Open Announce

Lobo Football’s Record Setting GPA Speaks to Bigger Things

by Frank Mercogliano

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When Bronco Mendenhall was hired as the 33rd head football coach in Lobo history, most fans figured they would have to wait to see results.  The first game was nearly nine months away. The Lobos were coming off a 4-8 season, the best in the past seven, but a gut-wrenching double overtime loss to Utah State. While the on-field results are a few months away, tangible progress is evident.  The fact that it took about five months is reason for Lobo fans to get excited.

Lobo fans excited? Lobo partners should be excited, and really, the city and state should be too, because breaking records is a reason to feel good.  Breaking academic records is a reason to shout, and this one needs shouted from the rooftops.

The grades for the Spring semester are in, and Lobo Football, in its first semester under the leadership of Mendenhall, established that this Lobo team is locked in, bought in, and focused.  The team as a group turned in a 3.229 GPA, and that number is easily a program record.  It marked just the fourth time in program history (dating back to when GPA records started in 1988) that the team recorded a 3.0 or better.  The team also recorded the top improvement among all Lobo teams for the Spring, moving up +0.26, nearly half a letter grade.

Combined with the fall semester, the program had an overall GPA of 3.09, which also is easily a record.  The previous best mark for a single semester was 3.10 in COVID spring 2020 semester in which all grades were pass/fail.  For a non-COVID semester, the previous best was 3.05 last spring.

Now, Mendenhall rather famously held his introductory press conference on December 7 and when it was over, he left. It wasn’t really time to gladhand or do a host of interviews in a one-on-one setting. Mendenhall had a staff to build, and a team of returning players to recruit.  It was the first glimpse into where the future of Lobo Football was headed.

Everything has a purpose, everything is based on working hard and working smart, and if everyone is focused together on a goal, the team will achieve greater results.  It’s a concept that really got its genesis while Mendenhall was a defensive coordinator for New Mexico in the early 2000s, but it was honed over his time as a head coach first at BYU and then at Virginia.

It obviously works.  Whether at a private school or public, independent or conference-affiliated, it works.  BYU went to a bowl every year under Mendenhall after missing three straight seasons. Virginia went to the Orange Bowl.  Those that follow football, particularly on the east coast, and particularly fans of Virginia, know how amazing a feat that is. They were eligible in five of his six seasons at UVA.

“There are many of our guiding principles that really speak to the success of our team academically,” said Mendenhall, adding, “Records are hard to break, but records also serve as a goal to work towards.”

“This is a team that is willing, desperate, hungry, and eager for greatness and success, and their efforts in the classroom show that we are on the right track.”

When you look at the Lobo roster which featured nearly 30 incoming transfers into the program in the spring plus several players who opted to enter the transfer portal but still were on scholarship, turning in the highest GPA in program history seemingly becomes a larger achievement.  Amazingly, Lobo scholarship players and non-scholarship players both held their weights.

Scholarship players: 3.23
Walk-ons: 3.20

Perhaps the team setting a GPA record shouldn’t be a surprise.  Bronco Mendenhall has three times now taken over a program.  Three times he has had to walk into a room of football players he didn’t necessarily recruit (he did obviously recruit several of the BYU players as he was the defensive coordinator there before becoming head coach) and talk to them.  Mendenhall has recounted in speaking engagements and interviews that talking with the Lobo team that first day was different.

“Many times at the first meeting you have players looking down, moving around in their chairs and their engagement is lacking,” said Mendenhall. “But when I met with this team, I had great eye-contact and everyone was very engaged. I was very encouraged by that”

His teams at BYU and Virginia posted record semester GPAs and other types of academic records whether academic all-conference numbers or national academic awards.

Throughout the spring and early summer, via and social media, The Guiding Principles of Lobo Football have been introduced, allowing fans a glimpse into what makes Lobo Football tick and how the various members of the coaching staff approach them.  Certainly, when a team of 100 or so turn in a 3.22 GPA, several principles come to the forefront.

“Everybody is Somebody”, “ADE”, “Greater Than Not Equal To” and “Hard Things Together” come to mind.  It’s about a program of exceptional football, exceptional student and exceptional people.  It’s about having high expectations, fierce accountability and strong results.

A record breaking 3.22 GPA for the team in the first semester with Coach Mendenhall and staff showcases all of that and is certainly the strongest result in program history.

The members of the football team didn’t try to equal the 2.96 from the fall (which was a top-10 program GPA), but they shot for greatness, the greatness that was asked of them.  A team of 100 achieving a 3.22 was done together, and one look at the number of football players at any one time just quietly sitting in the academic center doing homework showcases that this is a team that has approached academics as a group, together, pulling each other along and not letting anyone fall behind.

It’s exactly what you want from a football team.  It’s exactly the type of improvement that not just helped Lobo Football set a program record, but it helped the overall department set a GPA record, and the male student-athletes set a program record as well.

The improvement on the field won’t be seen for another 73 days, but breaking a record for GPA, and not just breaking a record but establishing a benchmark number that future teams will have to strive to meet, is visible improvement for fans.  After one of the best attended Spring Games in years that saw fans entertained by both the offense and the defense and the big plays made all over the field, the team GPA record is another visible tangent that Lobo Football is different these days.

“I’m thankful for these players for trusting us, trusting our current processes and in the historical outcomes,” said Mendenhall.  “I’m really proud of this team, accomplishing this in a short amount of time.  It’s an indicator of the willingness of our players and direction of program.”