Las Vegas Sun

January 20, 2018

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Columnist Steve Guiremand: Family fun still missing from UNLV-UNR tilt

Steve Guiremand covers college football for the Sun. He can be reached at [email protected] or (702) 259-2324.

Can't we all just get along?

That was Rodney King's famous statement following the Los Angeles riots a decade ago. And it probably could serve as a pretty good theme for the UNLV-Nevada-Reno rivalry these days.

I got about a dozen e-mails and phone calls from Rebel and Wolf Pack fans after last week's column here where I criticized Nevada-Reno fans and, more important, game management for the ugly atmosphere at MacKay Stadium near the UNLV locker room during the Rebels' 16-12 victory there.

Predictably, UNLV fans thought it was a long overdue column and were happy to see the fans of their arch-rivals take it in the shorts. Meanwhile, Nevada-Reno fans, many of whom apologized for the behavior of their fans that night, felt I went over the line by referring to the Wolf Pack fans who stood by the Rebels' locker room yelling obsenities and making X-rated gestures as Billy Bobs and trailer trash.

It should be pointed out that it wasn't until after I wrote the column that someone informed me that the fellow who tossed the bottle that hit UNLV coach John Robinson in the face at halftime was from Spring Valley, home of the nation's largest trailer park.

The UNR fans also pointed out that UNLV's fans also can be less than hospitable and prone to their own potty-mouth chants at Sam Boyd Stadium games. They correctly pointed out that the Rebels' last home game against Hawaii turned into an ugly Battle Royal in the stands that only Vince McMahon would have appreciated. And that there's usually one of two fights in the stands at big UNLV night games, usually among students who probably had a little too much to drink.

To this I say you're right. And sadly, that's why I haven't taken my family to a Rebels home football game in six years here and why many of the parents of some of my kids' friends won't go either.

It's too bad, really, that a few knuckleheads can ruin it for everybody. Hopefully, some of the new "zero tolerance" guidelines enacted this week by new UNLV athletic director Mike Hamrick will go a long way toward changing that.

I've been covering college football for 25 years now, mainly in the Pac-10 Conference. I've covered countless USC-UCLA and USC-Notre Dame games with about 100,000 fans in the stands. I've been fortunate enough to go to games in places like South Bend, Madison, Norman, State College, Chestnut Hill, Seattle and Tempe. And I can honestly never remember seeing a fight in the stands at any of those places during a game much less fans hurling batteries or bottles at opposing teams.

You go to any USC road game in the Pac-10 and the opposing fans usually jingle their car keys to mock what some people refer to as the University of Spoiled Children. They don't throw their car keys at Trojans fans.

I've been to Mackay Stadium three times now hoping each time that things would change. They haven't, to which I blame the folks in charge of game management, not, as one of the UNR fans wrote, "that moron Quincy Sanders for throwing his helmet at Chris Ault" during a on-field brawl during the mid-'90s.

Since most of the problems occur by the visiting locker room, why not have the visiting fans sit in that corner of the end zone to help prevent the potential of trouble? Same thing at Sam Boyd Stadium. Move the visitors to the east side corner near their locker room far away from the UNLV student section. And station extra security in those areas.

Seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it?

How about expelling any student involved in an altercation or caught underage drinking before or during a game?

Why not promote better sportsmanship between the two schools? That means banning all vulgarity on T-shirts -- you know, the shirts that so many kids were wearing as they paraded around Mackay Stadiumn before the game while toting half-full beer bottles and seeming to be looking for trouble.

How about bringing back a star player from both schools, say Randall Cunningham and Frank Hawkins, to do a ceremonial coin toss before the game?

How about giving the student section that behaves itself the best during the game a coupon for a free burger and fries or a submarine sandwich afterward? If you can do it for a team scoring 100 points in a basketball game, why not for good sportsmanship?

How about the school presidents and ADs from both schools standing on the sidelines with their teams during the game -- they'd have to create a no-hugging zone for Dr. Carol Harter -- instead of in their comfy little skyboxes?

There are a lot of things that can and need to be done before the next Battle for the Fremont Cannon here next October.

Meanwhile, to the fine Nevada-Reno fans I may have insulted or hurt, I want to extend an olive branch.

No more trailer trash jokes. No more Billy Bob comments. I'll refrain from using the Herman Munster lookalike comments I had ready to go for one of the scribes up there. And, thanks to Jorge Cordova's brilliant five-sack performance in last weekend's stunning 28-17 upset of Washington in Husky Stadium, no more snide borderline Division I-AA comments about the football program.

Let's turn UNLV-UNR into the kind of rivalry that USC vs. UCLA or Stanford vs. Cal are.

A good, clean, fun one that the whole family can enjoy.

Until then, it's just minor league.

Once around the MWC