Wolf Pack football just slave to ESPN | NevadaAppeal.com

Wolf Pack football just slave to ESPN

Joe Santoro
For the Appeal

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .

We are now less than 50 days away from the Nevada Wolf Pack football team’s season opener Sept. 3 against UC Davis and we still don’t know when nine of the 12 games this season will start. We only know when one of the six home games will kick off. Make no mistake, this is not the Wolf Pack’s fault. The Wolf Pack, like all mid-major programs desperate for a paycheck, are simply slaves to television. College football is basically just television programming. It exists simply to fill a certain time slot so ESPN can sell more advertising time. That’s why the Pack ended almost all of its games last season around midnight. It’s why this season starts on a Thursday (we assume at night but we can’t be sure) in September. Nothing screams college football more than a Thursday night in September, right? But what the fans want doesn’t really matter. You want to know when the games will kick off so you can plan your life? Too bad. Start dumping money into athletic directors laps like ESPN and the other made-for-college-sports stations and then someone might listen to you.

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We could be looking at the worst Wolf Pack home schedule since the days of leather helmets and 1 p.m. kickoffs on a Saturday afternoon. The combined record of the Wolf Pack’s six home opponents this year was 25-50 last year. Five of the six home foes failed to win as many as five games last year. The Silver and Blue scrimmage last spring presented more drama than this year’s home schedule. But that’s what happens when you play a bad Big Sky team (Davis) and the worst of the Mountain West (UNLV, New Mexico, San Jose State and Hawaii) at home. By the way, the combined record last year of Boise State’s home opponents this season was 38-38. Fresno State’s was 44-34 and San Diego State’s was 42-36.

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Brian Polian’s not-so-subtle mission to eliminate All Things Chris Ault will be almost complete when the Wolf Pack switches sidelines this season at Mackay Stadium. Chris Tormey switched sidelines when he took over the program in 2000. Ault switched back (to the East side) when he regained control of the program in 2004 when he fired Tormey and took his job. It took Polian two years to realize he was stepping on the hallowed ground of Ault because, well, he was too busy yelling at the officials during the games to notice. The switch, though, makes sense because now the teams don’t have to risk running into each other before and after the game and at halftime when they cross the field to exit and enter the stadium. Then again, that would have been the most entertaining thing to happen at Mackay this year with that home schedule.

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What is left on Polian’s checklist in his never-ending effort to eliminate All Things Chris Ault? Well, only Polian knows for sure but we have to think that, in no particular order, the following could be next to go: assistant coach Mike Bradeson, the pistol offense, 1 p.m. kickoffs, the domination of UNLV, bowl games every single season, the terms Nevada Back, Nevadatude and The Union, any mention of Chris Ault Field, any mention of any player pre-2013 unless, like Colin Kaepernick, it helps in recruiting. That should just about do it. Chris Who?

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Tony Sanchez, who’s going from a team with about 12 legitimate Division I starters at Bishop Gorman High to one with about six at UNLV, just might have a clue after all. Sanchez, the Boosters’ Choice at UNLV, has assembled a formidable and impressive staff. Sanchez, like Polian, really doesn’t have to do anything this year except lie to the media and schmooze the boosters. Sanchez’s staff includes, among others, former Nebraska coach Barney Cotton as offensive coordinator and former Stanford, Notre Dame, California, Arizona State and Colorado (and others) coach Kent Baer as defensive coordinator. It’s all about the assistants in college football these days. Head coaches are just program organizers. They really don’t do anything except keep the media away from players, yell at officials, spew clichés on postgame internet videos and, most importantly, keep their resume up to date.

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How many games will Sanchez and UNLV win this year? Well, that all depends on whether or not it has any healthy bodies remaining after playing UCLA and Michigan in back to back weeks in September. Who made that ridiculous schedule for a rookie head coach? Cary Groth? If the Rebels physically and mentally survive UCLA and Michigan, they should go on to win at least four games this year, which would double most every season of the Bobby Hauck era and get Sanchez a million or so from his booster buddies. The Rebels, after all, get to play Idaho State, San Jose State, Hawaii and Wyoming. They could beat those teams with former or current Bishop Gorman players.

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Major League Baseball showed yet again this week why its All Star game is the best by far. Mike Trout going deep to start the game, Jacob DeGrom and Aroldis Chapman not allowing a fair ball to be hit. Madison Bumgarner recreating last year’s World Series by facing Lorenzo Cain and Salvador Perez of the Kansas City Royals. Zack Greinke giving up a run for the first time in a month. Clayton Kershaw struggling outside of the regular season once again. Honoring Pete Rose, Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays and other legends on the field before the game. Baseball’s All Star moments stay with us forever.

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ESPN should be embarrassed for giving Bruce now-call-me-Caitlyn Jenner its Arthur Ashe Courage Award during its silly ESPYs show. Bob Costas is absolutely right when he called the ratings grab by ESPN merely exploitation and a “tabloid play.” The great Arthur Ashe’s name should not be associated in any form with Bruce Caitlyn Made-For-Reality-TV Jenner. Ashe is synonymous with courage as is Jim Valvano, the first recipient of the award, and Pat Tillman, Steve Palermo, Muhammad Ali, Pat Summit, Tommie Smith and John Carlos and Robin Roberts. Giving the award to Jenner cheapens the memory of Arthur Ashe as well as Valvano, Tillman and the others who won the award.