Friday, Oct. 9, 2009 | 2:05 a.m.
- UNLV interim athletic director Jerry Koloskie on the role he’s played in the Las Vegas community for the past two months.
- Koloskie on if the interim period is an audition.
- Koloskie on his interest in the permanent position.
- Koloskie on the aftermath of the UNLV football team’s 63-28 loss at UNR.
- Koloskie on having the power, at any time, to do what he sees fit to improve any program in the department.
- Former Rebels quarterback seeks ‘ultimate’ UNLV job (9-3-2009)
- Jerry Koloskie named UNLV’s interim AD (8-27-2009)
- UNLV leader weighs options in selecting athletic director (8-18-2009)
- With exit of athletic director, UNLV sports heavyweights ponder future (7-22-2009)
- Who might take Hamrick’s place? (7-21-2009)
- Let’s be frank: This royal alienator of an A.D. stayed step ahead of ax (7-21-2009)
- Hamrick leaves Las Vegas with 'mixed emotions' (7-20-2009)
Jerry Koloskie’s adoration of The Three Stooges has served him very well lately.
The UNLV interim athletic director’s world has been turned upside down. He can’t locate his shirts. He can’t find the black belt to match the black oxfords. Forks and knives are somewhere.
“It’s really been a stressful time,” Koloskie said in his spacious office late Thursday morning. “Everything is out of sorts. This past week or so has been pretty tough.”
He and his wife, Annette, are moving. They closed on their new house last Friday, after he landed in Reno, and are settling into the new digs a few minutes away from the old one in Green Valley.
As disheveled as his personal life has been, Koloskie knows exactly where those prized Stooges tapes are – in a brown box next to the big screen in the former pad.
Now, about that Larry, Mo & Curly act at UNR, an ugly 63-28 defeat to the Wolf Pack that has caused a volcano of criticism to erupt around fifth-year UNLV football coach Mike Sanford.
Koloskie saw the raw disappointment etched on the faces of Sanford and his assistants in the locker room after the debacle. The Rebels (2-3, 0-1 in the Mountain West Conference) are 13-39 under Sanford.
As affable, mild-mannered and pleasant as Koloskie appears, he confirmed that he has the power, at any time, to make any move that is in the best interest of the UNLV athletic department.
That’s why, Koloskie said, Dr. Neal Smatresk, UNLV’s new president, appointed him interim athletic director.
“I would hope the president would take my recommendation, yeah,” Koloskie said. “I mean, that’s why he put me in this position. I’ve been a part of hiring coaches and, unfortunately, I’ve been a part of terminating coaches.
“I’ve done it. I have the experience to do it again.”
Coal miner’s son
The only child of a West Virginia coal miner and his wife, Jerry Koloskie grew up in Monongah, W. Va., where current Alabama coach Nick Saban developed his intensity.
Saban helped now-defunct Monongah High win two state titles in the late 1960s. Koloskie won a championship with the Lions in 1973.
Koloskie remembers looking out his bedroom window at the Monongah practice field and marveling over a sole figure – Saban – running sprints during summers when Saban came home from Kent State.
When Koloskie realized he wouldn’t make it in pro baseball, he focused on athletic training, earning his bachelor’s degree at West Virginia and a master’s from Iowa State.
He has been a fixture at UNLV since 1982.
His father, John, set an example by never missing a day of work in the Loveridge Coal Mine in Fairview. After a month of the day shift, he went to the night shift. A month later, he was on the midnight shift.
Then it was back to the day shift, and so on and so on.
John Koloskie, now 83 and golfing three times a week, never complained about the labor. He has a mild form of black lung, said Jerry, whose mother Julia is in poor health.
“You can sit around at home in a bar with 25 coal miners and very seldom would they talk about their jobs,” Jerry Koloskie said. “Like servicemen, they never talk of the mines.
“To this day, I never really knew what dad did in the mines. He never talked of how much coal they mined or what happened. He was a silent role model. It gave me that drive.”
To the forefront
Koloskie has mostly operated silently, and behind the scenes, at UNLV.
He taped former quarterback Randall Cunningham’s ankles. He was a trainer during the Rebels’ run to the NCAA basketball championship in 1990.
Even as a senior associate athletic director, he laid down chalk lines on the baseball field and directed an athletic-apparel clearance sale that netted the department $50,000 last spring.
Now, with Mike Hamrick’s departure to Marshall two months ago, the 52-year-old Koloskie, who has spent more than half his life at UNLV, is the leader of the athletic department.
Academics, the budget and some structural reorganization have been his main charges.
A graduation rate around 60 percent should come in closer to 70 when the next figures are tabulated, he said, and the economic downturn demands constant attention to the bottom line.
Hamrick-led cost containment that resulted in $500,000 in savings must be monitored closely, Hamrick told Koloskie with perhaps his most important advice before leaving.
“We have to look at what we need as opposed to what we want,” Koloskie said. “If we do that, we’ll be OK. If revenue numbers hit where they should be and we minimize our expenses, we’ll be all right.”
Part of his Rebel Athletic Fund restructuring involves the reinstatement of sport-specific contributions. He has challenged coaches with sports-specific community initiatives.
He wants someone who gives a dollar to the RAF to feel as involved with UNLV athletics as someone who contributes $100,000.
Koloskie said he will soon reveal an alteration of the athletic ticket department, to make it more customer-service oriented. He said his initial fundraising efforts have been more about “friend-raising.”
“Trying to create a positive atmosphere,” Koloskie said. “Most importantly, making people in the community understand that this is their athletic department. It’s not mine.
“And we need to support our student-athletes, because that’s why we’re all here.”
The hot seat
Sanford’s job security is the hot-button issue of the week. He is making $425,000 a year through 2012. He would be paid $287,500 if he gets sacked before Dec. 4. After that, the buyout clause drops to $225,000.
Koloskie said he has received “quite a few” phone calls and e-mails this week from disgruntled fans.
“And I want to say this, some have been supportive,” Koloskie said. “Not all have been negative. People understand the trials and tribulations. We’re dealing with 19-year-old kids.
“Nobody feels worse than our student-athletes, in any of our sports, when they lose. Kids put their hearts and souls into being successful. I’ve gotten both pros and cons. That’s to be expected.”
In evaluating Sanford, Koloskie said it’s vital to know everything about the coaches, the atmosphere of the team, the morale and the character of the players, and who’s being recruited.
“You have to know all those things to make the best decision for the department,” he said. “A lot of times, it can’t just be predicated on wins and losses. Most of the time, in the visible sports, it usually is.
“If you’re a good athletic director, or administrator in an athletic department, you have to know the totality of the program to make the best decision.”
A victory over 18th-ranked BYU (4-1, 1-0) on Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium, Koloskie said, would boost hopes that the Rebels could rally toward bowl eligibility.
“I know coach Sanford understands that the expectations are for him to win and get to a bowl game this year,” Koloskie said. “But being in an athletic department, that’s our expectation every year.”
Koloskie is indeed hopeful. He knows the effort being put into the team, how Sanford runs his program and how hard the players are working.
“Unfortunately,” Koloskie said, “I can’t control the results.”
The show must go on
Smatresk, adhering to Nevada System of Higher Education code, will undergo a national search to identify a permanent athletic director. He told the Sun that should begin in the spring.
South Point Arena general manager Steve Stallworth, a former UNLV quarterback, and Las Vegas Bowl director Tina Kunzer-Murphy are considered top local candidates.
Former Hawaii athletic director Herman Frazier, whom Smatresk knows from his time on the island, might get a call. UNLV basketball coach Lon Kruger will play a key role in the process.
Koloskie has no illusions. He hasn’t moved the bulk of his files from his former office into the athletic director’s confines. Why, if he’ll ultimately need to move them back?
Make no mistake, however. He wants the job.
“If I do a really bad job, I’m assuming it’ll stick out like a sore thumb,” Koloskie said. “I just want what’s best for the department ... Right now, I have enough things to keep me busy on a day-to-day basis.”
Conflicts with Smatresk might arise, Koloskie said, but that wouldn’t be unnatural in his position. He also said he will not compromise UNLV athletes or coaches – or his integrity – to get the permanent post.
“I’ll do what’s right for the department, first and foremost,” Koloskie said. “I can tell you right now, I’m pretty confident that if I’m given the opportunity to sit in this chair, I’ll represent UNLV athletics very well.”
He did bring a few items from his former office. On the wall to Koloskie’s left hang photographs and a poster, five framed images of the group that helps him maintain his balance and sense of humor.
The Three Stooges.