Joe Santoro: Daunting hurdles for Pack's new AD

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Stephanie Rempe has an opportunity to become the most important and influential athletic director in Nevada Wolf Pack history. Rempe, named to replace Doug Knuth this week, is taking over the Wolf Pack athletic department at arguably its most important moment in school history. She is facing the most complicated, difficult, demanding, daunting (some would add impossible) and challenging hurdles any athletic director at Nevada has ever faced. Forget bloated, money-obsessed, selfish coaching staffs. Rempe is also the first athletic director at Nevada, for example, that has to worry about paying players.
University President Brian Sandoval had no choice but to make sure Rempe, who has worked at LSU, Texas A&M, Washington, Oklahoma and Arizona, had the most impressive resume of any athletic director ever hired at Nevada. For good or bad, Nevada is no longer the little school up on North Virginia Street that can simply hand the athletic director title to the football or men’s basketball coach. If Sandoval did that this week, well, Mackay Stadium and Lawlor Events Center would likely become the home of the largest flea market and used car lot in Northern Nevada.
The A.D. job now takes a true depth of experience, leadership abilities, planning and foresight. You have to anticipate trends instead of simply ignore them. You have to be a salesperson, strategist, politician, financial wizard and cheerleader. You have to relate to coaches, athletes, businessman, professors and politicians. But, of course, it really only boils down to one thing. Forget all the talk this week about academic excellence, diversity, building a relationship with the community, giving opportunities to all student athletes and making sure all the athletic programs are competitive. Those are just talking points in an initial press conference.
The job is really only about the numbers to the right of the dollar sign. The bigger the number, the longer Rempe will be athletic director until, of course, she jumps to a Power Five school. If the number isn’t big enough (it’s never been big enough at Nevada, by the way), the Pack and Rempe will politely “part ways” and the university will head in yet another “exciting, new era of Wolf Pack athletics.”
The pressure is on Wolf Pack fans now more than ever. Hey, it’s never the athletic director’s fault. It’s never the coach’s fault. Just ask any former athletic director or coach. It’s always the fault of the community when a team or athletic program as a whole is not successful. It’s the community that gets the blame for not supporting the university’s athletic teams. It’s the community that is apathetic. It’s the community that should be held accountable. Just ask Jay Norvell.
Well, look out, Pack fans. Hold onto your wallets. Make sure to protect your bank passwords. The Wolf Pack is coming after you. Do you want the Wolf Pack football and men’s basketball teams to win Mountain West titles, find itself in the Top 25 every year and play in meaningful bowl games and NCAA Tournaments? Of course you do. Well, big-time point guards and quarterbacks don’t come cheap anymore, Pack fans. So toss some of your retirement funds the Pack’s way. Buy season tickets for everyone in your family. Give them away as Christmas gifts. Let your grandchildren figure out a way themselves to pay for their own college education or tell them to become a big-time point guard or quarterback. Your university needs you.
Given what just happened in the NBA Finals we have to admit that hiring an athletic director named Steph is pretty darn cool. But, make no mistake, Rempe is not going to turn Nevada into LSU. She is not going to turn the Pack into the Oklahoma Sooners, Washington Huskies, Arizona Wildcats or Texas A&M Aggies or any other school with a logo on one of her old polo shirts. If she was that proficient at raising money she’d be running for governor somewhere and then president.
Her goal, the guess here, is not to make the Wolf Pack attractive someday to the Pac-12. Rempe’s goal is to simply make sure the Wolf Pack survives. That is a real challenge now, given the rising cost of linebackers, power forwards and defensive backfield coaches. Her goal is to fill Mackay Stadium and Lawlor Events Center with deep-pocketed fans. Her goal is to make sure the Wolf Pack is among the best programs in the Mountain West and sniffs some national attention now and then. Her goal is to make her president look good by filling up the athletic department coffers with booster money.
If she reaches those attainable and realistic goals (with your help, of course), then she can accomplish her likely personal goal of someday becoming a Power Five athletic director, where females are still few and far between. Until proven otherwise, Nevada is just another (albeit important) line on her resume. Hey, this is what you get when you stop hiring former Nevada football players to be athletic director. You get athletic directors who likely scour the internet and come prepared for their first press conference able to spout the old reliable “the strength of the pack is the wolf and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”
Yes, that goofy line from a 19th century book by an English author has no real meaning in Nevada. It has no roots in Nevada at all. It’s not, for example, the “Woo, Pig, Sooie” chant that every Arkansas kid in kindergarten must learn before learning the national anthem. But at least Rempe made an effort to connect to her new audience. Now if she could only drain a 3-pointer she’d be the coolest athletic director in the country.
Wolf Pack fans can actually sit back, relax and enjoy the NBA draft Thursday night. Last we checked no Pack player will likely be stolen off coach Steve Alford’s roster by the greedy NBA. Not Kenan Blackshear, not Tre Coleman, not Will Baker or not even K.J. Hymes. Not even Alford. That hasn’t always been the case.
The NBA or simply the lure of the NBA, after all, stole Luke Babbitt, Armon Johnson, Jalen Harris, JaVale McGee, Cam Oliver, Ramon Sessions and Kirk Snyder from the Pack early. It nearly stole Grant Sherfield before Oklahoma swooped in and stole him. Let’s not forget what professional sports just did to the Wolf Pack football team. The NFL took Carson Strong, Romeo Doubs and Cole Turner away from Mackay Stadium before their eligibility ran out. If Strong, Doubs and Turner were still on the Pack roster this fall there’s a good chance Jay Norvell would still be Pack coach and the Pack might have even found itself in the Top 25 conversation to start the season.
The new LIV Golf Series, funded by something called the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, is turning the sport of golf upside down by stealing players away from the PGA. It’s a good thing that only people who play golf every weekend actually care about professional golf.
But what if the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund decided to create their own professional football, basketball or baseball league? What if Mike Trout, Steph Curry, Aaron Judge, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Lamar Jackson, Aaron Rodgers and others jumped to a new Saudi Arabia League? What if the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund suddenly decided to steal all of the top high school football and basketball talent as well as the top college basketball and football players away from the United States? It would destroy college sports in this country and give deep-pocketed boosters nothing with which to pump up their fragile egos with their money.
Where does the Golden State Warriors’ four NBA titles in eight years rank among the best Bay area dynasties? Right now it is a close second behind the San Francisco 49ers’ five Super Bowl titles in 14 years (1981-1994).
The Warriors, of course, have also won a fifth title but the first one came in 1975, a full 13 years before Steph Curry was born and doesn’t count in this current dynasty. But if the Warriors win another title in the next two or three years (before Steph joins LeBron and Kevin Durant on the Lakers, Klay Thompson gets hurt again and Draymond Green becomes a professional wrestler), they would join the 49ers or even surpass them as the best Bay area dynasty in history.
The third best Bay area dynasty belongs to the Oakland A’s, which won the World Series three years in a row from 1972-74 and again in 1989. The fourth best Bay area dynasty is San Francisco Giants’ three World Series titles every other year from 2010-14. We’re still waiting for the first San Jose Sharks dynasty.


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