Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal

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September 20, 2013
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Pack fans, don’t give up on a MWC title

Sports fodder for a Friday morning...A moment of silence, please, for the Nevada Wolf Pack’s Bowl Championship Series dreams. Yes, Wolf Pack fans, it’s over. Your heroes will not be playing Alabama in the title game. Hey, you didn’t think Chris Ault would actually abandon a team that could actually compete with UCLA and Florida State, now did you? Of course you didn’t. So dry your eyes and move on. And find comfort in the fact that a BCS title is the only championship the Wolf Pack can’t win the rest of the way. The two ugly money-grab exhibition losses at UCLA and Florida State were just a way to help pay the contracts of head coach Brian Polian and his assistants. The Pack can still win the Mountain West’s West Division, still win the Mountain West championship game and still win a bowl game. All that stands in their way is the mediocre (on a good day) Mountain West.

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Yes, of course, the Wolf Pack is also a mediocre (on a good day) Mountain West team. We didn’t learn much about the Pack in its first three games but we did learn that it is a team that can’t stay healthy, is as consistent as the Northern Nevada weather, has no real depth to speak of and immediately drops into the fetal position when the opposition applies a bit of pressure. But, again, all of those things don’t matter in the watered down Mountain West. The Pack is 1-2 right now but they will likely be 5-3 a month or so from now.

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The Brian Polian Experiment will get its first true test the next two weeks against Hawaii and Air Force at Mackay Stadium. The Pack should beat by Hawaii and Air Force by three touchdowns each at home. Now, if they don’t, it doesn’t mean Polian can’t coach, it just means that he is a young coach who is going to experience some growing pains. Hey, Ault lost to Air Force last year. It happens. Ault, though, made a career out of beating such patsies (especially at home) over the better part of three decades. It’s how you get a contract extension at Nevada. Polian, though, has loftier goals. His goal is to someday get a contract extension at a BCS school. And the first step is beating Hawaii and Air Force at home in the next two weeks.

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Polian has made no secret of the fact that he was not a big fan of playing UCLA and Florida State. And you can’t blame him. Ault would throw a little temper tantrum when he had to play a schedule like that. Remember 2011? But Polian also has to understand that if he wants to make $500,000-$700,000 a year or more (depending on incentives reached) at a school like Nevada, he has to absorb a few black eyes along the way. To his credit, Polian’s concern about sacrificing his fragile roster to BCS powers has nothing to do with his won-loss record. It’s about his fragile players getting treated like rag dolls against the bigger, faster, meaner bullies of the BCS conferences. Well, the bulk of the Pack injuries this year have come in practice and against UC Davis. Injuries can happen anywhere. You might as well get a few big paydays to help soften the blow.

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It’s time Cody Fajardo takes the next step. Ault babied the precious quarterback the first four games of Fajardo’s red-shirt freshman year in 2011 because he didn’t want Boise State, Texas Tech, San Jose State and Oregon on the road to beat him up physically and mentally. Ault handled him again with kid gloves last year when Fajardo had a sore back and hip and didn’t play in the second half against Wyoming and the entire game against UNLV. And Polian protected Fajardo and his sore knee last week by not letting Florida State break him into little pieces. Backup Devin Combs was sacrificed to the Seminole Gods instead. It’s time Fajardo rewards all the tender loving care he has received by never missing another game the rest of his Pack career.

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We learned a lot about the San Francisco 49ers last weekend. The Seattle Seahawks outplayed them and outcoached them. Colin Kaepernick looked awful. The 49ers’ offense looked dreadful and Jim Harbaugh looked like the confused kid quarterback who used to get yelled at by Mike Ditka. It was a good wake-up call for the 49ers. Too many good things have been happening to them. They needed some adversity. This is an offense with no deep threats at wide receiver and a running game that has dried up. Harbaugh needs to put his ego aside and turn Kaepernick loose and let him dominate with all of his athletic gifts. You know, just like Ault did in 2010.

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Paying college athletes would be a disaster. It would destroy a program like Nevada whose budget is held together by tape, paste, string and illusion. Where is the money going to come from? Who gets paid and how much? Do you pay all the athletes in all sports the same amount? Do you pay the cheerleaders and the mascot? Would the athletes then need to form a union in order to negotiate raises? Could they then go on strike and wipe out games? Turning students into employees would make college sports an even uglier business than it already has become. If you think a school like Nevada has budget problems now, wait until they have to pay athletes. It would be one money-grab, exhibition beating against Florida State and UCLA after another. Athletes are already pampered and spoiled.


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The Nevada Appeal Updated Sep 20, 2013 01:07AM Published Sep 20, 2013 01:07AM Copyright 2013 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.