Ron Kantowski:

Meditations on UNLV’s beleaguered football coach

Here are 773 thoughts — one for each yard UNLV allowed in the 63-28 debacle at Nevada-Reno on Saturday — about Mike Sanford’s tenuous status as Rebels head football coach.

Just kidding. Unlike the Wolf Pack, we’re gonna stop at 15.

1. Somebody should send the Board of Regents the check for Sanford’s $225,000 buyout. They are the ones who ratified his three-year contract extension last year with a rubber stamp.

2. Like Eric the Clown in “Seinfeld,” it would appear Neal Smatresk, the new UNLV president, is going to oversee his athletic department with a big shoe. He could have taken the high road when asked about Sanford’s job status, deflecting inquiries until the end of the season. Instead, he basically said that if the Rebels don’t play better against BYU this week, his big shoe could come to rest on Sanford’s backside sooner than later.

3. Jerry Koloskie, the Rebels’ interim athletic director, didn’t come across quite as businesslike. “If that’s what his thoughts are, certainly I concur with that,” Koloskie said after hearing what his boss had to say. To paraphrase the old quote about Michael Jordan, the last time I saw somebody jump that high was when Mayor Daley asked an alderman to bring him a cup of coffee. But in defense of Koloskie, anybody with “interim” in front of his title must think twice before he speaks.

4. Sanford is making excuses why the Rebels can’t beat BYU on Saturday, citing the median age of the Cougars and that most of them have kids. I might point out that unless there were a bunch of quickie divorces and custody cases that went unreported, that didn’t seem to deter Florida State.

5. I paid $4.99 to the UNR athletic department so I could watch the Internet feed of Saturday’s game. The way I see it, I am more than happy to contribute to the Mike Ball scholarship fund since nobody at UNLV seemed willing when it had first dibs on him. Ball, who rushed for 184 yards and five touchdowns on 15 carries against UNLV, starred at Desert Pines High School but apparently fell through the same crack on the recruiting path that so many other local standouts do when it comes to their hometown school.

6. With UNLV and many of its benefactors strapped for cash, now might be the time to take one more look at dropping the football program and asking the West Coast Conference if it has room for one more. Let the Lon Kruger vs. Mark Few rivalry begin.

7. One more argument for mothballing the program: Do you know that UNLV’s all-time winning percentage in football of .426 ranks 105th among the 120 Division I-A programs? And that record, as putrid as it may be, includes 12-1 and 8-3 seasons during which the Rebels essentially played a Big Sky schedule.

8. The only programs to have experienced more football futility than UNLV are Duke, Iowa State, Rice, Eastern Michigan, Wake Forest, Kent State, Indiana, Kansas State, Tulane, Temple, UTEP, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, New Mexico State and Florida International. And the Prison Guards, who are now 0-2 against the Inmates in “Longest Yard” movies.

9. The best/only reason for not mothballing the program: Potentially, it’s the only sport besides basketball that can generate significant revenue on a college campus.

10. When somebody asked about the type of coach UNLV should pursue, my first thought was it’s too bad Vince Lombardi didn’t have a crazy son who decided to have his old man’s head frozen in a cryonic lab.

11. Seriously, I think UNLV should try the Lon Kruger approach when it comes time to hire a new football coach. Find a proven winner who wants to come to the desert to retire. But not as quickly as John Robinson.

12. Maybe a guy like Dirk Koetter, who built Boise State into a winner, but at Arizona State discovered it’s harder to run the hook-and-lateral play when the other team’s defensive backs do not hail from Pocatello or Coeur d’Alene. Maybe if a guy like that returned to the mid-major level and built another winner, he wouldn’t be so hasty to leave it in his rearview mirror.

13. Oh yeah, Jim Fassel is living here now. He coached in the Super Bowl once. And at Utah.

14. Then there’s always Darwin Rost at Palo Verde High. At least he wouldn’t complain when the other team wears wedding rings and spends its scholarship money on Juicy Juice. Plus, I’ll bet he knows a bunch of local kids who could fill some scholarship openings.

15. Somewhere on the side of a country road in West Virginia, former UNLV athletic director Mike Hamrick must be splitting a gut.

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  1. Great Piece, nicely written

  2. well writted Ron...I believe his buyout is $287,500 if he is let go before December 4th.

    We need to send him packing and put an end to this disasterous chapter of UNLV Football.

  3. Hamrick is a real friggin piece of work. I'd like to test the limits of his dental coverage.

  4. Great piece Ron. Finally someone in journalism telling it like it really is. The longer president Smatresk waits to blow out Sanford the worse it os going to be for this program.

    Here is how I see it: Athletics begin with the AD & until we have a real AD who has experienced success within a legitmate conference UNLV is always going to suck. We don't need a local AD, that will only be another kick in the balls to UNLV fans. Our balls have been kicked enough. We need to hire an AD from one of these conferences the Big-12, Big-10, ACC, or SEC. An AD from any of those conferences understands how important athletics are to a university and a community and they would hire a coach that understands football. Please no more works in progress!!!!

  5. i usually like your stuff black... but i think looking locally is the right thing to do. Need to get a buzz going locally, i think the 3 vegas candidates are more then qualified.

  6. Dirk Koetter, the current Jaguars offensive coordinator, gets my vote. I think he would love to come back and run his own program again.

  7. With BYU playing last Friday and Utah a bye week, the front page on The SLC trib last sunday was all UNLV stuff. should be a bloodbath the next two weeks. Maybe fan collection for buyout at the gate. 10,000 at $20 bucks a piece gets us close. I really doubt we will find a lon kruger style football coach. Rebel basketball at least was a powerhouse at one time. If jim fassel is coaching the locomotives, what does that tell you. Is there an over and under on the attendance at our home town loco game? I say 5500.

  8. Thanks for all the comments guys.

    Mike Sanford has finally managed to find a way to get the locals fired up about UNLV football although this probably isn't the method he would have preferred.

  9. We all have our opinions on who we think should be the new AD and who would do the best job. One area I think we all could agree with and find common ground on is that we need real a AD and head football coach.

    Did anybody else hear this? Yesterday I was listening to 920AM in the afternoon and they were talking about an interview they had with Sanford on Monday and this is what Sanford said:

    "The thing that hurt us the most against UNR was that we were not able to simulate their team speed during practice all last week and we had no idea that they were that fast".

    I couldn't believe I heard that and I still cannot believe he is making these kinds of excuses for getting blew apart at the seams 5 games into his 5th year.

  10. What about giving Bill Moos a call. He did great things at Oregon and is very well liked and respected in college athletics.... With a guy like him you know he would be able to attract a good football coach!

  11. It's time Sanford traded in his coach's headset for the ones they provide the drive-thru tellers at fast food restaurants.

  12. Ron, shutting down the program seems more and more like a possibility and that is downright scary. Jim Rogers needs to step in and make some moves; he's really the only one in a position of power who truly cares about the program.

    Glad you picked up on Jim Fassel. IMO, he's a GIFT in disguise with this UFL debacle. When I think of Fassel, I think of June Jones when he was at Hawaii and Dave Wannstedt (sp) while at Pitt. He should be donning scarlet and gray come 2010..

  13. #16. Don't think Sanford knows what a tight end is as they haven't received a pass in 2 games. The offense passing game is so predictable; Wolfe when Clayton is QB and Payne when Clausen is QB. The Wyoming game was lost when they had 2rd and 3 and rather continue to pound it into the endzone and run out the clock threw 2 incomplete passes and then messed up the field goal attempt from 50 yards. Really don't know what to say about Reno, except "Thanks for the memories!" Let's forghet that and press on!!!

    #17. Tony Dungy mentioned that he would never coach again in the NFL but would consider high school or college. At UNLV he could get both!

  14. I don't know what is more shocking? The fact that Sanford is still coaching this abortion of a team? The fact that he is still making retarded excuses after 5 years? The fact that the university hasn't totally abandoned this football program altogether or at least demoted it to the D-2 level? Any business that habitually loses tons of money on an annual basis cannot keep it's doors open!!

    I can already hear Sanford's post game excuse as to why they were destroyed by BYU, it will go something like this - "What really hurt us tonight is that we had no way of game simulating practices against 26 yr. old freshman, you know it's really hard to play against 26-28 yr. olds with our kids".

    Coaches at any level higher then pop-warner do not accept excuses from their players, you either get the job done or you dont, period!! Why should the players, the universtity, & the community put up with his excuses any longer. Is Sanford a nice guy, is he very likeable, does he have a good moral character? YES. This is strictly about football and football only and that is how he should be judged.

  15. I think UNLV got the short end of the coaching stick when Urban Meyer and Mike Sanford left UTAH. Meyer is 39-13 at UF with 2 national chapionships and a Heisman trophy winner. Sanford is 13-40 at UNLV and is circling the drain- so much for an offensive genius. UNLV really needs a coach with quality BCS calibur credentials and/or a pro pedigree. Being a good salesman is always overlooked in Head Coaches. Not just the talent for shmoozing the big money donors but selling the parents and kids on a quality program/education/life in Las Vegas. Mike Sanford never was the salesman UNLV needed.

  16. Dropping the football program is a scary thought. Vegas can be a fickle fan base and when the team consisantly goes 4-7 no one wants to go (and understandably so). In the early 90's I lived in NY when the Mets were horrible and no one showed up at shea. They didn't say fold the team. If we hire someone who can actually COACH we will win, the fans will come and the team will make money. It can be fixed, history has taught us that more than once (Kansas St., Rutgers, etc.).

  17. Potential UNLV coaching Hires:
    Jon Gruden - Former NFL Head Coach of Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (46 years old)
    Bill Cowher - Former Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach (52 years old)
    Dirk Koetter - Built Boise State Football, Former ASU Head Coach, Current Offensive Coordinator NFL Jacksonville Jaguars (50 years old)
    Gus Malzahn - Current Offensive Coordinator at Auburn University. Innovator of the Wildcat Offense. (43 years old)
    Pat Hill - Current Head Coach at Fresno State, former UNLV Offensive Coordinator in 1981/82. (57 years old)
    Steve Kragthorpe - Current Louisville Head Coach. Former Tulsa Head Coach. (44 years old)
    Bobby Hauck - Head Coach Montana (former Rick Neuheisel Assistant) (45 years old)
    Dan Hawkins - Current Colorado University Head Coach (48 years old)
    Brian Billick - Former NFL Head Coach for the Baltimore Ravens (55 years old) assistant coach at BYU, SDSU, Utah State and Stanford.
    Mike Shanahan - Former NFL Head Coach for the Denver Broncos (57 years old)
    Todd Graham - Current Head Coach at University of Tulsa. Also Head Coach at Rice University. 25-8 record at Tulsa. (44 years old)
    Derek Dooley - Head Coach and Athletic Director at Louisiana Tech University (40 years old) *rumored to be Virginia's next Head Coach.
    Dennis Franchione - Former Head Coach Texas A&M and built TCU Football (58 years old)
    Jeff Jagodzinski - Former Boston College Head Coach (45 years old) *rumored to be next Louisville Head Coach
    Tommy Bowden - Former Head Coach at Clemson and Tulane (55 years old)
    Terry Bowden - Head Coach North Alabama - Pure Winner (53 years old)
    Tommy Tuberville - Former Head Coach at Auburn and Ole Miss (55 years old)

  18. Maybes:
    Norm Chow - UCLA Offensive Coordinator. Great choice 5 years ago! (63 years old now) (Asian American Candidate)
    Bob Gregory - Cal Bears Defensive Coordinator. (46 years old)
    Rocky Long - Defensive Coordinator at San Diego State. Former New Mexico Head Coach.
    Bryan Harsin - Boise State Offensive Coordinator (32 years old)
    Mike Shula - Former Head Coach Alabama. Current Quarterbacks Coach Jacksonville Jaguars.
    Gary Andersen - Utah State Head Coach. Former Defensive Coordinator at University of Utah.
    Will Muschamp - Current Defensive Coordinator at Texas. (38 years old) *supposedly will replace Mack Brown someday.
    Robb Akey - Head Coach at Idaho - Bad Record overall (43 years old)
    Robert Anae - Offensive Coordinator at BYU (50 years old)
    Steve Mariucci - Former NFL Head Coach at San Francisco and Detroit. (53 years old)
    Mike Bellotti - Former Oregon Head Coach and Current Athletic Director (58 years old)
    Mike Martz - Former NFL Head Coach (58 years old)
    Rich Ellerson - Current Head Coach at Army. Former Head Coach at Cal Poly and Southern Utah University. (56 years old)
    Bill Cubit - Western Michigan Head Coach (56 years old)

  19. Guys not to hire:
    Tony Dungy - Former NFL Head Coach of the Indianapolis Colts. (54 years old) (African American Candidate)
    Jeremy Bates - Assistant Head coach of the Offense at USC. (33 years old)
    John L. Smith - Former Head Coach Michigan State, Louisville, Utah State and Idaho. (60 years old) Currently Special teams coach Arkansas.
    Larry Coker - Former Head Coach University of Miami. Current Head Coach at UT San Antonio. (61 years old).
    Jim Fassel - Current Head Coach of Las Vegas Locomotives of the UFL. (60 years old)
    Philip Fulmer - Former Head Coach at Tennessee. (59 years old)
    Turner Gill - Head Coach Loser at University of Buffalo, Bad Record (African American Candidate) record 1-4, 0-2 in MAC this season.
    Glenn Mason - Former Loser Minnesota Head Coach (59 years old) Not for us
    Tyrone Willingham - Former Loser Head Coach at University of Washington, Notre Dame and Stanford. (African American Candidate) Not for us.
    Dennis Green - Former NFL Coach at Arizona and Minnesota. Former College Coach at Stanford and Northwestern. (African American Candidate) (60 years old)
    Brent Venables - Current associate Head Coach at Oklahoma (38 years old)
    Charlie Strong - Defensive Coordinator at Florida. (49 years old) (African American Candidate) *rumored to be Central Florida's next coach.
    Jeff Bower - former Southern Miss Coach (55 years old)
    Frank Solich - Head Football Coach of the Ohio Bobcats (65 years old)

  20. Oh I love reading the comments and seeing potential names thrown into the hat, but guys, let's face it, there is only one formula for having a winning football program and that is:

    y+Regents+alumni with pockets+a steelballPresident+savyAD+coachwithheadpointingforward=a great team

    Care to guess how many of those mentioned above belong to UNLV?

  21. The biggest obstacle to winning at UNLV is the lack of quality leadership in the athletic department. Lack of quality leadership can't be remedied by a hasty hire from a small pool of candidates. UNLV can't identify the best and most qualified candidates until a full, fair and open search has been conducted. That doesn't mean UNLV has to take waste time or money on a search firm. But minimal due diligence requires an open announcement, a reasonable time to submit resumes, and screening of qualified candidates before the President selects the next AD.

    Rebel athletics has suffered because the university has chosen unqualified AD's who lacked experience understanding and negotiating sophisticated business transactions. Too much emphasis was placed on past history as an 'athlete' or 'coach' or 'career administrator,' and not enough weight was given to the AD's ability to understand and negotiate agreements with large and sophisticated business partners that are favorable for UNLV. A haphazard selection process from among a pool of three candidates chosen by the local media because they live in Las Vegas, have 'sports-related' jobs, and attended UNLV, puts the university at-risk of hiring yet another unqualified person.

    In the wake of a painful and embarrassing loss, it's tempting to rush to hire a new AD and new head football coach. But UNLV doesn't need a 'new' AD or a 'new' head football coach; UNLV needs the 'right' AD and the 'right' head football coach. A mid-season rush led to Mike Sanford's hiring. The 'quick-fix' hiring approach didn't work then, and it won't work now.

    Given the state of Nevada's economy and gaming industry, crafting an attractive compensation package for the 'right' head coach will be more complex and difficult than cold-calling Steve Wynn or Sheldon Adelson. Increased funding from the Legislature is not an option, and the prospects for raising donations in this economy are limited, so the new AD will have to evaluate existing relationships with business partners to determine what additional revenue, if any, can be derived by re-negotiating agreements. The new AD will also have to revise the process by which tickets are allocated to create additional revenue to formulate an attractive compensation package for quality coaching candidates.

    Poor leadership inevitably brings economic and competitive failure, but the quality of leadership can't be improved until the selection process is improved first. A rush to make a 'new' hire is not the best way to improve the process unless the new hire is also the 'right' hire. The better method is to open the position to all comers and carefully scrutinize credentials to identify the person best capable of restructuring the department's revenues to maximize the compensation package that can be presented to prospective head coaching candidates, and then to allow the right AD, once hired, to conduct a comprehensive search for the 'right' head football coach.

  22. Sounds like a change is needed. I have the guy. Andy "Bugsy" Siegal Asst Coach at Southern Miss. He has had great offenses everywhere he has been and is known as one of the top recruiters in the nation. Also the last Bugsy Siegel did some big things here!

  23. Betonblack, I factually know Sanford is full of crap about the "The thing that hurt us the most against UNR was that we were not able to simulate their team speed during practice all last week and we had no idea that they were that fast" statement.

    During practice the offense would run a play and smoke the defense and the DC would scream "slow it down, we are playing positions"

    If the Rebels defensive Captains look to the sideline during the BYU game the DC should be fired prior to half-time.

    Wyoming ran a hurry-up or no-huddle and smoked us because we were busy waiting for a Defensive Play to be signaled in. What is this pop-warner?

    (I mean no disrespect to Pop Warner those kids were young and not D-1 players)

    I will be at the Alumni Tail gate and when President Smatresk starts pressing the flash he will get an earfull from a fed-up Alumni.

    People mentioned wearing blue...... never. I will be wearing yellow to clearly represent the lack of spine by UNLV to stop this charade.

  24. You really don't want Dirk. I'm in Phoenix and an ASU grad. If you were to contact anyone in the local media, they would have stories on they're being attacked by this small market mental-midget. The story when he was dismissed less than a year after the fluff AD Ms Lisa Love, (no really, this isn't a porn name), gave him a 3 year, $2 mil per year guaranteed contract was that he smiled for the first time, the first time he shook the hand of a reporter, and the only time he spoke willingly; was at this dismissal press conference. He was Mr. Boise and could treat people like crap in the capital city, but once he hit the Phoenix market and lost the ability to control all that was said and or reported about he or the Sun Devils he went postal. Plus his winning percentage in the Pac-10 was real bad. I'll support ex-Colorado coach Gary Barnett getting the job, he lives here, and I'm sure he would love the opportunity. I understand Boulder people would exchange "the Hawk" another BSU bust, for Barnett any day. If anyone wonders why Chris Peterson wants to stay around, look at his predecessors. I don't think UNLV can afford another coordinator, even if BYU's Brad Anae wants it. He will get a head job very soon, but UNLV is a huge challenge for a new head coach. Find a guy that succeeded everywhere but when it comes to being politically correct, like Barnett.
    PS-Imagine the pressure BYU is under this weekend. If they have just their second blow out win of the year, Sanford and his staff, all their families and kids get uprooted. For that reason it's going to be one more 10 point win. BYU 33 UNLV 21, and BYU will rush more, as they did last week, than pass, 50-28 plays, rush vs pass.

  25. Sorry to butt in twice. I read the potential coaches ages, and I think the author may be very much in error. Most of those you mention, like Fassell have kids closer to 59 to 60 years old, than they are. It was tried with John Robinson already, ASU is trying it with 90 year old, Dennis Ericksen, and Rebel fans know well how that experiment is going.

  26. I wonder who BYU Alumni President Dave McCann will be rooting for this weekend? Watch Channel 8 to see how they will push any BYU potential candidate to come to UNLV to fix things.

    Proven Head Coach is what is needed to get people excited.

    Also, the next AD candidate should come from a BCS School who understands how football can be a money maker for the Athletic Department. Going local is really small thinking and none of the candidates have this depth of experience in building a department that actually would grow. It would be the same old good old boy network if it goes in that direction.

    The new AD will want to have a candidate that they want to put their name on. When you have a JC Baseball program continuing to have more success and support than a D1 program - how can an internal candidate be a proponent of change?

    There are too many interims at UNLV right now. Hopefully this President will be a leader to make change and get these spots filled with talent to lead to take UNLV back to a nationally known athletic school due to their success on the field or court.

    Turner Gill finished as a runner up at Auburn and Nebraska. Takes a horrible program to Conference Champion last year. This guy is not a horrible candidate, he would at least give ESPN a reason to cover the MWC if he was at UNLV.

  27. do what notre dame does; get a couple of 'ringers', boost their grade scores sign them up for a major in basket weaving , look the other way when they get arrested and prepare to post bail. get a coach who looks the other way, also.

  28. Success always starts at the top of any organization, corporation, or university. Successful CEO's, Presidents, and Administrators surrond themselves with successful people and until UNLV takes this approach it is always going to be the same old song and dance. The only right way to go is to hire an AD from a BCS conference school, who will in turn hire the "right coach". The local guys might understand Vegas but they do not understand what it takes to succeed in athletics and that is why they would fail.

    In reality the university is flat broke and based off of the entire history of this university why should any of us believe they are going make the right decision? I am expecting the same old garbage hire or even perhaps nothing to be done at all with Sanford because that is the UNLV way.

    I am trying so hard to support this university as my second team but I cannot pull myself around to support people who do not push for excellence! The potential is here for greatness we just have a bunch of "shmucks" in charge & until that changes nothing is ever going to change for UNLV. We can debate until the end of the world about who or who shouldn't be hired but the reality is until the UNLV administration is serious about athletics we will always stay the same old UNLV.

  29. Darwin Rost?!!!??? Are you crazy? You obviously want to win at ANY cost if you think hiring someone like him is the answer. He pads his roster with illegal players, and flat out has no sense of common courtesy to other coaches or players on other teams. His lack of sportsmanship should negate him from coaching anyone, not to mention his abuses of power. Does it not seem strange to anyone else that he is allowed to be a head football coach and the athletic director? Sounds like a conflict of interest to me. And the fact that his wife is second in command in CCSD should raise everyones eyebrows too. Just how much wool is being pulled over everyone's eyes remains to be seen.

  30. You know, a couple years ago I wanted this guy back at Utah as our OC. Now, I'm not so sure . . . .

    Hey, maybe John Ensign wants the job, then you can get rid of him and Sanford both!!!!!

  31. Cheer up Rebel fans this will be Sanford's last game as UNLV (HC). He will get tossed out after UNLV gets blown out by BYU. UNLV President Smatresk already said in the RJ on Tuesday that Sanford's job right now is on a week to week basis. (Translation) If he loses this week he is gone. This may sound morbid but I have never wanted UNLV to lose as bad as I want them to lose this week.
    Too bad UNLV couldn't lure Brian Kelley away from "Cincy" to take this job. That would be a great hire, look what he has done with that football program.

  32. Coaches always get all the flack when their players don't execute or their assistants don't do a good job. From what I've read, the players like Staford. Changing coaches will do nothing to improve the program at this point in time. If the players were not playing well because they didn't like their coach, that would be another thing, but that's not the case here.

  33. I don't think its ever a good thing to fire a head coach mid-season. It certainly does not raise the confidence of the rest of the coaching staff (except perhaps the interim coach) or the players. It may please some frustrated fans, and salve the ego of the person pulling the trigger, but it seldom leads to more wins.

  34. fire him mid season and let's start all over again..

  35. Frankly, a smart pick would be someone eager to prove himself, a frugal hire (considering the economic downturn), and MOST IMPORTANTLY a competent coach who can win in Las Vegas given his unique talents and resources.

    That candidate: Robert Anae.

    Rumor has it that he is ready to leave Provo--given the right opportunity. It would suck if he left my beloved Cougs but considering that I now live in Las Vegas, I wouldn't mind seeing some of that BYU magic a little closer to home.