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July 18, 2019

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

Ray Brewer:

What’s in a name? Just ask fans of UNR, you know, the ‘University of Reno, Nevada’

UNLV Football Home Opening Versus UCLA

L.E. Baskow

UNLV head coach Tony Sanchez yells instructions to his players as they face UCLA at Sam Boyd Stadium on Saturday, September 12, 2015.

UNLV football coach Tony Sanchez insists his comment wasn’t intentional or premeditated. I wish he were lying.

On the week of the UNLV football team’s annual Fremont Cannon rivalry game against UNR, the first-year Rebels’ coach mistakenly called the instate rivals by the wrong name: “Reno, Nevada.”

Truth is, Sanchez could have called them by the right name — University of Nevada, Reno — and still have been criticized by the not-so-level-headed Reno fan base that insists they are simply Nevada.

In this rivalry, the debate on what to called UNR — that’s Las Vegas Sun style — is half the fun. Thanks to Sanchez, it’s again front-and-center.

Here’s some history:

Mike Sanford, who coached the Rebels from 2005 to 2009, called UNR the “team up North.” That was humorous initially until UNR stomped all over Sanford’s teams, and Rebel Nation would have preferred he stop poking the bear.

In 2010, Reno coach Chris Ault claimed the UNLV media relations department disrespected them by putting "UNR" on field passes. He instructed his coaches to not wear them on the sideline. His blowup was legendary.

“We’re not UNR or Nevada-Reno,” Ault said then. “This is the University of Nevada. We would never disrespect their university and call them Vegas or Las Vegas. I would never do that.”

On the Nevada System of Higher Education website, it lists UNR as the University of Nevada, Reno. For UNLV, it’s the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. They oversee state-supported higher education in Nevada, so I’m willing to take their lead in this debate once and for all.

UNR was the first college in Nevada until Nevada Southern (UNLV) was founded in 1957. It was initially the same university, just in different parts of the state.

I appreciate how the fan bases can’t seem to agree, and on more than the name.

UNR faithful falsely assume it’s a better academic institution. That’s 100 percent inaccurate, and not because I’m a graduate of UNLV. Both universities have solid programs, especially UNLV’s internationally respected hotel school, and stack up similarly when ranked by outside sources such as the U.S. News Best Colleges and National Universities.

Reno isn’t Harvard of the West; UNLV isn’t some junior college.

UNLV supporters say Reno is the armpit of Nevada and that there is no comparing the two cities. True, Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world and a destination location for visitors. Reno is Nevada’s fourth-largest city and there’s only a handful of worthwhile things to do there, most of which include a drive. Lake Tahoe is a one-hour drive away and an awesome getaway. I’m also fond of Virginia City, about a 30-minute drive outside Reno.

What’s not debatable is the football rivalry. UNR has won nine of the past 10 games in the series.

That soon will change. I wouldn’t be surprised if it starts today.

UNLV, with Sanchez calling the shots, is a program on the rise. UNR, with Brian Polian in his third season as Ault’s replacement, has the Wolf Pack stuck in neutral. Even UNR fans can agree with that.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 702-990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21

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