Friday Fodder: Did Sanchez’s buddies buy him a job? | NevadaAppeal.com

Friday Fodder: Did Sanchez’s buddies buy him a job?

Joe Santoro

Sports fodder for a Friday morning …The UNLV Rebels obviously believe that you can simply buy Mountain West football championships the same way Bishop Gorman High has bought the Nevada high school state title the last six years. UNLV’s hiring of Bishop Gorman coach Tony Sanchez to manage its football investment portfolio is pure old school Las Vegas. The guy at the poker table with the biggest stack of money wins, right? It doesn’t even matter if he knows how to play the game. Sanchez is a guy described by the Las Vegas Review-Journal in polite terms as having “well-placed connections in the local business community.” The minute Bobby Hauck stepped away (think Nicolas Cage in Honeymoon in Vegas) Sanchez and his well-placed connections were rumored to be taking over the program. The Rebels didn’t even try to fake it and make it appear like they were looking for a qualified college coach. Good for them. In Las Vegas you don’t have to worry about appearances. You simply buy what you want. Sanchez and the Las Vegas local business community, it seems, simply bought the Rebel football program. So, yes, Wolf Pack fans, your nightmare is finally coming true. It took five decades but the Rebels finally figured out they are located in Las Vegas. Look out.

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Wolf Pack fans shouldn’t look at UNLV’s current situation and start laughing. Yes, boosters told UNLV which coach to hire and, yes, Sanchez is just a high school coach. But that’s nothing new in Nevada. Dick Trachok came from Reno High to coach the Wolf Pack in 1959 and some well-connected boosters made sure the Wolf Pack hired Chris Ault after the 1975 season. Looking back, since hiring a high school coach is the newest fad in Nevada, it might have been the right decision for the Pack to hire Joe Sellers or Ken Dalton when Ault retired after the 1992 season. Yes, we know, it’s not 1959, 1975 or even 1992 anymore. UNLV isn’t a glorified intramural program like the Pack was in 1959 or a Division II independent like the Pack was in 1975 or a wet-behind-the-ear Division I program like the Pack in 1992. No, the Rebels are much more important these days with much more at stake. They are a Vegas stage show, competing with Zumanity, Cirque Du Soleil, Cris Angel and Penn and Teller. And, yes, Bishop Gorman.

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Why would Sanchez leave the best coaching job in the state of Nevada at Gorman? Nobody knows if he can coach at the college level. We don’t even know if he can coach at the high school level. At Gorman all he had to do was go out and collect all the best players in Las Vegas and then turn them loose every fall to pummel the rest of the state into submission. That’s not coaching. That’s merely tossing a hungry lion into the children’s petting zoo. Sanchez, Gorman and their friends’ deep pockets have made a joke out of Nevada high school football over the last decade or so. It is distasteful, slimy and ugly. You know, pure Vegas. But, it seems, they have finally grown tired of destroying the dreams of rival 16 and 17-year-olds at the high school level. Now they want something bigger. They want the Mountain West. Once they devour the Mountain West they will build a stadium that will make the Rose Bowl look like a trailer court and buy their way into a Power Five Conference. Heck, if that doesn’t work, they will simply buy their own Power Five Conference, buy ESPN and the CBS Sports Network and create their own championship tournament. Biggest stack of money wins, right? That’s always been the case in college sports.

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UNLV sent a big, fat message to the Wolf Pack by hiring Sanchez. Sanchez didn’t just bring his Bishop Gorman trophies with him to UNLV. He also brought all his Bishop Gorman boosters. It won’t be long before UNLV builds big-time facilities. It won’t be long before those big-time facilities start to make the Wolf Pack’s facilities look like a rest stop out on Highway 50. Pack coach Brian Polian knows as well as anybody that recruiting is all about showing bright shiny toys to recruits. Recruits, after all, want to be given the keys to a BMW, not a Ford Escort. Sanchez has grown accustomed to getting all the top recruits in Las Vegas. He plans on doing the same thing at UNLV. The Wolf Pack can’t allow Las Vegas to become a barren desert for them as far as recruiting is concerned.

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What will happen to Colin Kaepernick if Jim Harbaugh leaves the 49ers? Will a new coach have enough patience to deal with Kaepernick and his erratic right arm and decision making? Kaepernick is Harbaugh’s guy. Harbaugh came to Nevada to work him out. He drafted him. He coddled him, defended him at every turn (still does) and gave him the starting job the first time Alex Smith stubbed his toe. A new coach might not be so understanding and protective of Kaepernick. Kaepernick, after all, is an acquired taste. He will try your patience. Even Chris Ault went crazy trying to make him into a consistent quarterback. Ault would eventually just reach the end of his patience rope and tell Kaepernick to run into the end zone and everything would be all right. But you can’t do that in the NFL. Kaepernick’s career, which seemed to be shooting skyward like a rocket just a year ago, might be at a crossroads.

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Nobody outside of Reno or Lafayette, La., will remember what happens in the New Orleans Bowl by Saturday afternoon. But it is a meaningful game for the Wolf Pack for a lot of reasons. First of all, winning a bowl game doesn’t happen for the Wolf Pack every year. Heck, it’s only happened four times in over 100 years. Also, it will be important for Polian to go out recruiting the next two months with an 8-4 season and a bowl game win in his briefcase, especially now that he is battling with all those deep-pocketed UNLV boosters. Winning the New Orleans Bowl is an important step for the Pack. Another 7-6 season coupled with yet another bowl game disappointment isn’t going to sell any tickets the next eight or nine months. It’s also time, after all, that the Wolf Pack starts to connect with its local business community.