UNLV football:

Rebels aiming to bring the Fremont Cannon back into their care

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UNLV Photo Services

The Fremont Cannon is kept by the winning football team in the UNLV Rebels and UNR Wolf Pack rivalry. It is custom for the winning team to paint the cannon their school colors, red for UNLV or blue for UNR.

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UNLV students pull the Fremont Cannon onto the field at UNR on Oct. 28, 1995, after UNR regained possession of the cannon in a 55-32 win. Pre- and post-game incidents marred the contest.

The symbolism may last a calendar year but the actual process to repaint the Fremont Cannon takes a day or two at most. All that’s required, said UNLV director of athletic equipment Paul Pucciarelli, is the university’s paint department to do a quick sanding or, if the winning university prefers, a fresh coat of paint directly on top of its rival’s layer.

Whether it’s better to erase a bitter rival or to completely overwhelm them is a debate best saved for the next time the trophy for UNLV and UNR’s annual football game changes hands. The Rebels hope that takes place Saturday, when they battle the Wolf Pack at Mackay Stadium. The game kicks off at 3 p.m. and will stream live on ESPN3.com.

“It’s personal to you,” said UNLV coach Bobby Hauck, whose team gave up a 21-point lead in last year’s battle.

Originally conceived of by UNLV’s first coach, Bill Ireland, and created by the Kennecott Copper Corp., the Fremont Cannon has only changed hands once in the past 13 meetings. UNR comes in on an eight-game winning streak in the rivalry and UNLV took five in a row before that.

If UNLV, which is a 6.5-point underdog, can pull off the upset, the Rebels may need to invest in some polish. The most important thing for maintaining the cannon, Pucciarelli said, is keeping the copper barrel looking shiny and new.

The cannon is a $10,000 replica of a howitzer used by explorer John C. Fremont in 1843. The wheels stand out for their color — currently a Wolf Pack shade of blue and gray — but the centerpiece is the 55-millimeter barrel that carries much of the trophy’s weight. At approximately 550 pounds, it’s the heaviest college football trophy in the country.

The cannon’s most memorable moment may have been in 2000, when UNLV fans celebrated a victory by picking up and then accidentally dropping it. The Rebels paid approximately $1,500 to fix it, and around the time it was getting repaired, Pucciarelli also made a discovery. Underneath one of the braces that holds the barrel in place was inscribed “University of Notta Lotta Victories.”

“They bring up the lack of respect for things happening to the cannon when it’s in our care,” Pucciarelli said.

Pucciarelli didn’t finish the thought, nor did he need to. Everyone around both programs is aware of each side’s feelings toward the other. It’s the only game on UNLV’s season that Hauck will say matters more than the others no matter who’s next on the schedule.

After that game when the cannon was dropped, representatives from both universities gathered to discuss future protocol for handling the trophy. It’s now removed from the field with approximately five minutes remaining and taken to the winning team’s locker room. If the game is still in doubt, it’s simply brought near the locker rooms and then taken in as soon as the buzzer sounds.

A victory would end its eight-year tenure in Reno. After the celebrating, UNLV would disassemble it and at least two people would combine to carry the barrel into the back of UNLV’s equipment truck. Then it would be off to the paint shop for a new coat in a color it hasn’t worn in a long time.

Obviously, the Rebels have seen the Fremont Cannon. But none of the players or current coaches have ever won it and some won’t even touch it. At least not yet.

“At a young age I was taught not to put my hands on things that don’t belong to me,” said senior defensive lineman Tyler Gaston. “So until it belongs to me, and belongs to this team, then we won’t worry about it.”

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

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