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UNLV Athletics:

UNLV AD candidate Johnson comes through clean at public forum

Washington State senior associate AD candid on topic of Rebels’ next football coach


Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV athletic director candidate John Johnson, currently the senior associate athletic director at Washington State, speaks to the media after a public forum.

UNLV AD Search - Johnson Public Forum

UNLV athletic director candidate John Johnson, currently the senior associate athletic director at Washington State, speaks to the media after a public forum. Launch slideshow »

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In an unusual event of sorts, Washington State senior associate athletic director John Johnson — one of three finalists for UNLV's AD post — passed with flying colors Friday afternoon.

The first finalist to visit campus for a final interview was available to the media and anyone else who wanted to attend and inquire in a public forum at the UNLV Student Union.

Two things won Johnson brownie points in the eyes of those in attendance.

First was his casual, friendly demeanor while striking up a conversation with anyone who wanted to engage. He stayed for nearly 40 minutes after an open Q&A session to mingle.

Second — and seemingly most pressing in the minds of many on hand — was the candid nature he displayed when discussing strategies for filling the Rebels' vacancy atop the football program.

When asked who he would call right off the bat if he were to get the AD job, Johnson rattled off some names.

"How about some coaches that I think are pretty good coaches who might be available?" he started. "Certainly coach (Dennis) Franchione, there's been some interest about him, I like him. Robb Akey at Idaho has done a nice job. (Montana coach) Bobby Hauck in (Football Championship Series competition) has done a nice job. There's various coordinators out there who have also done a nice job. (Offensive coordinator) Jim McElwain at Alabama is being thought of highly, as well. I have some others, also."

Johnson clearly put some thought into what would be the first order of business for whoever gets the position.

"I think you should be able to move relatively quickly," he said. "I think you could get a coach hired within seven days."

He didn't exactly say that previous head coaching experience would be a requirement, but he knows it has its advantages.

"Certainly, when you hire a head coach or someone who's had head coaching experience, regardless of the level, I think the black box or what you don't know about a coach is smaller," he said. "And that would be a preference."

Following stints as the athletic director at Eastern Washington (1993-97) and Weber State (1997-2004), Johnson has handled external affairs and fundraising efforts at Washington State ever since.

He's known for his tireless work ethic and incredible energy, which he said makes UNLV an ideal fit for him.

After hiring a football coach, Johnson said his second and third tasks would include an extensive evaluation of the athletic department and beginning to extend UNLV's brand as far as possible into the community.

He pointed out the more than 15,000 community service hours logged by his student-athletes at Washington State since his arrival, spearheaded by a reading program that sends Cougar football players to local elementary schools.

Johnson said he sees, on the surface, pieces in place which could make his missions more than realistic to accomplish.

"It's a young university, a very virile university, and I really look forward to moving the university into it's second 50 years of existence," he said. "Athletics is the window to the institution, to a university. That window provides a look into the program. My job as an AD would be to expand the brand of UNLV, and at the same time, expand the degree value of those who are current students and those who graduated from UNLV."

The other two finalists for the job — former Oregon AD Bill Moos and Arizona AD Jim Livengood — will hold their public forums at the Student Union early next week. Moos will appear at 3 p.m. Monday in the second-floor ballroom, while Livengood's session takes place at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in the first-floor theater.

The school's new AD is expected to be announced either Tuesday evening or early Wednesday morning by university President Neal Smatresk.

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Previous Discussion: 29 comments so far…

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  1. sounds like you were impressed.... youll have to break down your impressions of the 3 guys when this is done... lil report card maybe

  2. I like Johnson. Sounds like a tireless worker (which the AD hasn't had in awhile) and someone who actually cares about the work he does. Hopefully they can get this done with him or Moos.

    Anybody but Livengood @ this point satisfies me..but this Johnson guy really sticks out to me especially when he said he could get a FB coach in one week.

  3. @unlvrunrebs

    I can say I was. It'll be interesting to compare the three, and I definitely will as the public forums continue early next week!

  4. Greene, thank you for stepping up and filling in for Meich. If you didn't but in the byline, I would think Rob wrote it! You are becoming a great journalist!! Keep up the dedication to Rebel hoops!!

    Tell Killimayer the video was great, and we expect another one up by Sunday morning on the K-State game!

    Thanks LVSun for steppin up the Rebel coverage!!!

  5. @rebelsfan11

    Thank you very much for the kind words. I know I can speak for both myself and Christine in saying we appreciate that very much.

  6. This Johnson character is an idiot. Perfect fit for UNLV most likely.

    Akey? Give me a break. If UNLV hires Akey we might as well shut down the Foootball program. Akey would be a horrible HIRE!

    Johnson doesn't even mention Dirk Koetter? Johnson is clearly a moron who is clearly out of the loop. If he is hired as UNLV's next AD you can expect the entire Athletic Department to end up in the crapper. How could you put Akey in your Top 3 and not Dirk Koetter? The only way that could happen is if you are some silly nerd from the Northwest that lives in some lowlife place like Moscow or Pullman. Robb Akey? Give me a break. Idaho is a complete joke and look at his overall record, who has Akey ever beat? NOBODY!

    Johnson is clearly a disaster hire and if the geek President decides this is the right guy, we are doomed for the forseeable future! Johnson is lost and has no business running a Taco Bell nevermind a major Athletic Department like UNLV.

    Dirk Koetter is our COACH! Nobody else.

    Akey isn't even on the Top 10 list!

  7. McElwain would be a great choice if he were hired and allowed to take the reins of the program much the same way Saban has at Bama. If he has learned from Saban how to run a program he should be able to come in here and make things pretty exciting pretty quickly. He was at Fresno State during their good years and he is the offensive coordinator for a HUGE program in the SEC. Bama's offense has been fun to watch this year since McElwain has been able to throw in elements from pretty much every offense that exists. Given the talent UNLV has on the offensive side of the football it would be fun to see what he can do with it.

  8. Thank you for another great article Ryan.

    I like this guy - he seems to understand the importance of UNLV as a brand to the community. Alot of people talk about the product, but managing the brand correctly, and even expanding it, can generate a lot of support.

    Go Rebels!

  9. At least he had the right color tie on....scarlet and grey!

  10. I met Mr. Johnson when he was on campus yesterday. Really genuine, approachable, and knows what he's talking about. Very smart guy.

  11. The Top 3 list for UNLV Football Coach is:

    1. Dirk Koetter
    2. Pat Hill
    3. Dennis Franchione

    Robb Akey would be a horrific hire.

    You can't be very bright if you think a coach with a 10-26 overall record and 5-19 WAC record is one of your Top 3 coaches for UNLV. You are a total MORON if you list Robb Akey as one of your Top 3!

    Idaho lost FOUR out of their FINAL FIVE games this season. I don't believe that Akey/Idaho has ever beaten a Division IA school with a winning record in his three years on the job!

    10-26 overall RECORD! This is someone you put in your top 3???

    Very smart guy. Very smart guy who is about to totally annihilate UNLV Athletics as we know it and nobody but me is standing up and SAYING "HELL NO"!

    Robb Akey?? NO!!!

    Dirk Koetter is our guy.

    Lets hope the next two guys who show up on campus can name some Head Coaching Candidates that have WINNING RECORDS and aren't from PULLMAN or MOSCOW.

    Very smart guy.

  12. somebody sounds like an idiot on here, and it's not Johnson.

  13. Agree with Sufferin... Somebody needs to explain what the hell Robb Akey has accomplished to be worthy of being a top 3 candidate. He is 10-26 in a pathetic conference, coaching Idaho... come on.

  14. Anyone who seriously considers 64-year-old has-been coach Franchione should not be seriously considered for this position.

  15. The guy that keeps pushing Koetter as his number one choice said this about our Runnin Rebels: "Our players are dull and boring and play with NO HEART."

    I wouldn't listen to anything he had to say because he is probably a UNR fan.

    If he doesn't like Johnson then Johnson is probably our best choice.

  16. Dennis Francione is 58 years old.

    Someone needs to ask the tough questions. Did anyone ask Johnson how he is supposed to fix UNLV Football when he can't even fix Washington State Football where he currently works? Why would UNLV want you to hire us a Football coach when we see what a wonderful job your Football program is doing at Wazzu?

    As for the UNLV Runnin' Rebels. I agree that they are dull and pretty boring. I don't agree with the no heart stuff, they do seem to show alot of heart. I still think they are dull and boring though and that the talent level is not as high as it should be at a major Basketball University like UNLV.

    But this should be about John Johnson and how he would be a horrible hire as Athletic Director at UNLV. The Washington State Football program is probably the worst in the COUNTRY right now and we do not need this Johnson character hiring our next Football coach here at UNLV. Especially if this fool thinks that Robb Akey is in the Top 3!

  17. Ahh, Sufferin finally has something to complain about again. Where have you been lately? The comments on Rebel basketball have mysteriously been missing your words of wisdom. Why so?

  18. I am a UNLV fan. If UNLV Basketball is winning why would I be complaining? They are in the Top 20 and I am happy!

    I will complain when I have something legit to complain about. Right now the Basketball program is doing well and winning games, so I am sitting back with a smile on my face enjoying the good times.

    I still think the UNLV Basketball team is lacking of talent. I still think that this team will struggle this season and probably play in the NIT. But right now, they are a Top 20 program and I am happy. No complaints about Basketball from me. I hope they keep playing above their talent level and winning games that they probably shouldn't!

  19. Dirk Koetter was 2-19 against ranked opponents in 6 years at Arizona State and only had one season that was better than 2 games over .500. Doesn't he have a reputation of being anti-social and politically inept? Two things that are critical for a College Coach, but not a pro Coach. Besides, he probably makes $500,000 a year at Jacksonville, which is about all UNLV has to spend. Why again, is he the only choice, and why would he want to come here? Unless he gets fired with the rest of the Jacksonville staff at the end of the season, of course.

  20. Dirk Koetter led Arizona State to four bowl games in six years on the job! This is after he built the Boise State Football program that is now a fixture in the Top 10.

    In 2005, Dirk Koetter's offense finished ranked second in the nation in total offense! Dirk Koetter is his own offensive coordinator and is the only person that can lead UNLV Football to becoming a National Power!

    Koetter runs one of the most potent offenses in college Football and would light up the scoreboard in Las Vegas. He would recruit exciting big time talent to come play here like Derek Hagan who should have been a REBEL!

    Koetter will wake up the Sleeping UNLV Football Giant and turn us into a program that has National respect and is admired by people everywhere! UNLV Football will become a legit program for the first time in our history when we hire DIRK KOETTER as our next Head Football Coach.

    Koetter is the guy for us. The UNLV Administration must do whatever it takes to bring him to Las Vegas!

  21. The guy is a UNR fan. Another thing he said about our Runnin Rebels: "Now we are just a mid-level boring program that NOBODY cares about."

    Don't let him kid you with the "I am a UNLV fan".

    Runnin Rebels don't need you!!! They have more HEART than you will ever know and real fans CARE about them.

  22. I am not sure you could CARE more than I do. I would love to meet another UNLV fan that cares more than I do, not gonna happen.

    UNLV is a mid-level boring program in my opinion. So far this season they are playing above their talent level and winning some games that they probably shouldn't. They have worked hard and gotten a little lucky to move themselves into a position to be ranked in the Top 20.

    When I see talent on the floor, I will let you know. Right now I see alot of kids who try really hard and get lucky. Will they be able to keep that going all season? We will see.

    I will hope for the best but expect the NIT.

  23. I'm heading out to the game to support my Rebels at the Orleans. You can go back to your sofa and drink that can of sufferin brew. See Ya!

  24. Sufferin' is the same guy that wants Lon Kruger fired...so that tells you all what you need to know about Sufferin'. Yeah let's fire our BB coach that has led us back to the sweet 16 and we are now ranked in the top 20 in December for the first time since 93'.

    Yeah lets fire Lon Kruger you idiot. Sufferin' doesn't give UNLV basketball team ANY CREDIT. "They try hard and get lucky". Sounds like a bitter/disappointed fan that wanted Kruger fired.

    Johnson didn't place Akers in his top 3 idiot, he simply gave reporters what they wanted to hear, which were candidates for the job. I also believe Johnson said, "as well as others" meaning he could be talking about Koetter! We haven't even hired Johnson yet, and there has been no search for a Head Coach...it's typical of you to fly off the handle and spew a bunch of crap.

  25. I don't like the Washington State guy because Washington State is worse in football and basketball than we are!
    Why would we bring him in? His Athletic programs are worse than ours and they have more resources than UNLV because they are in the PAC 10.
    I don't like it.
    I also don't like the Idaho coach, I think with Idaho's schedule Mike Sanfords Rebels would have been bowl eligible this year. We need a guy like franchione or Koetter who have built up mid major football programs (TCU and BSU respectevly).

    Suffrin, I don't know why you want Pat Hill, he always falls short in Fresno.

  26. Why would you want a Arizona reject, Koetter? It
    seems this Johnson would be a great fit for UNLV!
    He is a least very sincere and affable and indeed shows good judgement in trying to get out
    of the iceberg Pullman! There are many proven division 1 an 2 coaches out there but youth
    and recognition is a must as a incomparable requirement in recruiting.

  27. Let's follow the model that SMU practiced successfully this past season: choose a man with a good system and who has proven that he can coach. I also like someone who is currently employed and will bring first hand knowledge of the current recruiting class available in the West and Midwest.

  28. Forget Koetter, Francione, and Akey. If we could get Bobby Hauck in at UNLV, we would become dominant in the MWC. I don't know how many of you follow D-1AA, but my parents live in Missoula where University of Monatana is located. Hauck is a legitimate coach and would bring UNLV into the lime light of college football. IF, and a big IF, Johnson could get Hauck than he is our man without question. Check out Hauck's coaching ability this weekend when Montana beats Villanova for the D-1AA national championship. It is on ESPN or ESPN2.

  29. @SandG4life,

    I posted about 2 weeks back that I would love to have Bobby Hauck, he is an excellent football coach. Montana will be playing in their 3rd national championship game in 6 years under Hauck. You don't win 66 games in 6 seasons at any level if you cannot coach. Hauck recruits SoCal & Seattle and gets players from those areas to go to Montana of all places, he could definately get talent to come to Vegas. I think Hauck would relish the challenge before him at UNLV & in the MWC. You have to at least make the phone call.