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The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

 

When second-year Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall drove into work Saturday morning, he noticed an abundance of police cars parked at John Paul Jones Arena, where the Cavaliers play basketball.

The sheer numbers got his attention. By the afternoon, Charlottesville would have the unwelcome attention of the nation.

Mendenhall said he urged his players to avoid knee-jerk reactions to the racially motivated violence that left three dead and put the small college town atop every national newscast for days.

He also pointed out the juxtaposition of having those events occur in a city such as Charlottesville.

"I think it's an amazing, quiet, quaint place to live that embraces, man, all types of people," Mendenhall told reporters Tuesday. "And so it's ironic that something like this happened here. And possibly, it's more newsworthy because something like that happened here."

Speaking after practice in a media session U.Va. called specifically to address the violence, Mendenhall said the range of his players' responses mirrored that of any household.

Senior receiver Doni Dowling said the location of the incident meant nothing.

"Where it's at don't matter ... (even) if it was on the other side of the globe," said Dowling, a Richmond native. "The fact that we still have these issues, that's the disappointing thing."

Senior defensive end Andrew Brown of Chesapeake said he's avoiding giving it too much thought.

"It has nothing to do with us," said Brown, who starred at Oscar Smith High. "We're pushing toward something greater than this. We're bigger than that. If we were to sit back and worry about it, then we'd be stooping down to their level, which we're not going to do."

The Cavaliers were about 10 minutes from finishing a scrimmage Saturday at Scott Stadium when athletic director Craig Littlepage informed them that a state of emergency had been declared in the area. The team was ordered to board buses and return to the locker room before heading to the Cavalier Hotel, the staging site for fall camp.

Some of the protesters were staying at the same hotel. The U.Va. players were on the third, fourth and fifth floors; the protesters were on the second.

With a team outing at Mendenhall's house canceled by inclement weather, the players and coaches stayed at the on-campus hotel through Saturday night as the violence died down. Some players reported seeing a protest pass by the hotel Friday night.

Senior tailback Daniel Hamm, a native of Wytheville, said he was surprised to see the unrest in his adopted hometown.

"I didn't grow up here, but I've been here for four years, going on five," Hamm said. "I've come to call this place home. And to have it happen in your city like this, it's shocking and it's eye-opening. You just kind of look at the situation. You've got to sit back, take a deep breath and be like, 'Wow. What's going on right now?' "

The police cars Mendenhall saw Saturday morning were there because JPJ served as a staging area for law enforcement. The arena sits across the street from the building that houses the football offices, so the events hit close to home .

Mendenhall said he hopes to see the community rally around his team, which is looking to improve upon last season's 2-10 record.

"I would like to help our team inspire and teach and perform in a way that would bring people together," Mendenhall said. "And we have our work cut out. There's plenty of work to do in our program, but there is an opportunity. I acknowledge it, our team acknowledges it and we're going to try our best to do just that."

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August 16, 2017
 
 
 

 

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