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Fremont Cannon Timeline: A history of one of college football’s most unique trophies

UNLV looks to take cannon back, paint it red for the first time since 2004



UNLV players roll out the refurbished Fremont Cannon two weeks after beating UNR in 2000. Fans broke the cannon in the post-game celebration that year, but the UNLV athletics department repaired it in time for the Rebels next home game against Wyoming.

The Fremont Cannon Rivalry

KRNV takes a look at the Fremont Cannon and the UNLV-UNR rivalry.

The Rebel Room

A look at UNR with the Reno Gazette-Journal's Dan Hinxman

In preparation for this Saturday's Battle for the Fremont Cannon at Sam Boyd Stadium between UNLV and Nevada-Reno, Ryan Greene chats with Reno Gazette-Journal columnist Dan Hinxman for a closer look at the No. 25 Wolf Pack. You'll find out just how Chris Ault's team is approaching this one mentally, along with who are some key names, outside of the obvious, to keep in mind.

Reader poll

With a win under its belt, how do you think UNLV will fare against rival UNR next Saturday?

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From The Other Side

Cashell Fieldhouse is the official headquarters of the UNR football program.

It houses all the regular amenities of a football program’s residence — coaches’ offices, film rooms, locker rooms and equipment storage areas — and one prized artifact in the lobby.

For the past five years, Cashell Fieldhouse has been home to a painted blue version of the Fremont Cannon.

“It’s the most symbolic trophy for winning a state championship in the country and as much a part of the football tradition as the game itself,” said UNR coach Chris Ault, according to the school’s sports information department. “The Fremont Cannon is such a monumental trophy that we built a spot for it when we built Cashell Fieldhouse in the 1980s.”

The cannon is awarded annually to the winner of the UNLV vs. UNR football game and painted either red or blue. Hence why the Wolf Pack haven't relinquished control of it since 2004, the year before Mike Sanford took over as the Rebels coach.

Sanford went 0-5 during his tenure and never possessed the country’s biggest and most expensive rivalry trophy. The cannon weighs in at nearly 550 pounds and cost $10,000 to assemble.

Here is a timeline outlining the Fremont Cannon’s history.

1843-1844: These were the days of the real Fremont Cannon. Explorer and eventual presidential candidate John Charles Fremont traveled through Nevada, California and Oregon on an expedition with the howitzer cannon. Legend states Fremont abandoned the cannon somewhere in a Sierra Nevada snowdrift.

1969: Bill Ireland, UNLV’s first football coach and a UNR alum, came up with the idea of the two teams playing for a replica of Fremont’s cannon before their first meeting. Ireland’s idea came to fruition when the Kennecott Cooper Corp. reconstructed the cannon and donated it to the rivalry.

1970: Although UNR won the first meeting between the schools, UNLV was the first to control the cannon. The Rebels beat the Wolf Pack, 42-30, in 1970 to avenge 1969’s 30-28 defeat. The cannon was not completed until 1970, meaning it debuted the year UNLV grabbed its first win of the series.

1973: UNLV can claim to having the cannon before UNR, but the Wolf Pack were the first to fire it. In 1973, when the Wolf Pack beat the Rebels 19-3, a UNR military science student shot it off. It became tradition for the team in possession of the cannon to fire it after every touchdown.

1978: This was the date of the infamous airport incident. After UNR upset UNLV as 20-point underdogs on the road, Ault and the Wolf Pack had to find a way to get the cannon back to Reno. Ault ordered his team to figure out how to disassemble the cannon and talked McCarran Airport officials into letting them carry small pieces of the cannon onto the plane.

Rebels fans take a look at the dismantled Fremont Cannon at Sam Boyd Stadium in 2000 after a 38-7 UNLV victory. The cannon was dropped in a post-game celebration and has been inoperable since.

Rebels fans take a look at the dismantled Fremont Cannon at Sam Boyd Stadium in 2000 after a 38-7 UNLV victory. The cannon was dropped in a post-game celebration and has been inoperable since.

1980s: The cannon spent seven of 10 years in Las Vegas during this decade. The catch? The rivals only played four times in that span, so the Rebels had the luxury of keeping the cannon for five straight years with only one win.

Oct. 7, 2000: This is where cannon folklore started to pick up — literally. After UNLV beat UNR 38-7 at Sam Boyd Stadium for the first time in six years, players and fans lifted up the cannon in celebration. The group subsequently dropped it and damaged the trophy.

Oct. 21, 2000: The UNLV athletics department repaired the cannon at a cost of $1,500 before the Rebels next home game against Wyoming, which they won 42-23.

2001: For the first time in nearly 30 years, the cannon is not available to fire during the game.

2009: UNR wins the cannon for the fifth straight year with a 63-28 victory. It’s the third straight time the cannon has stayed in one location for a half-decade, as UNR won every game from 1995-1999 and UNLV from 2000-2004. Neither the Wolf Pack nor the Rebels, however, have ever controlled it for six consecutive years. UNR appears ready to break that trend Saturday as it comes to Sam Boyd Stadium as 20-point favorites. Then again, it’s a rivalry game and never a sure thing what will happen with the cannon.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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  1. Go Rebels! Let's paint the cannon red on Saturday.

  2. The cannon is not inoperable because of the drop in 2000. Please make that correction. UNR deliberately altered it the year before so it could not fire anymore. UNR stated they wanted the cannon to only serve as a "trophy," unable to actually fire anymore. I remember when that happened prior to UNLV ever getting (and dropping) the cannon. The drop only broke the wheel, which was repaired. The cannon no longer fires because of UNR.

  3. PS - Regarding the dropped cannon ... It would be very nice (for many reasons) if UNLV would ever quit selling alcohol inside of the stadium during the games. It would eliminate a lot of garbage in the bleachers and people would be more inclined to take their kids to cheer for the Rebels. In the meantime, I wonder how many fights will occur in the stands this week...

  4. To all the southern nevada university. you have no chance saturday.


  5. Fights are not necessarily a direct relation to the stands, and in fact I enjoy being able to have a beer at the game. The revenue from alcohol sales has to be pretty high as well.

  6. I remember being right near the group that dropped it...

    Everyone rushed the field it was a crazy night... There was a great energy there...And if I remember right it was a combo of fans and football players that tried to hoist it, and I just remember thinking there is no way they are going to get 500+ lbs of cannon over there heads...

    Doc you are right it was just the wheel that was busted... But I don't think it was the Alcohol inside the stadium that was the problem... :) It was the 8+ hours of tailgating the student body population did outside that may have been it...I think that game we went through 14 kegs in the parking lot, it was crazy...

    I will say the crowd can get pretty bad, but in the years we were winning, it was actually a great atmosphere... It was whenever we were in down years that it became a big problem... I always used to chalk it up to boredom...

    In any case UNR (that's right I said UNR, on purpose I might add) may be a top 25, but we are due... and we have history on our side in this one... Never been in one place for 6 straight years... :)

  7. *direct relation to the alcohol sales

    Haven't had my irish coffee yet this morning.

  8. DocRebel, you sound like one of those guys that tells people in front of him to sit down during a 3rd and long.

  9. I was also RIGHT there when the cannon got dropped. It wasn't because everyone was drunk... everyone was just fired up after the victory and made a bad decision. UNR fans/student/players would have done the exact same thing.

  10. JerryWayne, you're way off on the type of fan I am. But thanks for playing.

  11. Again, I wonder how many fights will occur in the bleachers this Saturday.

  12. Hey Doc, again, fight happen with rivalry games. Sit back, enjoy your beer, and watch the entertainment be it on the field or off.

  13. Thanks for the link, Brian.

    That's why your school will always be known as UNR, Wolfpack fans. Classless and juvenile, as always...

  14. Ok something rather disturbing about that video footage... It is video footage from Reno on a Las Vegas local news site...

    Is it just me or does it suck there is no video footage of our guys getting excited about the game....


  15. guess you didnt get the sarcasm nevada southern.... I am about the biggest UNR hater there is.

  16. "That's why your school will always be known as UNR, Wolfpack fans. Classless and juvenile, as always..."

    Of course, we never see that sort of behavior from UNLV fans -- they wouldn't dare wear "FUNR" shirts or anything like that. Nor would any UNLV players do things like throw their helmets at the opposing coach.

    Get over yourself.

  17. Chicken Little: it's OK if you call my alma mater UNR. The official name of the institution is the University of Nevada, Reno. It, like its sister, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (which I attended for two years), is being murdered by penny-wise, pound-foolish politicans; politicians who want young people to be chattel to this wretched economy. After the game, Wolf Pack fans and Rebel fans should join hands to let the Nevada Legislature know that these insane budget cuts must cease.