Published Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014 | 2:59 p.m.
Updated Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014 | 4:20 p.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports writers Ray Brewer and Taylor Bern dig in to Tony Sanchez's first moves as UNLV's football coach and discuss what lessons we learned from Rebel basketball's victory at South Dakota ahead of a very difficult stretch.
Tony Sanchez may now get to work.
Long expected to be the next UNLV football coach after six state titles in six years at Bishop Gorman High, Sanchez cleared the final hurdle this afternoon as the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents approved his four-year, $2 million contract. The vote passed 11-0 with two regents absent.
“I promise you this, you’re going to get my genuine and best effort,” Sanchez said after the meeting at the NSHE System Administration building near campus.
Sanchez takes over as UNLV’s 11th coach after Bobby Hauck left with a 15-49 record over five seasons. Sanchez’s contract pays him $500,000 annually with plenty of incentives (see chart) for everything from winning seven games in a season ($10,000) to making the College Football Playoff ($100,000 per game).
One assistant from Hauck’s staff, Cedric Cormier, will remain as the wide receivers coach. Cormier has recruited Texas, specifically Houston, for the Rebels, helping to bring in recent standouts Tim Cornett and Devante Davis.
Sanchez contract incentives
Up to $50,000 per fiscal year for
• Weekday appearance on ESPN/ESPN2: $15,000
• Saturday appearance on ESPN/ESPN2: $25,000
• 5,000 season tickets sold above previous year's total: $10,000
• Single-year APR score of 960: $25,000
• Multi-year APR score of 955: $15,000
• NCAA academic all-american: $5,000 for each
Other supplemental compensation
• Regular season victories: 7 ($10,000), 8 ($15,000), 9 ($20,000), 10 ($25,000), 11 or more ($30,000)
• Conference coach of the year: $10,000
• Ranked in final coaches poll: $10,000
• Winning conference championship: $25,000
• Bowl game participation: $10,000
• Poinsettia Bowl participation: $20,000
• Las Vegas Bowl participation: $25,000
• College Football Playoff participation: $100,000 per game
Sanchez also announced that Barney Cotton and John Garrison would join the staff from Nebraska as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, respectively, and that Ron O’Dell would follow him from Gorman to be the quarterbacks coach. Cotton is the interim coach for the Cornhuskers’ bowl game and previously was the offensive coordinator at New Mexico State when Sanchez was a receiver there.
“You have to surround yourself with smart people,” Sanchez said, adding that he’ll announce his defensive coaches on Friday.
UNLV acting President Don Snyder said that Sanchez was the standard other interviewees had to meet after his first encounter during a three-hour meeting with Sanchez and Athletic Director Tina Kunzer-Murphy. Snyder and Kunzer-Murphy were the only two on the search committee, and Sanchez was the only finalist for the job, he confirmed.
“We need to change the entire culture of UNLV football, and that’s what’s behind today’s recommendation,” Snyder said to the board. “… It’s certainly not the traditional course, but I’m very comfortable with that.”
Both Snyder and Kunzer-Murphy highlighted Sanchez’s roots in the community as an integral part to their decision.
“He knows what it takes to build a championship program right here in Las Vegas,” Kunzer-Murphy said.
Local supporters, including Findlay Toyota general manager and former Rebel Rich Abajian and Konami Gaming COO Tom Jingoli, expressed confidence that Sanchez would be able to form a community relationship that’s been absent from the program for many years.
“I guarantee you he will do that,” Jingoli said. “He has my undying support and the support of my company.”
Sanchez’s lack of college experience wasn’t really an issue that the regents discussed. Multiple members either graduated from Gorman, currently have kids there or both, so they were familiar with Sanchez’s style and success. Plus Sanchez has continuously pledged to put together a veteran staff.
However, the board did echo Snyder and Kunzer-Murphy’s comments during this process that a coaching hire, even a good one, isn’t enough at UNLV. From community relationships and financial support to facilities upgrades, Regent James Dean Leavitt said sitting back and waiting for results wasn’t going to work.
“We shouldn’t expect a different result from coach Sanchez unless we make those changes,” he said.
Now that’s he’s official, Sanchez, who’s believed to be the lone Hispanic football coach at an FBS institution, can start recruiting. That’s going to start in Las Vegas, he said, with some other areas like Phoenix and Los Angeles being a focus for his staff.
The future that he sells those kids will include some significant upgrades. The on-campus stadium discussions are tabled for now, so Sanchez is focusing on an all-in-one football facility that would include academic centers, training tables and coaching offices that bring the Rebels up to the level of other programs in their league.
“We need a place that encapsulates UNLV football, what we’re about and where we’re going,” Sanchez said. “Again, a stadium is not a priority to me at this point. At this point right now, it’s building a football facility so that kids will stop flying over Las Vegas to other Mountain West Conference schools.”
Sanchez said his offense would be a pro style that mixes in spread and power running formations. It’s part of adhering to the advice he’s heard from most of the coaches he’s talked to in recent weeks: Be yourself.
One of those guys who he’s been talking to pretty much every day is former UNLV assistant and friend Pat Hill, who was Fresno State’s coach from 1997-2011. Hill won’t join the staff but he’s been part of an important group, including Baylor coach Art Briles, that Sanchez has sought out during his transition from high school to college.
It won’t be easy, but selling a vision should get a little easier once ground breaks on that new facility. Although he wouldn’t offer a timetable, it’s fair to assume certain wheels are already in motion. Speeding those up, Sanchez said, requires he and his staff getting boots on the ground and getting engaged with fans and financial backers the way his supporters at today’s meeting believe he will.
“The faster that happens, the faster things get done,” Sanchez said.