“I told our team that I appreciated their feedback and I wanted this to be their decision,” Mendenhall said in the statement. “Just like we met at the beginning of the year to make the decision to play, this was your decision to end the season at that point. I think it’s appropriate for this team. “

Virginia (5-5, 4-5 ACC) last played four consecutive bowl games from 2002 to 2005, finishing its season ninth out of 15 teams at the conference after winning the Coastal Division ACC for the first time in 2019 the two-division alignment for this season was canceled due to the pandemic.

The final memory of this season for the Cavaliers is a 33:15 loss to Virginia Tech on Saturday night for the Commonwealth Cup. Virginia never rallied after allowing two long touchdowns within four minutes at Lane Stadium towards the end of the second quarter.

The loss came after the Cavaliers won four straight wins for the first time since September, moving over .500. Virginia have lost 16 of their last 17 games in the in-state series and 20 of their last 22 games.

One of the lasting images of the finale was the long disappointed look from linebacker Charles Snowden as the last few minutes came to an end with a right leg immobilized on a mini-scooter. The captain had an operation a few weeks ago for a broken ankle sustained on November 21 in a 55:15 win over Abilene Christian.

Snowden, a scheduled NFL prospect who led the Cavaliers in sacks (six), as well as the rest of the seniors can come back next season after the NCAA introduced an exemption for all players because of the pandemic.

“They have all grown tremendously from the challenges they have been given this year,” said Mendenhall. “But now is the time to get back to families and loved ones. This team will always be special for dealing with competition during a pandemic. It’s another example of the amazing ability and leadership of the young men that enables me to coach them every day. “

The Cavaliers were one of only 17 programs to play 10 games this season without being postponed or canceled due to virus problems related to their locker room. What would have been an eleventh game against Florida State on November 28th was canceled after an outbreak in the Seminoles’ program.

A few days later, Mendenhall said he was not interested in returning to Tallahassee for a makeup game.

The players reported to campus on July 5 and have been practicing or engaging in other football-related activities for 23 weeks since then. During this time, according to the sports department, they were never allowed to leave campus as a group for personal reasons.

The only personal contact with the immediate family during the regular season was during a shortened period after the Games.

“If you don’t live it every day, it’s impossible to understand the spiritual, emotional, and physical sacrifices these young men have made since they returned in July,” said Carla Williams, Virginia sports director. “I am proud of your commitment and your incredible maturity.”