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Players graduating, returning discuss coaching turnover

QB Omar Clayton says it’s a waiting game for most returners as coaching search ensues

Sanford Out as UNLV Coach

After a 15-43 record in five seasons as head coach, UNLV put an end to the Mike Sanford era.

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UNLV senior receiver Ryan Wolfe answers questions from reporters on Monday, Nov. 16, 2009, after now-fired head coach Mike Sanford met with the media at the Lied Athletic Complex.

The Rebel Room

Mike Sanford press conference — 11-16-09

UNLV football coach Mike Sanford, who was told on Sunday that he would not be brought back for the 2010 campaign, met with the media on Monday afternoon to answer questions. Here is the sound from the press conference in its entirety.

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Whenever a college football program undergoes a coaching change, naturally, fallout ensues.

Usually, it's in the form of players transferring out of the program.

UNLV's decision to fire fifth-year coach Mike Sanford came as the 4-7 team heads into the bye week, and then plays its season finale Nov. 28 at home against San Diego State. For the time being, until both the season is finished and a new coach is named, the UNLV players set to return next season are in a holding pattern of sorts.

"I've given it some thought," said junior quarterback Omar Clayton. "It all circles back to I don't know what the future holds for this program. I don't know who's going to be head coach, I don't know what kind of offense I'm supposed to run, how it will be ran, so it's all up in the air.

"I can pray for the best and stay positive and keep the guys who are still going to be here rallied around myself and the other leaders who will be on the team in order to just keep this program in the best shape possible and get ready for next year."

Sanford met with his team Sunday as usual, but the message he delivered this week was quite different.

Several players said it was a tough meeting to endure, but they could see the writing on the wall. They'd heard rumblings of it from the outside all season long and knew the pressure was on to produce wins.

The 45-17 loss at Air Force on Saturday solidified the fact that UNLV will not snap its postseason drought. The Rebels' last bowl appearance came in 2000.

"It's always a possibility, and people have that in the back of their minds, but when it actually happens, I don't think anybody can really be ready for that," Clayton said of Sanford's firing. "Everybody realizes the possibility, but when it happens, it happens."

Senior receiver Ryan Wolfe said that as for other shortcomings within the program, which Sanford addressed with the media a few moments earlier upstairs in the Lied Athletics Complex, the players had for the most part tuned that out in the past.

"There's no way us as teenagers or 20-year-old kids are going to be able to understand the entire workings of what goes on with the university," he said. "We're here, we follow who's ahead of us, our coaches lead us in the direction we need to to be successful. It's up to us to just play and get it done every week.

"Being a senior, it was kind of frustrating those first couple of years not being able to compete a lot of the time within the conference. But in the last couple of years, I think that's been a big change. But we live in a result-oriented society. Nothing good comes from losing close games and competing but not winning. It all comes down to a 'What have you done for me lately?' mentality."

Wolfe was one of a few success stories to bloom under Sanford, as he went from a grayshirted recruit who the Rebels relied upon to become both the school's and Mountain West Conference's all-time leading pass catcher.

Do others remain in the cupboard of young players recruited to UNLV by Sanford and his staff?

Only time will tell — if they stick around.

"Simply don't forget why you came here," senior receiver Rodelin Anthony said of the message he'll pass on to his younger teammates. "You're a football player. Your job is not to get caught up in all the politics. It's to produce on the field and continue to do what you love regardless of what uniform you're wearing or what colors you have on. Just continue to do what you love best as if you're playing outside in the backyard with your buddies. That's about it. That's all I really can tell them."

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