Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Friday, Dec. 6, 2013 | 11:51 a.m.
On Thursday night at Rebel Park, a few horse trailers down from the National Finals Rodeo that has taken over UNLV’s campus, the Rebels practiced for a game they may never play.
The Rebels are allowed to practice as a bowl eligible team even though they don’t know their current bowl fate. That news may not come until Sunday night, after the Bowl Championship Series makes its announcements and then the dominoes start to fall.
Coach Bobby Hauck hopes his team is one of those pieces and not the unlucky Mountain West team that’s expected to sit this postseason out. Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said on Monday he expected one of the league’s seven bowl-eligible teams to get left out because of the large number of eligible teams this season.
“I would hope nobody in our league gets left out,” Hauck said, “but I would think if the commissioner’s saying that that’s probably what’s going to happen.”
Depending on the game, UNLV would likely lose money in a bowl game because of ticket and travel expenses. No matter because the university sees the game as a long-term benefit, and that’s probably right.
First there’s the recruiting benefit. Hauck and his staff hit the ground running on the recruiting trail the day after a 45-19 victory against San Diego State. The seven-win season already makes the program easier to sell than when that number was two, but actually getting into a game still matters. Because winning seven games and not getting selected for a bowl game says as much about a program as getting in would.
“I think you have a little more to sell,” Hauck said. “… What we were selling in the past was personality and the potential future. Now we’ve got some tangible evidence that what we’ve been telling these guys is going to happen is going to happen.”
For a program that hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2000, and only three in school history, any game this year would be huge. For Hauck there’s also an extra bonus.
Per his contract, Hauck has already earned a $5,000 bonus for winning seven games. Getting to a bowl game would come with a $10,000-$15,000 bonus. His contract has specific figures for specific games, built hasn’t been updated to reflect the current Mountain West tie-ins.
Hauck’s current deal calls for him to make $15,000 for the Independence Bowl, which was a brief Mountain West partner from 2010-11. Athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy said she would work on updating the terms and figures to reflect the current structure, which values the bottom four bowls (everything except the Las Vegas and Poinsettia bowls) on approximately the same level.
So that’s what potentially awaits Hauck. For the players it’s a mini-vacation and validation for all of the work they’ve put in and the doubt they’ve overcome. The bonus would be nice, but Hauck wants this game for his players, particularly seniors like Caleb Herring and Tim Cornett who have been with him through a lot of ups and downs. Mostly downs.
Those guys not getting their bowl moment is what he’s worried about.
“That would be bitterly disappointing,” Hauck said.
JUCO quarterback commits to UNLV
Hauck met with media in his office Thursday morning to discuss the season that was and what may happen with a bowl game. Hours later news broke that may affect how positive this meeting will be after next season.
Scottsdale Community College quarterback Blake Decker committed to the Rebels. 247sports.com was first with the news.
Decker, listed at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, amassed 44 touchdowns and more than 400 yards per game through the air in 10 games this season. He also ran for a few scores and despite being listed as a pro-style quarterback Decker seems capable of picking up where Herring left off in a spread or read-option offense.
Hauck had said the Rebels would like to get some mid-year signees and that’s what Decker will be when he signs in a couple of weeks. He can enroll in January and participate in spring practice, where he and sophomore Nick Sherry will headline the quarterback battle.
“There is no starter for next season,” Hauck said. “We’re going to have a competition.”
In the meeting Hauck wouldn’t commit to keeping the same offense, instead saying the Rebels would play to the strengths of their players. Decker’s commitment certainly appears to make continuity more likely for UNLV’s offense next season.