The University of Virginia athletics department announced Sunday that head coach Bronco Mendenhall’s football program will not participate in a bowl game even it’s offered an invitation, putting an end to its 2020 season.
“Unless you live it each and every day, it is impossible to understand the mental, emotional and physical sacrifice these young men have made since their return in July,” UVA Athletic Director Carla Williams said in a statement. “I am proud of their commitment and their incredible maturity. Our students did everything we asked them to do and they were rewarded with the opportunity to compete in the sport they love when many doubted it could be done. The life lessons gained over the last nine months will serve them well.”
Virginia was one of just 17 football programs across the country to play 10+ games amid the coronavirus pandemic. The team never had to cancel or postpone a game due to issues related COVID-19, a stretch of 23 consecutive weeks playing without a locker room outbreak. Players weren’t permitted to leave Grounds together for personal reasons and interactions with family were limited postgame, socially distanced encounters.
“I told our team I valued their feedback and I wanted this to be their decision,” Mendenhall said in a statement. “Just as we met at the beginning of the year to make the choice to play, this was their choice to end the season at this time. I think it is appropriate for this team.
“They have all grown tremendously from the challenges put before them this year. But now is the time to return to families and loved ones. This team will always be special for how it handled competing during a pandemic. It is one more example of the amazing capacity and leadership of the young men that allow me to coach them every day.”
The Cavaliers finished the season 5-5, losing their final game of the season 33-15 to rival Virginia Tech.