Rebels athletics:

Football ticket sales at the top of UNLV interim athletic director’s priorities

Tina Kunzer-Murphy is charged with keeping the department headed on the right course until a full-time hire comes in this fall

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Steve Marcus

Tina Kunzer-Murphy will be the interim athletic director at UNLV, it was announced Monday, May 20, 2013. Last year Kunzer-Murphy stepped down after a 12-year run as executive director of the Las Vegas Bowl.

The UNLV interim athletic director will be expected to do everything within their power to improve football ticket sales, maintain good relations and be helpful to every coaching staff, then step out of the way when the full-time hire comes in. That all sounds just fine to Tina Kunzer-Murphy, whom the university announced Monday would fill the position effective July 1.

“I know what we have to do,” Kunzer-Murphy said. “I know it takes everybody working together for the same goal. And when the new AD comes in, all the strategic plans we work on, you can hand it over to somebody else. That’s part of the deal.”

Kunzer-Murphy is familiar with the UNLV campus. From 1977-92, she worked her way up the athletic department from head women’s tennis coach to senior assistant athletic director. She also holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the university. In January, Kunzer-Murphy stepped back on campus to be the director of alumni sponsorship and development for UNLV Alumni Relations. As part of that job, she helped develop the Jerry Tarkanian Legacy Project.

“UNLV’s been my home for a long time,” she said. “It’s where I started. It’s what I love.”

UNLV President Neal Smatresk said he sees some possible overlap with the work Kunzer-Murphy has already done with alumni relations and what she’ll try to do as the interim athletic director. And the experience with athletics could even help when she returns to that alumni development position. And return she will.

Despite initial reactions that her interim tag may one day dissolve, both Smatresk and Kunzer-Murphy said this is only a temporary position.

“I needed to make sure the interim wasn’t going to be an applicant,” Smatresk said.

That’s part of the reason he doesn’t want to lay too many expectations at her feet. After all, how much can one person accomplish in what may be a two-month window?

“We don’t expect miracles,” Smatresk said.

What the university does expect is someone to help the athletic department get through the summer without any major issues and, if possible, to put more butts in seats at Sam Boyd Stadium. With 12 years of experience as executive director of the Las Vegas Bowl, that’s a strong suit for Kunzer-Murphy.

Before she resigned from the position in August 2012, Kunzer-Murphy oversaw a string of successes with the bowl game that included sellouts in six of her last seven years.

“It’s really important to get people out there and sell some tickets,” Kunzer-Murphy said. “(Neal and I) talked heavily about football.”

Smatresk approached Kunzer-Murphy, along with other candidates, May 13 and the two followed up with a more in-depth discussion Wednesday. Smatresk said he emailed Kunzer-Murphy on Sunday night saying he was leaning toward picking her, but Kunzer-Murphy said she wasn’t sure she had the job until Monday morning.

Although she hasn’t yet spoken with Jim Livengood, whose retirement as UNLV athletic director is effective June 30, the two go back several years and Kunzer-Murphy said she would seek him out soon. She had been keeping up with another soon-to-depart member of the athletic department, Senior AD of Communications D.J. Allen.

Allen, who is stepping down effective June 3 to return to his work as an entrepreneur, was one of just a few names Smatresk was considering before selecting Kunzer-Murphy. With the lack of football revenue a thorn in the entire department’s side, it’s possible the feedback Smatresk heard from local business leaders put Kunzer-Murphy over the top.

“We all know a winning record’s the best antidote for (sparse crowds),” Smatresk said. “That said, she has a lot of pull in the community. People I spoke with said, ‘If Tina came and talked to us about (buying) blocks of football tickets, we’d listen to that.’”

Even if she’s successful with getting tickets sold over the summer, Kunzer-Murphy likely won’t be in the position long enough to see more than one or two home games. Smatresk said he wants to move as quickly as possible with finding a new full-time athletic director. The search committee is almost complete and could begin compiling candidates soon with the goal of having someone in place by September.

From July 1 until then, the job will belong to Kunzer-Murphy, who said she didn’t apply for the full-time athletic director job three and a half years ago and again won’t do so. This is temporary, a chance to get back into athletics and do whatever she can to help UNLV’s coaches, most of whom she’s known for years. It’s a chance Kunzer-Murphy’s absolutely grateful to get.

“I’m ready to go,” she said. “Put me in, coach.”

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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  1. this is going to be a tough ticket to sell with a 3 or 4 win season looming on the horizon again . it is like selling a cruise trip to alaska in january when it is 10 degrees out .

  2. It is tiring hearing from all the wanabee fans. If you like football there is absolutely nothing like being at the game. I have watched UNLV football(in person) for over 40 years and granted there have been many, many more disappointing losses than victories but the feel of being there is irreplaceable.

  3. I'll be there. Love Rebel football, win or lose. Good move with Tina as Interim AD.

  4. I love going to Las Vegas and can't wait when the UH-Rainbow Warriors visit UNLV on October 12, it always an excited five day trip with lots of fun and whole lots of shaking going on.

  5. Sad to say that the schedule up front could spell big trouble for UNLV. Non Conference Road Game at Big 10 Opponent with a Pac 12 now Semi Road Game at Arizona. Before this team gets to Reno or Hawaii it could be staring at a big hole to climb out of to get a winning record.

    The problem is the many fans who think exactly like the comments above - they are never heard from. The same good old boys get their way. UNLV has never figured out how to get the vast majority of fans who follow football to care. Very smart and close market, locals know when they are having the wool being pulled over their heads. No matter what Channel 8 will tell you, who can make Mike Moser leaving for Oregon sound good for the Rebels. Reaching the large amount of football fans who are looking for solutions over excuses is what UNLV should be doing. But, when you hire people even in a caretaking role who have openly hired people who gave her business in roles with UNLV all while making threats to anyone else who supported other universities, How is that good PR? The Bowl Game sold tickets in three letters - BYU! Then Boise State. Without these schools - the game would not be what it is. Truth - how many straight games were either BYU or Boise in the game? Exactly.