Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Monday, Dec. 30, 2013 | 11 a.m.
The man most responsible for not only putting Bobby Hauck in his current position but keeping him there long enough to make a bowl game now watches the team’s success from the shadows of retirement. Jim Livengood says that’s just fine.
“Would I like to be there with him and our kids? Yes, but I don’t need to be,” said UNLV’s former athletic director. “This is about Bobby Hauck. I’m more concerned that he enjoy the bowl game experience because they created this. I didn’t create it; the president didn’t create it; the board of regents didn’t create it; Bobby Hauck and his staff did.”
UNLV President Neal Smatresk, Livengood and Hauck were all hired, in that order, in a five-month span at the end of 2009. Against all odds, Hauck, who suffered through three two-win seasons before going 7-5 this year, is the last Rebel standing.
Livengood left the university at the end of June and was replaced by current AD Tina Kunzer-Murphy. Smatresk is set to become president in February at North Texas — UNLV’s opponent in Wednesday’s Heart of Dallas Bowl at Cotton Bowl Stadium. UNLV hasn’t named a full-time successor.
Even on his way out the door in June, Livengood was adamant about his belief in Hauck and the football program. Over three years, he was often the lone voice, or at least the loudest in a small group, throwing his support behind Hauck.
“I know it’s easy to say in hindsight,” Livengood said, “but I really wasn’t worried. Bobby is such a unique individual. It wasn’t a question of if, it was a question of when. I had to make sure everyone had patience; that was my biggest concern.”
Livengood attended UNLV’s home drubbing against Arizona, where Livengood was AD for 16 years, nearly four months ago. Even that 58-13 debacle didn’t deter Livengood’s belief in the season’s possibilities.
Part of that was because he was impressed with the changes Hauck made to the staff. Tim Hauck and Timm Rosenbach came in as the defensive and offensive coordinators, respectively, and the changes have been dramatic.
“Bobby has done a good job maturing that staff,” Livengood said.
Both guys played in the NFL and Tim Hauck was helping coach the Cleveland Browns this time last season. Livengood has a special connection to Rosenbach: Livengood played high school and junior college football for Rosenbach’s dad, then hired his former coach when Livengood was the AD at Washington State.
“I was there when he was born,” Livengood said of Timm Rosenbach.
The Heart of Dallas Bowl kicks off Wednesday at 9 a.m. Las Vegas time on ESPNU. The Rebels are still about a 6.5-point underdog to the Mean Green, which is hardly a new position. Hauck was an underdog to make it this far in the first place, and now that he’s here, the guy who hired him thinks he’ll finish the season on a high note.
“I like the Rebels, of course,” Livengood said. “I’d be crazy if I didn’t.”
For a long time, some people thought Livengood was crazy because he liked Hauck too much. Now, for at least this year, there is validation, even if Livengood isn’t around to soak it in.