LAS VEGAS – Dear Mr. Football: Why isn’t this game at Glendale’s University of Phoenix Stadium, as once planned?
A: Because UNLV had about 3,800 season ticket holders last season and completed the year drawing 10,717 home fans against Wyoming and 12,835 against New Mexico.
You want to rent UOP Stadium? You’ll have to pay roughly $200,000 up front, and price tickets from $40 to $1,500 (for suites). You’d have to draw about 40,000 just to break even, before spending a cent on marketing in the Phoenix area.
The broker, Potts Productions, would’ve taken a six-figure cut off the top.
The Zona Zoo section would’ve been in single digits. The UA would’ve had to rely on its Phoenix market, and I don’t think anyone wants to test that demographic in a high-priced football game against a bad opponent. (Translated: in a non-basketball event).
Even though the appeal of TV money and exposure caught UNLV’s eye, the risk was all on the Rebels. The catch is that UNLV probably has the worst fan base in FBS football west of the Mississippi, averaging a scant 15,208 last season, or, at best a bit ahead of New Mexico State (14,247) and Idaho (12,582).
Former UNLV and UA athletic director Jim Livengood initially said profits could clear $750,000. Hmmm. How many Rebel fans would travel to Phoenix to watch a team that has lost 22 consecutive road games, against a mid-tier Pac-12 squad with no history of traveling well even to bowl games?
Far fewer than would accuse UNLV of selling out. It turned out to be political suicide for Livengood, who left his position a few weeks later.
Dear Mr. Football: Why don’t the Rebels hire a better coach?
A: Over the last 25 years, UNLV has hired six head coaches and followed Coach Hiring 101 in doing so. Nothing worked.
The Rebels hired The Star Alumnus, Wayne Nunnely. He was fired. They hired The Marquee School Assistant, Notre Dame’s Jim Strong. Canned. They hired the Hated Rival, Nevada’s Jeff Horton. Cashiered. They hired The Former Big Name From a Big City, USC’s John Robinson. He faded away. And they hired The Rising Offensive Coordinator, Utah’s Mark Sanford. Awful.
This time they hired the Small School Whiz, Bobby Hauck of Montana, who has gone 6-33.
Who’s left, Lou Holtz?
Dear Mr. Football: How come UNLV is such a career-wrecker?
A: Sam Boyd Stadium will never qualify for the National Register of Historic Places. It still has dirt parking lots. It is remote; it would be like Arizona building a football stadium at the Pima County Fairgrounds.
Before Livengood was persuaded to leave UNLV, he backed a Southern California realty/investment firm, which wanted to build a 60,000-seat, $700 million stadium near The Strip, opening in 2017.
But Nevada politicians didn’t bite and the FAA even said the architectural plans were skewed, hazardous to planes arriving and departing McCarron Airport.
Sam Boyd Stadium has no fancy nickname or historic flair. It should be called The Graveyard by coaches and ADs.
Dear Mr. Football: Is it possible a second-stringer can contend for the Heisman?
A: In Week 2 of the season, UA tailback Ka’Deem Carey already has two personal losses.
One, his reputation has taken a beating. Nobody is talking about him on ESPN or even in Tucson. He has been allowed one interview opportunity in eight months.
Beyond that, Carey missed a chance to gain about 150 yards and score a few touchdowns against NAU, which erases his margin of error while chasing school records. He needs 1,471 yards to surpass Trung Canidate as the school’s rushing leader (3,824).
And Carey is not listed as a starter for tonight’s game, either.
Pac-12 television analyst Rick Neuheisel this week said that the formula for a tailback to get to the Heisman Trophy banquet in New York City is “200 touches and 50 catches.’’
Alas, he was speaking of Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas. Carey has fallen from the dialogue.
Carey had 303 touches and 36 catches last year. He’ll have difficulty getting 250 total touches this year.
Dear Mr. Football: Who is UNLV’s best player? Does it have one?
A: Timm Rosenbach is 46 now, and he is UNLV’s offensive coordinator, but he left such a mark in the old Pac-10 that his reputation survives.
In 1988, he passed for 3,097 yards at Washington State; only Stanford’s John Elway had passed for more in the Pac-10. His success catapulted WSU coach Dennis Erickson to wealth and fame in a 9-3 season.
Curiously, Rosenbach didn’t even make the second-team all-league team. He was third behind USC’s Rodney Peete and UCLA’s Troy Aikman, even though he was No. 7 overall in the Heisman voting.
Dear Mr. Football: Is RichRod a good guy?
A: In the book on his three years at Michigan, “Three and Out,” Rich Rodriguez capped the drama by saying, “Remember, life’s a lot easier if you’re a good guy.”
But on Tuesday, after 10 media members drove to campus for scheduled interviews, the coach blew them off. It was football’s version of Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi. No interviews for you.
Not even John Mackovic, a noted sourpuss in his UA days, closed off interviews from himself (and players) on a given day.
Using the media as a vehicle to punish a football team is one thing. Punishing 10 media people who stood in the sun for 20 minutes (I was not among them), waiting for promised Q&A sessions, is uncivilized, even in a game that promotes blocking and tackling.
Earlier in his book, after a troubling loss to Michigan State, RichRod referred to the media as “cockroaches.”
Dear Mr. Football: Is B.J. Denker the best lefty QB in UA history?
A. Arizona’s starting quarterback, 2-0 as a starter, is the second-most famous lefty to start at quarterback here; George Malauulu, the UA’s sometimes-starting QB from 1989-92, helped the Wildcats win 35 games.
But if Denker continues to win, he might become the third most famous grad of North Torrance (Calif.) High School. Or close. His odds of catching actor Chuck Norris, Class of ’58, and ESPN pro football info specialist Chris Mortensen, Class of ’69, are remote.
If Denker remains upright, starting all 12 games, winning half of them, his bridge to RichRod’s quarterback-of-the-future will be a success.
Dear Mr. Football: Will RichRod’s stern psychological approach work? Will the Wildcats give UNLV their best shot?
A: Tonight’s game has the feel of a Vegas setup. No way UNLV is as bad as its recent history (one winning season in 18 years) suggests.
The Rebels’ receivers are probably as good, or better, than those deployed by Arizona. Quarterback Nick Sherry is of Denker-caliber, or better, and tailback Tim Cornett could play for anybody.
At home, UNLV was only outgained by an average of 2 yards last season, compared to a minus-166 on the road.
This could be a squirm session. The Rebels are apt to have a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter. Arizona 37, UNLV 33.