Polian complex: It is ‘us against the world’ to him | NevadaAppeal.com
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Polian complex: It is ‘us against the world’ to him

Joe Santoro

Sports fodder for a Friday morning … Brian Polian had a complete meltdown during last Saturday’s 44-20 loss to Arizona at Mackay Stadium. The Nevada Wolf Pack head football coach screamed, yelled, jumped up and down and pointed at the officials almost the entire game. At one point the chunky and spunky little sparkplug of a coach sprinted down the sideline toward the end zone to call a timeout as if he was the NFL Network’s Rich Eisen doing the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. You half expected Polian to come out of the halftime locker room dressed in a mask and cape and throw a chair at the refs. Coach Bi-Polian was fined $10,000 this week by the Wolf Pack and now has a university babysitter on the sidelines to make sure he stays under control. What’s the babysitter going to do, slap him on the wrist with a ruler or go make him sit in the corner of the end zone all by himself if he even looks at an official the wrong way? The university is now treating Polian like he’s a spoiled, bratty 8-year-old who throws a tantrum because he didn’t get a pony for his birthday.

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Polian yells at the officials because, well, it’s the best way he knows how to help his team. His assistants take care of all the mundane things like coaching and strategy. All that’s left for Polian to do is to yell at the officials. What else is he supposed to do? Just stand there and allow the officials to cheat his team? Is he supposed to merely immerse himself in the next play and move on while so much injustice is heaped upon his team? Are you kidding? Polian’s entire coaching shtick is about cultivating an “us against the world” mentality. The officials, media, ungrateful fans, the conference and even the Nevada athletic department, which doesn’t do things the way they used to do it at Notre Dame, Stanford, Texas A&M, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts, are all out to get him. Opposing coaches do unethical things to steal his recruits. It’s amazing Polian keeps his cool as much as he does. The university should have given him a $10,000 bonus and not a fine for the way he acted last Saturday.

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Polian is passionate and fiery. When did that become a sin in college football? But who wouldn’t be passionate and fiery about making a half a million dollars a year to win seven games in the Mountain West? If your team simply has a pulse it’s guaranteed to win at least half its games.

Everyone else in the country is worried sick about losing their $35,000-a-year job each and every day while college football continues to make millionaires out of gym teachers. It’s a pretty good deal, sort of like walking around northern California in 1849 and picking gold nuggets out of the river. Anyone would be passionate and fiery about coaching in college football, right? So why can’t you show it? But with all of that good fortune comes danger. It’s lurking everywhere. The officials, media and, well, everyone outside your inner circle that isn’t indebted to you for their job or scholarship, is out to ruin you. Polian seems to know that as well as anyone. So let him yell and scream once in a while.

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Only Polian knows why he’s so emotional with the officials. Is he trying to live up to his famous last name? Is he in over his head as a head coach? Does it eat at him that with each and every loss he’s that much further away from getting a job at a big-time school? That’s something he has to work out himself. But it’s time he settles down. Acting like a fool on the sideline is one of the few things that can get you fired at Nevada for winning seven games and going to a bowl game every year. Polian should know he has a ton of supporters in northern Nevada. His players and assistants seem to love him. His athletic department supports him. Even the media kiss his feet for the most part. The media just need a five-second sound bite or a Tweet and they are happy. Polian, if nothing else, is full of sound bites and Tweets. So he just needs to relax and lead the program and stop acting like a fool for all to see. He has found a home here, if he wants it. But maybe that’s the issue. Maybe he doesn’t really want to be here.

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We don’t know if Polian can coach. We don’t really care. Head coaches don’t coach anymore. They make too much money to waste their time coaching. Head coaches these days are leaders. And it’s obvious Polian can lead a program. He can also build a program. His father, Hall of Famer Bill Polian, didn’t make his name as a coach. He was a builder of programs. That’s what a Polian does. They build and lead. Someone else coaches and plays. Polian can recognize talent. His stopwatch, tape measure and scale, after all, work as well as the next guy’s. He lets his coaches coach and his players play, just like his famous father used to do. When you hire a Polian, that’s what you get. A leader and a builder.

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The worst thing to come out of last Saturday’s loss to Arizona was not the fact Polian got two penalties for acting like a WWF wrestler. It wasn’t the fact the Pack lost a great chance to beat an overrated ranked team from a big-name conference. It was the fact just 24,355 fans bothered to show up. Arizona, a ranked Pac-12 team, was in town. The Pack was 1-0 on the year. You can’t come close to selling out a 30,000-seat stadium for a game like that? A crowd of 27,052 came to watch UC Davis and Polian’s first game as Pack coach in 2013. A bad Washington State team drew 26,023 fans to Mackay last year. You get under 25,000 for an entertaining Arizona team? Maybe that’s why Polian was fined $10,000 by the athletic department.

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Yes, we know Polian’s career record is just 12-15. He’s lost four of his last six home games. He has more unsportsmanlike penalties this year than victories. But that’s all about to change. Well, it’s going to change after the Pack play at Texas A&M on Saturday. The program is on the verge of turning the corner. The Pack might not lose another game this season after Saturday. Who are they going to lose to? Hawaii? Come on. UNLV? Puh-lease. Wyoming? Really? Buffalo? Good one. New Mexico or San Jose State? Yeah, right. Even Fresno State, Utah State and San Diego State have fallen on hard times. Yes, we know this isn’t a great Pack team. It’s a mediocre Pack team on its good days. But it’s a mediocre Pack team that’s about to play a ton of bad teams.