RENO — Brian Polian can smile and shake hands with the best of them.
“I’ve gone through seven months of meeting and greeting and cocktail parties,” the Nevada Wolf Pack head football coach said Monday. “I’m excited to get to real football.”
The time for shaking hands, wearing nametags and making small talk at parties is over for the rookie Wolf Pack head coach.
“This is the part of the job that you dream about when you get the job, not the cocktail parties,” said Polian, who conducted his first summer practice session Monday.
Polian’s first summer camp in northern Nevada will last through Aug. 24. All of the practices are closed to the public (most are also closed to the media as well) except three scrimmages at Mackay Stadium on Aug. 10, 17 and 21.
The time for cocktail parties and speeches is over.
“Now it’s wall to wall football every single day,“ Polian said. “I’m excited. In spring football (in April) it felt like everyday I was running out wearing a suit and tie going to a luncheon. I understood all that and it was important for me to get out and meet the community but I won’t be out there as much next year. And it’s time to grind now.”
This is the time of year, Polian said, that all football coaches live for.
“There’s no competition when you are pouring wine at a charity event,” he said. “But now it’s all about competition. I’m here to run a football program. Now it’s about football. This is the fun part.”
The Wolf Pack, which will open its season Aug. 31 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., against the UCLA Bruins, has undergone a seemingly never-ending series of cosmetic changes since Polian was hired to replace Chris Ault last January. Among the more significant and noticeable changes are new uniforms and a completely remodeled locker room.
“The changes to the locker room were a necessity,” Polian said. “Our facilities were below average and they were hurting us in recruiting. Now, we’re not Oregon with a PlayStation (video game console) in every locker. But we did get to a place where we can be competitive in recruiting. It’s not a be-all, end-all in recruiting but it does help.”
The new locker rooms, Polian said, caught the Pack players by surprise.
“I could tell they were excited to see it,” Polian said. “It’s good for players to come back and see something new.”
The Polian regime, so far, can clearly be characterized as nothing old, something new, something borrowed and everything blue. But the new uniforms, locker room and other aesthetic changes, Polian said, are certainly not as important as what will happen over the next five months or so.
“I don’t want anyone to think that we’ve lost sight of the fact that we still have to go out and play,” Polian said.
Polian and the Wolf Pack will have their work cut out for them this season with road games at UCLA, Florida State, Boise State, Fresno State and San Diego State as well as a game at Mackay Stadium (Nov. 30) against BYU.
“A lot of people have asked me over the last seven months, ‘How are you going to keep it close against UCLA and Florida State?’” Polian said. “That’s not our goal, to keep it close. We are going there with the intent to win.”
The new Pack coach, though, wasn’t about to make any bold predictions concerning the coming season.
“No way am I going to put a number on it,” Polian said. “If I stand here and say we are going to go 10-3 then I am telling my team it is OK to lose three games.”
Polian said he lost a bit of sleep Sunday night anticipating his first summer camp as a head coach.
“I tossed and turned but not in a bad way,” Polian said. “It’s exciting. And I feel we’re prepared. I spent the month of May planning this camp. We’re ready.”
A lifelong assistant coach who has never been an offensive or defensive coordinator, Polian knows he is stepping into a new world with his first head coaching position.
“I’m not naïve,” Polian said. “It’s a big deal. Before, when something was a success or failure, it wasn’t associated with my name. But now that I am the head coach, my name is next to everything. I know that.
But I am excited by that.”
Polian said he sensed a great deal of excitement the past seven months as he traveled around the state shaking hands and making speeches.
“There’s a buzz in the community,” he said. “And I can feel a buzz on campus. But ultimately we have to go out and win. We’ve got to perform.”