As a football fan, I read with interest the news that coach Bronco Mendenhall recently resigned as head football coach of the Virginia Cavaliers.   It came as a shock to the administration and especially the fans – particularly because the team won nine games and went to the Orange Bowl in 2019, and the university’s program has been quite successful with Mendenhall as coach.

The coach said it was 100% his choice. “He has done an exceptional job of not just transforming the program, but elevating the expectations for the program,” noted Virginia Athletic Director Carla Williams. Referring to Mendenhall’s impact on the players, Williams said, “He is more than a football coach, and the impact he has had on these young men will be a positive influence for the rest of their lives.” 

Reading between the lines, I take it that Coach Mendenhall is a man of integrity, with a wholesome character that rubbed off on his players.  But in terms only a coach could have expressed, Mendenhall said that after “31 years of straight football…I need to step back from college football.”  He felt he had to “reassess, renew, reframe, reinvent with my wife as a partner [my emphasis] our future and the next chapter of our life.”  He and his wife Holly were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary this year, so he felt this was the best decision for him to make.  Even his wife was shocked.  But the coach felt he needed to do this to be “the very best person I can be moving forward.” 

Wow! I really admire this coach!  You could tell in his short video on Twitter that sincere words were coming from a man who had his priorities straight.  Not many coaches would walk away from a successful program to “renew, reframe, reinvent, and reconnect in his marriage.”  I tip my Kansas State football cap to the coach.  I wonder: how many coaches would walk away from the fame and glory that accompany a successful football program?   

What can we learn from the Coach Mendenhall’s example?  First, he certainly is an exemplar in establishing the right priorities for marriage.  He thought of his wife as a “partner in the next chapter of our life.” 25 years is a milestone in any marriage.  In the next phase of their marriage, he wanted to his wife’s input as his “partner” as he attempts to “reframe, renew, and reinvent” his marriage.  That takes some serious relationship work on his part. 

Men, I encourage you to include your wife in all those transitions in life and have the courage to include her as an equal partner in reevaluating your marriage.  It could be an anniversary, the empty nest, or even a physical move.  For my bride and me, it was our recent move to a senior apartment away from the lake. It was a mutual decision. I thank the Lord since the move was more difficult for me than it was for my bride. Judy helped me to “step back” and continually reevaluate the decision we had made together.

Secondly, the coach had the courage to say to the world, “My marriage is more important than my coaching career.”  My hunch is that the coach was more concerned about improving his marriage of 25 years than becoming more successful with the “X’s and O’s” of the game of football.  He was not willing to sacrifice his marriage on the altar of the Virginia Football program.  Men, tending to the demands of your marriage is more important than the demands imposed on you by your chosen career.