Sanford firing sets interim AD apart in UNLV search

Koloskie’s bold move puts him in the lead for permanent spot

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.

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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Dr. Neal Smatresk stands before his office bookcase on which rests a model of a Guatemalan squirrel, which he acquired doing rain-forest research.

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UNLV coach Mike Sanford signals officials to take a penalty against Sacramento State during the second half Sept. 5, 2009, at Sam Boyd Stadium. UNLV won 38-3.

Early Friday morning, Dr. Neal Smatresk sat in a black leather chair in his seventh-floor office and knotted a scarlet tie around the collar of a light blue-striped dress shirt.

UNLV’s new president spoke wistfully about a football victory the following day at Air Force, the Rebels beating San Diego State, and Ryan Wolfe and Omar Clayton playing in a well-deserved bowl game.

“ … we could finish 7-6,” Smatresk said.

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Jerry Koloskie

Didn’t happen. In fact, the Rebels got blistered, 45-17, at Air Force, which dropped them to 4-7 and triggered the Sunday ouster of fifth-year coach Mike Sanford by interim athletic director Jerry Koloskie.

By making such a bold in-season move, Koloskie no doubt scored more than a few points for himself in his quest to win the permanent position.

He had told the Sun that he would not consider making a move until the team became bowl ineligible – Koloskie was true to his word, and he acted confidently and decisively.

That’s just what Smatresk, who agreed with Koloskie on ousting Sanford, seeks in someone who will run his athletic department.

Early Friday morning, Smatresk (rhymes with SPA-tresk) explained that no major university decisions would be made without his mutual consent, but he expected those under him to think for themselves.

“I’m not the key decision maker here,” he said. “This is an AD’s job. I look for an AD to work with me, to explain to me, to help me understand what’s going on, then to deliver a decision that we can agree on.

“That’s the right way to work. For me, if I don’t respect an AD’s decision, what the heck is an AD for?”

The AD position became vacant in July, when Mike Hamrick bolted for his alma mater at Marshall.

Smatresk took over his post in August. He inititally wanted to wait until the spring to hire a new athletic director, because that’s when such significant moves normally are executed.

He needed to “get his arms” around the university, its personnel and every nuance of how it operated, and he set about restructuring the entire operation.

He achieved in three months what he set out to do in about three years, and he’s been busy doing stuff like setting up Las Vegas to be the solar capital of the world.

He aims to put UNLV back in its “proper place” as the heartbeat of the city.

And in addition to hiring a new athletic director, Smatresk has needed to get a provost, four deans and someone to oversee diversity.

“I need good people,” he said, “so that I don’t have to manage things myself.”

As issues piled up on his desk, Smatresk decided to clear some of them, which included moving up the athletic director situation on his timetable.

The UNLV athletic director search committee, comprised of about a dozen school officials, met for the first time a few weeks ago.

Gerry Bomotti, a UNLV vice president of finance and business, is the chair of the committee, all of whose members signed confidentiality agreements.

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Steve Stallworth

Former Rebels quarterback Steve Stallworth, who has worked at UNLV and now runs the South Point arena and equestrian center, was one of the first candidates nominated for the position. He said it’s his dream job.

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas executive director Tina Kunzer-Murphy said the same thing, but she removed herself from consideration last week.

Smatresk said he hasn’t nominated anyone for the vacancy, and Bomotti said he has been encouraged by the search. “There is a really strong pool of candidates,” he said of the Internet-based process.

Koloskie just became the top candidate, with a bullet.

Early Friday morning, after clearing up a problem with the satellite radio in his car, Smatresk said Koloskie, like anyone in a temporary role, might have an edge on his competition.

“Anytime there’s an interim, there’s an edge, a given power,” Smatresk said. “You have power of position. I have a chance to try before I buy, so to speak, and you have a chance to prove something.”

That said, Smatresk insisted the national search will be fair.

“I love nothing better than having an ace in the hole,” he said. “Everyone does. At the end of the day, the number of good candidates you need is one.

“Having said that, I believe Jerry has done a great job. He’s out there. He’s hustling. I love his work ethic. He’s just a really nice guy and I think he’s stepped out from under Mike (Hamrick’s) shadows, and the community is warming to him.”

Over the weekend, Koloskie distanced himself from the rest of the field. Smatresk’s ace in the hole just made the race for UNLV athletic director a moot point.

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  1. Koloskie shouldnt be the top candidate just b/c he fired sanford. i could have done that without a problem. jeez. he needs to do some more things (get Larry Johnson a job within the dept) to be a consideration

  2. He's the guy in the chair and he didn't waffle, he didn't hesitate, and it showed he has the power to make such decisions, which many questioned. None of that shouldn't be flippantly dismissed.

  3. i guess i understand where you are coming from, i still think there are better candidates who aren't rookies out there

  4. Maybe 11, but Koloskie has the advantages of knowing the department, its personnel and proving himself as we speak with Smatresk. That's big. Thx

  5. yea. are they lookin into the former oregon AD..bill moos is his name i think?

  6. That came from elsewhere. Unsubstantiated that anyone has even nominated him.

  7. Jerry did this the RIGHT WAY. that is what makes him the front runner.

  8. Well, now it's at least confirmed that the Sun is nothing more than the media communications arm for UNLV. Talk about jumping the shark.

    Articles like this are soooooooo UNLV. Low expectations, the crony network, and the local press still slaves to the their master.

    A 'bold' move (firing Sanford now)? Good lord, can you guys be any more obvious? The UNLV section on the Sun website might as well be a direct link from

    I would like to see the Sun quantify why Koloskie is such a great choice. Firing Sanford 4-weeks too late? Um sorry. Try again.

    Please enumerate the myriad of accomplishments Koloskie is responsible for during his decade plus long tenure in this position? I mean, he's been there forever like a to be boatloads of things he has done to improve UNLV athletics, right?

  9. Koloskie is also the guy that's been there with alot of this mess that UNLV has had. Yeah he can hide behind the fact he wasn't the man but you know what that is BS, he fell in line like the rest of the department.

    No doubt he is a nice guy who loves UNLV, but I think this would be a tragic misstep in our attempt to build a real athletic program especially with the BCS inclusion knocking on our door soon. We need someone who realizes the benefit of a strong athletics program on the university at multiple levels, not someone who by attrition wins the job.
    In addition I don't see the boosters ponying up a ton of cash to Koloskie. It just doesnt make sense to hire him despite ther comfort level some may have with him.
    That is exactly why we are second tier, UNLV was comfortable with Mike Sanford, They are comfortable with Buddy Gouldsmith, now they are comfortable with Koloskie.

    This comfort level breeds an attitude were we have a substandard set of expectations, Koloskie would continue this, I mean look at it we keep coaches IE Sanford, Regina Miller, Gouldsmith around who are sub par, where is the expectations?
    Believe me if the athletic department sets the tone and has expectations UNLV can win like any other school, and better than most, but we cannot settle for the status quo Peter Principle type hire(I.E.Koloskie).
    Run it like a business because guess what: It is and the lifeblood of the University.

    Merit not attrition. We need performance not familiarity.

    Hiring Koloskie would ensure complacency over on Maryland Parkway again.

  10. Rob, totally disagree. The UNLV athletic department has made one bone head decision after another over the last 20 years. The contracts to some of these coaches and hiring decisions have been a joke.

    The one constant has been that Jerry has been a part of this and UNLV athletics has continued to decline. It is time to clean house and bring in pros not long time employees who you think deserve the job based on longevity. It is a good ole boy frat house at UNLV, while athetics such as football and baseball have been in a serious decline in the past 5-10 years.

    Firing Sanford was a joke and the fact that he did fire him only after losing to AF is a bigger joke. As a supporter I, like many, gave Sanford a chance to prove himself. One thing I looked for was not only improvement of the athletes but of the coaches as well. Sanford never over the past 5 years demonstrated improvement and should have never been granted an extension. Everybody over there is are patting themselves on the back for this decision?

    I don't support Jerry and I never will. His comments to the press have been weak and are not that of a leader. We need someone decisive and demanding of excellence to move this university to a higher level of athletic competence. The hiring of coaches should include this verbiage to the extent that they know they are held accountable. It is a bigger joke to think that UNLV can't be more competitive. Year after year new schools emerge on the national front due to good AD's and hiring decisions of coaches. It is time to stop playing the good ole boy system and get serious about competing.

  11. Jah, you are AWFULLY presumptuous in your statements, amigo. And wrong.

  12. Did you really say that firing Sanford was a bold move?

    We gave up more in a half on defense to Air force than any MWC team did in a full game this year.

    Utah State hires a new coach and in 1 season is competetive.

    Sanford should have been let go long before this moment. The point being nobody including Koloskie has a pulse on a real program.
    Where was the oversight where is the attention to detail, is it going to magically start now all of sudden.

    We haven't improved on defense in 5 years, we are status quo a bunch of nice guys with no expectations to win. A true admin would have either made a change or demanded staff changes agin, it was obvious the weaknesses, we had coaches blaming personell, get real coaches are responsible for personnel either recruiting or coaching them.

    Koloskie is simply trying to make himself a candidate.

    Lets hope the Prersident doesn't truly believe this article or we are in for another promising decade of frustration and untapped potential.

    Maybe Koloskie can bring back another nice guy Jeff Horton, that would fit the norm.

    I hear Jim Bollas looking for work, maybe hire Barry Barto back those are both long tenured comfortable names. How exciting piling up 9th place trophies for our display case. after all that is the status quo comfortable thing that way we can continue our tradition.

  13. Pulling the trigger the moment the team became ineligible for a bowl was proper. College fb coaches are rarely let go in the middle of a season. Are you kidding me? Get real.

  14. I think this was a great move by him, and he held true to his word. I think what will be more important for his future as the AD, Rob, is his choice for a replacement. If he's as methodical and true to his word as he was with the Sanford dismissal, I hope he can just as effective with the hiring process.

  15. The PRESIDENT is doing okay by me (so far). Why? Because he hasn't screwed anything up yet. Koloskie is not the guy to take us forward. It's time to clean house and get some fresh ideas in there, people who can get the fundamentals right then power us to the top, where we belong. UNLV needs it's Dana White.
    WE NEED A STUD for AD and FB HC. Get it done, Mr Smatresk and you'll always be remembered as the guy who puts things right at Incompetent U.

  16. Rob, I would never make a claim of bias like some people who think you are lackeys for UNLV. I know you can only publish facts that are given to you. I do want to say I have lived here all my life (53 years), and this is the worst football and baseball I have ever seen here. It truly is a time for change and I think if you do some research you would see that hiring within is not the answer. All small time or wallowing programs like ours have only undergone a succeful turn around by realizing there are people out there that can do the job. I have nothing personal against Koloski, I am just tired of the same bad hiring decisions. The only way to turn this around is with tremendous leadership and initiative. I do not think Jerry is the man, but would be more than happy to have him prove me wrong. I am not going anywhere so 5 years from now we will revisit this and see who is right. I am basing my judgement by history and who has been involved. Jerry Koloskie has benn there every step of the way and to totally ignore that would demonstrate incomptence by Smatreesk to limit his options. A national search must be conducted and the most qualified canidate hired. Jerry has no number one AD experience, therefore I think he is a big mistake.

    The guy from Oregon(Moos) went to Hawaii and personally trashed all their athletic programs by his decisions. Letting the football coach leave was number one. Besides that fact, you would find out that there is a lost of friction between him and his coaches. He is according to Smatresk "his friend" and this another emotional decision that would hurt us. Let's take longevity and friendships out of the way and hire the best person with the best resume.

    See you with my told you so in a few years or I'll eat crow, but I like my chances.

  17. Hiring Jerry Koloskie would be the biggest mistake in a long line of big mistakes at UNLV over the years.

    UNLV needs ENERGY, VISION, and LEADERSHIP. If Jerry Koloskie was meant to be a Division 1 athletic director, he would have been one by now....kind of like Mike Sanford would have been a head coach if he was meant to be one before we made the mistake of hiring him.

    I have no doubt that Jerry Koloskie loves UNLV and I certainly thank him for his years of service. I also have no doubt that Jerry Koloskie is very good at HIS job. But athletic director? No thanks.

    President Smatresk has more than impressed in his first few months on the job. I am certain he has better sense than to hand the keys to Koloskie simply because he MADE THE MOST OBVIOUS MOVE IN THE HISTORY OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL. A 4th grader could have waited until we inevitably became ineligible for a bowl and then fired Sanford the next day.


  18. go_rebels: The AD that let Jones leave in Hawaii and is friends with Smatresk is Herman Frazier, not Bill Moos.

  19. Rob apparently you misunderstood, I was not questioning the timing of the firing, I just don't understand why you are heaping praise on a decision my 12 year old could have made. Believe me as former Ball boy in the 1970's
    I have been around this program for along time and Jerry Koloskie is not the right fit.

    Even if he made such a bold move as to fire a coach with a less than .250 winning percentage after 5 years and a loss that ensured another losing season.
    I guess it just doesn't make sense why the praise, the article seems like it is written with an agenda, I'm sure anyone would have made the same call it was very obviously time.

    I do enjoy your insights and articles just think you are throwing praise where none is warranted.

  20. Everyone expected Sanford would be history, so with only one game left in two weeks this was no bold "in-season move". The timing of this move is a disservice to the team and shows a lack of both respect and class. UNLV finishes in second place... everyone else is tied for first.

  21. id love to be a ballboy

  22. If we can not confirm Bill Moos' interest in the position, why is his name coming up so often? His name is coming up from people reporting on UNLV athletics, so I am a little unclear why there is not the ability to confirm his application?

    UNC fired John Bunning mid season in order to have the first opportunity to go after potential Football Coaching candidates. So it has been done in the past, even though it is not the norm. Was the Memphis firing of Tommy West not the same timing as UNLV?

    Jerry made the move that everyone has been asking for. I dont think that his background leads people to have the confidence that he has a rolodex on potential candidates for this opportunitiy. If anything, he will have Agents from Coaches who are seeking employment calling him about the opportunity today.

    Have to credit the new UNLV President for being out front in regards to Athletics. It has been a long time coming for the leader of the University to be commenting about expectations regarding the program.

    Have to agree about the other Coaches on campus not getting it done and why that they have been able to retain their positions. When you have Tim Chambers at CCSN providing more excitement and better results than UNLV after losing Slosh to TCU, it begs the question why a move has not been made and to what involvement Jerry has had in this process.

    I think that it would be good for everyone to read about what Jerry has been responsible for in his current role? What is he responsible for and what has he been overseeing? Some clarity about his skills could be made much easier to see if everyone understood what he was really responsible for in his previous role.

    Breaking the old guard regime at UNLV with a Moos or BCS school Associate AD would be a welcome change for a program that needs to get locals more in support of the program.

  23. Koloskie is just a puppet, a "yes man". He doesn't have a clue about running an athletic program. He gets his orders from somewhere else. UNLV needs an AD with a proven track record of building a successful program as well as securing donations for the program. Koloskie just doesn't meet the requirements.

  24. I agree that firing Sanford at this point (no earlier, no later) was the "right" thing to do. But it was hardly "bold." It was just common sense.

  25. If Koloskie gets the job you can kiss UNLV Athletics goodbye. Koloskie is a disaster and having him as AD would be one of the worst things that could ever happen to the University.

    Koloskie has already proven that he is totally incompetent to hold the position. He is not the person that you want as the FACE of the entire Department. He is not someone you put out front to speak as the face of the department. Koloskie is a face that you try to hide in a dark room. The guy can't even comb his hair or keep his pants up half the time. A complete disaster of a human being from a physical standpoint. This is not someone you send to major boosters to raise money. What is going to do, tell them three stooges jokes and poke them in the eyes?

    Get real. Koloskie should retire or go back to rubbing butts and taping ankles.

  26. Rob, I like your coverage on UNLV atheletics...but good god. Koloskie? Really? I am going to agree with Succotash on this one, hiring Koloskie would be a disaster of epic proportion.

    Saying Koloskie's firing of Sanford as an accomplishment is unreal. It would be a better article if you simply listed some accomplishments Koloskie has. Saying it's a BOLD move is just retarded Rob.

    Interim athletic director Jerry Koloskie, while reiterating his statement from the weekend that seven games remain, seconded the president's statement.

    "If that's what his thoughts are, certainly I concur with that," Koloskie said. "We want to make the best decision for the department and for the university, so we'll have to monitor it week to week and go from there. That's what we do all the time."

    Sounds like a spineless weenie to me. There's a reason why Koloskie has been passed up for the top job.

    We need an AD with leadership and vision. Koloskie provides neither. UNLV has a great opportunity here, don't ***** it up by hiring Koloskie as AD.

  27. Koloskie has completed the first step that he needed to take to be seriously considered for AD. Sanford needed to go, which was obvious to all. Koloskie was in a tough position being interim AD, but he did pull the trigger, saving the University nearly $50K in the way that he did it. I can live with that, even though I would have liked to see Sanford exit the scene earlier.

    Step two. Jerry, if you're reading this, please consider this step as well. You NEED to replace the baseball coach. You have THE PERFECT replace ready, willing, and able to take the job sitting in your lap. Make Tim Chambers the baseball coach (now, before the season and serious practicing starts) and you'll win over more UNLV fans to your cause. This needed to happen a year or two ago.

  28. If we don't hire Bill Moos we deserve what we get. The guy did wonders at Oregon and the only reason we would even have a chance of getting him is because he can't work at a BCS school per his non compete. Hopefully the regents pull their head out on this one!

    Rob I don't think your boy Stallworth has a chance, but UNLV has done dumber things as of late.

  29. There needs to be a national search for AD. I mean cmon, running a rinky dink horse arena is nowhere near the same thing as running a multimillion dollar Division 1 athletic department. Neither is running a third-tier no-name bowl. I can't believe they are even considered serious candidates.

  30. As for StoneDog saying Koloskie saved the University nearly 50K here is what people are missing. They are letting Sanford go on December 5th. Why that date? The reason is they hired him on December 6th 2004. What that means is he will vest that day in the Nevada PERS for having worked 5 years for the State. When he turns 60 he gets a percentage for retirement for the rest of his life. If they would have let him go at the end of his last game then he would not vest. Koloskie could let Sanford go anytime before December 5th and cost UNLV another 50K but instead is willing to let PERS take the hit for the rest of his life. What a nice guy. I want to work for him too.

  31. LMAO at what Sufferin said about Koloskie

  32. You would literally be better off coaching at an FCS school than you would be coaching at UNLV. Appalachian State has a deeper commitment to winning.

    UNLV Football needs to learn what it means to have a well-directed PROGRAM, and not just ad hoc management of a football team in the hopes of getting lucky. A program requires massive, active financial commitments. A stadium and facilities that are worthy of your ambitions.

    A program also requires direction and vision. You need a football man in charge as AD who doesn't need to learn on the job. You need someone who can rally and inspire and unite a community.

    If UNLV -- and yes, the Las Vegas community -- are unwilling or unable to do those things, and soon, then don't waste another penny. Get rid of the football team, and focus on boosting the basketball team. It's possible that Vegas just isn't a football town. If so, recognize that, and stop working so hard (and so stupidly) to accomplish nothing.

  33. so does sanford get paid for 2010,2011 & 2012 for doing nothing

  34. no they negotiate a buyout. it will probably be about 235,000-300k

  35. I think the coach would have been gone even without an AD or not. Just because Koloskie did it, means null at this point. Now, had he done it earlier, that may have been different, but Sanford was past the point of no return. Seems like a little lobbying from Koloskie to buff up, but I'll admit a good strategic move none-the-less, but had he not done it, would have looked even worse.

    I don't know Koloskie or Stallworth much, or how they do business but Koloskie was the only one in the position to do something, maybe we should ask Stallworth or any other candidates what they would have done in this situation?