginia football coach, said Friday at a UVa Board of Visitors meeting that he’s trying to get his players not to think about playing in the NFL. Mendenhall explained at part of the discussion that he routinely asks his players to explain what their futures hold.

“Almost all say, even at [Virginia], my goal is to play in the NFL,” Mendenhall said, via the Lynchburg (Va.) News & Advance. “And then my simple response is, ‘And?’ It’s amazing the uncomfortable silence that immediately proceeds that.”

But silence, even of the uncomfortable kind, is far better than misguided, ill-informed, and inaccurate noise. Which is what Mendenhall supplied, by rattling off statistics that have no apparent basis in fact.

First, he claimed that “85 percent of the makeup of the NFL, those young people all come, 85 percent from single-parent homes.” Apart from likely being a wildly gross exaggeration of reality, it’s unclear what his point is.

Second, Mendenhall suggested that four of five players who succeed in the NFL are destined to leave the game broken, in multiple ways.

“The lucky ones that make it to their second contract -- that means there is some sustainability -- when they leave the NFL, they are all of the following -- this is 78 percent, almost 80 percent,” Mendenhall said. “They are divorced, bankrupt, a substance abuser and disabled, all four. That’s almost 80 percent of the lucky ones that make it to their second contract.”

So 80 percent of all players who earn a second contract in the NFL, according to Mendenhall, leave the game divorced and bankrupt and a substance abuser and disabled. Not one of the four. All of the four.

A UVA athletics spokesperson was asked where Mendenhall got his statistics. The response? “No idea.”

We’ve got no idea regarding what Mendenhall is trying to prove, but it’s safe to say that the coaches against whom he recruits will be printing and laminating his comments for use in recruiting.