Charisma and energy filled the room as Nevada football coach Brian Polian spoke to the Wolf Pack faithful on Wednesday at Pizza Barn.
The first-year, first-time head coach laid out his plans for the program and generated excitement for the 2013 season as part of the Wolf Pack Coaches Caravan. He and new Athletic Director Doug Knuth delivered speeches to the audience and touched on topics from fundraising, season tickets, tradition, recruiting and style of play.
The University of Nevada Fallon alumni chapter helped organize the trip along with Mayor Ken Tedford Jr., according to President Jim Dakin. The group was thrilled to have Polian and Knuth speak and meet with fans.
“The turnout was good,” Dakin said. “He’s (Knuth) young and energetic and I loved to watch him work the room. That endears people to the program.”
Knuth reported the football program has sold 1,100 new season tickets in the past several months and announced the Pack’s home opener on Sept. 7 against UC Davis will be Chris Ault Day.
The festivities will feature the official unveiling of Chris Ault Field at Mackay Stadium.
“There is a new excitement, new energy and new expectations,” Knuth said.
Polian, 38, takes over for Ault after one season as the special teams coordinator at Texas A&M. As for returning quarterback Cody Fajardo, Polian said he was pleasantly surprised with how good the signal-caller is.
“You’ve a got a player,” Polian said of Fajardo.
Two areas of concern since Polian’s hire, though, have been the offensive set and the duration of his stay in Reno. He said the Pistol offense will remain in tact, and received applause when he told the crowd he and his wife bought a house.
While he said he doesn’t plan to be in Reno for 30 years, he said his goal of creating a great program and competing for conference championships is a priority.
“He’s here to build a great program,” Dakin said. “He’s not going to be here 30 years and do a really, really good job and we’ll see where it goes from there. I would hate for somebody to be complacent and say they are going to be here forever.”
Polian said recruits know the Pistol and the face of it, former Nevada great Colin Kaepernick, who played in the Super Bowl in February with the San Francisco 49ers.
The defense, meanwhile, will move to the Tampa 2 formation, made famous by former Tampa Bay coach Tony Dungy and Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith.
The newest changes to the program, though, have made waves as Nevada will don several new uniform combinations and start a new gameday tradition.
Blue, silver and white jersey’s, white and blue pants and blue and white helmets are the newest additions to Nevada. Also, the last names of the players will don the back of the jerseys. Nevada’s game against Hawaii on Sept. 21 will be a whiteout featuring white jerseys, pants and helmets.
Polian said the changes will also help with recruiting, as slick uniform combinations move potential recruits.
The second change is the formation of the Wolf Pack Walk. Players will leave the bus at the north end of the stadium, where fans can reach out to the players as they march toward the field. At the end of each game, the team will huddle around the band and sing the school’s alma mater.
“We’re like Apple in ’88,” Polian joked with the crowd. “You want to buy now.”
As for recruiting, Polian said he wants to expand the base and said he plans to reach into the Pacific Northwest, Dallas, Fort Worth, Texas and Hawaii. As for the local talent, he said an emphasis will be placed in Nevada, although great players in high school may not translate to Division I talent. Nevertheless, he said a sturdy walk-on program is a must and can use local talent to build the base.
Recruiting, though, is tied to money, which Polian said the university must increase to compete in the Mountain West. He said the school’s recruiting budget is on par with schools in the Mid American Conference and must increase to compete with Boise State, Colorado State and Fresno State.
A new booster club — the Blitz — has been created with the purpose of raising funds for recruiting and other amenities.
The fundraising theme continued with Polian’s goal of building an indoor facility to lure recruits and offer better practice conditions as the season wears on.
“The goal is to leave it (the program) better than I found it,” he said. “An indoor practice facility will put us on par with UNLV, Fresno State and Colorado State and will allow us to compete for conference championships.”