Las Vegas Sun

August 10, 2022

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Editorial memo:

Does a college sports team provide any sense of community for LV?

To: Our readers

From: Sun editorial board

Re: UNLV men’s basketball

The Runnin’ Rebels start their season next Friday, opening at home against Grand Canyon University, and there may be a sense of nostalgia for longtime fans. The season opener marks the beginning of new head coach Dave Rice’s tenure, and he becomes the first former Rebel to lead the team. Rice is linked to the program’s glory days — he played on two of the greatest teams in UNLV history, including the squad that won the NCAA championship in 1990.

UNLV legend Stacey Augmon is joining Rice on the bench and will serve as an assistant coach. A great defensive player, Augmon was a critical part of that NCAA championship team, and he went on to a long NBA career.

The pair’s return has stirred significant interest because it harks back to a different era of UNLV men’s basketball when, under coach Jerry Tarkanian, UNLV was a perennial winner.

After Tarkanian’s ouster, the program struggled for years to find positive consistency until Lon Kruger arrived in 2004. Kruger, who left the job earlier this year to coach at Oklahoma, took the Rebels to the NCAA Tournament four times in seven seasons.

For fans, the hope now is that Rice can build on Kruger’s success and return UNLV to a place of prominence in college basketball.

We have remarked over the years at how successful sports teams seem to be able to provide a sense of identity for a community. When a high-profile team is winning, people want to be part of it, and that’s understandable. People want to be aligned with winners, and so when a team wins, you tend to see folks in the community — even casual sports fans — talking about the team and wearing shirts, caps and jackets with the team’s logo and colors.

Winning teams can also provide great publicity for a university, not to mention a city. We have heard that applications to UNLV went up after the basketball team reached the Sweet 16 a few years ago, and all the news coverage certainly didn’t hurt a town built on tourism.

Of course, there are people who think college sports are overblown or unnecessary and have nothing to do with community. We have heard it said that any sense of community that comes from a sports team is short-lived, and some people think that college sports takes away from the real mission of a university.

We want to know what you think.

Are sports important for a university? Are they important for a community? Or do they bring any sense of identity to it?

If you remember the great UNLV teams, do you have any special memories of those years?

Or do you even care?

Again, we want to know. We’ll publish a sampling of the letters and comments we receive next week.

You can send us a letter to the editor via email to: [email protected]. You can also send a letter via regular mail: 2360 Corporate Circle, Third Floor, Henderson, NV 89074, or via fax at: 383-7264.

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