Today, assuming you picked up this issue the day it came out, as we gather around the Thanksgiving dinner table with family and friends, it is important to remember for what we are thankful.
For me, I’m thankful UNLV brass didn’t cave to pressure to fire football coach Bobby Hauck at the end of his third two-win season last year, or after getting blown out the first two games of this season.
I know, I know, this is CityLife and we don’t really delve into sports. We should leave that to the columnists at the dailies or the talking heads on the radio. But I have been a UNLV sports fan since I was growing up in Tennessee in the early 1980’s, graduated from the UNLV journalism school, hold season tickets to basketball and have the Hey Reb mascot tattooed on my left arm.
I’m not positioning myself as an unbiased journalist on this issue. I am “Scarlet. Gray. Every Day.” And as a fan, on this day, I am thankful for Bobby Hauck.
Last week at the Air Force Academy, UNLV won its sixth game this season and became bowl eligible with a 41-21 romp of the Falcons in the frigid cold. The Rebels haven’t been to a bowl since 2000, and only been to three in the program’s history.
It is too early to praise Hauck as the program savior, but considering Rebel football has stunk more often than not during my 45 years on the planet, this is a great start.
Earlier this season, during the team’s 58-13 drubbing by Arizona on Sept. 7, I got into some back-and-forth on Twitter with other fans ready to throw Hauck out the door. My basic thesis was that Hauck was building the program from the ground up, and that the program’s issues have more to do with lack of community support than the coach.
My Tweet that evening was: “To be clear (as if anyone gives a shit) I believe Bobby Hauck is the best coach for #UNLVfb. Culture change need at university and boosters.”
I was glad when Hauck was hired away from the University of Montana program in 2009. As head coach for the Grizzlies, he led them to conference titles and playoff berths (yes, FCS division has playoffs!) all seven seasons he was there, including three appearances in the national title game. Sure it was a lower division school, but UNLV had been playing like one
Upon his arrival, Hauck recruited locally, stripped the program down, and rebuilt from the bottom. The Rebels entered the season as the 14th youngest starting team in major college football, according to Bleacher Report. They were the youngest last year.
The atmosphere among the fans, at least for this season, is optimistic for the first time in seemingly forever. UNLV goes into their final regular season game Saturday at home against a pretty good San Diego State team. The Rebels are 4-point underdogs to a team that Hauck has yet to beat.
Fans now show up to Sam Boyd Stadium not yet expecting to win against good teams, but realistically hopeful it could happen.
Thanks Bobby Hauck.
ARNOLD M. KNIGHTLY is the editor of CityLife. Follow his rants during Rebel football and basketball games on Twitter @KnightlyGrind