New Mexico Hires Bronco Mendenhall As Its New Football Coach; Formerly Coached Byu And Virginia

FILE - Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall watches from the sideline during an NCAA college football game against Pittsburgh, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Pittsburgh. New Mexico hired Bronco Mendenhall as its new head football coach Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023. The 57-year-old Mendenhall compiled a 135-81 record over 17 seasons at BYU and Virginia and was 7-7 in bowl games before he stepped away from coaching following the 2021 season. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)
FILE - Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall watches from the sideline during an NCAA college football game against Pittsburgh, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Pittsburgh. New Mexico hired Bronco Mendenhall as its new head football coach Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023. The 57-year-old Mendenhall compiled a 135-81 record over 17 seasons at BYU and Virginia and was 7-7 in bowl games before he stepped away from coaching following the 2021 season. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico hired Bronco Mendenhall as its new head football coach Wednesday.

The 57-year-old Mendenhall compiled a 135-81 record over 17 seasons at BYU and Virginia and was 7-7 in bowl games before he stepped away from coaching following the 2021 season.

Mendenhall moved to Montana with his wife Holly and spent time fishing and horseback riding before deciding to return to college football.

He’s the 33rd head coach in New Mexico’s football history and succeeds Danny Gonzales, who was fired Nov. 25 after a 4-8 season at his alma mater. Gonzales had an 11-32 record over four seasons with the Lobos, who haven’t had a winning season since 2016.

Albuquerque TV station KOB reported that Mendenhall signed a five-year contract with the Lobos. A news conference was scheduled for Thursday morning.

In a statement Wednesday, Mendenhall said he welcomed “the challenge and opportunity of building a program of excellence” and added that he and his wife were excited to be returning to Albuquerque after 25 years.

“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,” athletic director Eddie Nuñez said in a statement. “Coach Mendenhall has twice taken over programs that were struggling, turning them into winning, championship programs.”

All 11 of Mendenhall’s BYU teams went to a bowl and he guided Virginia to three bowl games, including the Orange Bowl in 2019.

BYU won Mountain West Conference championships in 2006 and 2007 under Mendenhall and he was named the Mountain West coach of the year in 2006.

Mendenhall, who played safety and linebacker at Oregon State from 1986-87 and was a team captain, started his coaching career as a graduate assistant with the Beavers before becoming a position coach or defensive coordinator at Utah’s Snow College, Northern Arizona and Louisiana Tech.