How Northern Nevada helped build UNLV athletics
Northern Nevada has helped build the UNLV Rebels.
Nevada Southern University, which opened in 1957 as a branch campus of the University of Nevada, fashioned its first mascot — a wolf wearing a confederate uniform named Beauregard — after its big brother Wolf Pack to the north.
But a mascot wasn’t the only thing NSU, as it was called until 1969 when it became UNLV, took from Northern Nevada.
The Rebels first athletic director as well as its first men’s basketball, baseball, golf and football coach — Mike “Chub” Drakulich and Bill Ireland — also came from Northern Nevada and are considered the fathers of UNLV sports.
Make no mistake, Southern Nevada has also provided the Wolf Pack will plenty of riches down through the years — such as Frank Hawkins, Charvez Foger and Bill “Wildcat” Morris, to name just three — but you certainly cannot write the history of UNLV athletics without the influence of those who came from the Wolf Pack or Northern Nevada high schools. Northern Nevada’s impact not only helped UNLV get off the ground and establish itself athletically but also helped it flourish.
That tradition — UNLV using a Northern Nevadan influence to help it thrive — continues to this day as former Wolf Pack assistant baseball coach Stan Stolte has been the Rebels head baseball coach for five seasons and former Wolf Pack football assistant coaches Cameron Norcross (also a former Pack player) and Scott Baumgartner have just been hired to join the Rebels staff under new coach Marcus Arroyo.
A look at the most notable Wolf Pack and Northern Nevada high school products that have had the biggest influence on UNLV’s athletic success:
Ault finished his Wolf Pack playing career as the leading passer in school history, breaking Stan Heath’s records. He would later spend 28 seasons as the Wolf Pack’s head coach (off and on from 1976-2012), winning 233 games. But in between his playing and coaching careers with the Wolf Pack, Ault lived down south wearing red. After one of the most successful high school head coaching careers in Nevada history (35-3-1 with two state titles in four years combined at Bishop Manogue and Reno High) Ault became an assistant coach at UNLV, coaching the wide receivers from 1973-75. Ault assisted new Rebel coach Ron Meyer as the Rebels enjoyed their best three-year period in school history, going 27-8 combined and 23-2 at home. The Rebels started the 1974 season by winning their first 12 games and making the Division II playoffs.
Ayrault was one of the top hitters in the Northern AAA in the early 1980s for the Carson Senators and coach Ron McNutt. The 6-foot-4 Ayrault mainly played third base and caught and set the Senators’ single-season record for batting average at .564 as a senior in 1984. The Senators beat Hug 2-1 in a Northern AAA zone tournament game as Ayrault and teammate Matt Williams each hit solo home runs. Ayrault headed to Moorpark College after Carson High and converted to a full-time relief pitcher. He was selected in the ninth round by the San Diego Padres in the 1986 January draft after going 3-2 with a 3.20 earned run average but did not sign a contract. Ayrault then headed to UNLV for his final two seasons in college baseball (1987, 1988) where he was a teammate of former Carson pitcher Donovan Osborne in 1988. Ayrault’s UNLV statistics are unavailable (he doesn’t own any UNLV records) but he was certainly a trusted and valuable member of the Rebels bullpen for two seasons. He pitched 2.2 innings of shutout relief to beat the Wolf Pack in the final game of the 1987 season. Ayrault was then picked by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 26th round in the 1987 June draft as a junior but, again, did not sign a contract. In 1988 as a senior he had a 3-0 record and pitched in two NCAA Regional games, tossed one-third of an inning to help preserve Osborne’s victory over Evansville and then tossing 1.2 innings in a 27-8 loss to Arizona State in his final college game. Ayrault was not drafted after his senior season and pitched one season (1989) for the independent Reno Silver Sox, where he was eventually sold to the Philadelphia Phillies in August 1989. He would then go on to pitch two seasons (1993-94) in the major leagues with the Seattle Mariners and Phillies, appearing in 54 games with a 5-3 record and 4.03 ERA. In 1992 he was the toughest relief pitcher in the National League on right-handed hitters, allowing just a .162 average.
Bradeson was a Wolf Pack assistant coach for 13 seasons under head coach Chris Ault, covering two eras (1986-91 and 2010-16). In between, though, he was a defensive assistant at UNLV from 1996-09 under three head coaches, Jeff Horton, John Robinson and Mike Sanford. Bradeson’s 14 seasons at UNLV makes him the longest-tenured assistant coach in Rebel history. Bradeson’s area of expertise was the secondary, which he played for Boise State’s 1980 Division I-AA national championship team. But he also served as the Rebels’ defensive coordinator under Robinson from 2000-04. Bradeson also coached in 25 Fremont Cannon games for the Pack and Rebels combined, going 13-12.
Carano, arguably the best quarterback to ever come out of the state of Nevada, was highly recruited out of Wooster High in 1972. Carano, who passed for 1,746 yards and 12 touchdowns as a Wooster senior, was lured to UNLV by new Rebel assistant coach Chris Ault. Ault, who coached Reno High in 1972, also signed Northern Nevadans Roy Callahan (Reno High), Dave Fleiner and Mike O’Callaghan (both Bishop Manogue) and Carano’s brother Gene (Wooster) for UNLV in early 1973 and drastically affected the balance of college football power among the state’s two universities. Carano would set every important UNLV passing record from 1973-76. He is still fifth in most categories after passing for 5,095 yards and 37 touchdowns in his career. His 20 career rushing touchdowns are still a UNLV record for a quarterback and his 57 total touchdowns are second (behind Randall Cunningham’s 68). Carano completed 337-of-636 passes and is still fifth in UNLV history with 5,234 total yards on offense. Carano, who has also served on the Nevada Athletic Commission, is a member of the UNLV Hall of Fame and the Southern Nevada Hall of Fame. He would go on to play seven years in the NFL as a backup on the Dallas Cowboys to Roger Staubach and Danny White.
Pound for pound and inch for inch, Dallimore was one of the best pitchers ever produced in the state of Nevada. The 5-foot-8 Dallimore stood out for Reno High in the early 1960s, compiling a 7-1 record as a senior and making the All State team as the Huskies and coach Bud Beasley won the 1962 state title. Dallimore then headed to the Wolf Pack where he went 21-5 in his career for coach Bill Ireland. As a senior in 1966 Dallimore went 11-1 with a 1.52 ERA, tossing four shutouts and becoming a First Team College Division All American. Dallimore then spent 1967-69 as an assistant coach at Nevada for baseball and football. In 1970 he moved down south to join Ireland, who was now the head football coach at UNLV. Dallimore was an assistant for baseball and football at UNLV from 1970-73. The following year in 1974 he became the baseball team’s head coach and stayed in the job through 1996. Dallimore had a record of 794-558 as UNLV’s baseball coach, leading the Rebels to seven NCAA Regionals. His 1980 team won 53-of-66 games. He had 19 30-win seasons and eight 40-win seasons. Dallimore is now in the Reno High School, UNLV and Wolf Pack Halls of Fame.
Daniel was a two-time All State football player for Reno High in the late 1950s. He then headed to the Wolf Pack and was an All-Far Western Conference lineman and a team captain and did it all at under 200 pounds. Daniel began his coaching career as the Wolf Pack’s freshman coach and also was a varsity assistant through the 1967 season. That’s when Nevada Southern, which was to play football for the first time in the fall of 1968, came calling. Daniel became the first assistant ever hired by the Rebels in January 1968 on head coach Bill Ireland’s staff. Daniel, a 1963 Nevada graduate, stayed four seasons with Ireland at UNLV, helping establish the Rebels’ program. Daniel, who also coached at Utah and was a visiting coach observer at Alabama under coach Paul “Bear” Bryant in 1967, also was the chairman of the Nevada Southern physical education department for three years. Daniel then returned to Nevada to join Chris Ault’s first staff with the Wolf Pack from 1976-78 as offensive line coach. He would also join Dan Gustin’s radio team with the Pack as color commentator in the 1980s and 90s.
Michael “Chub” Drakulich is the unquestioned father of UNLV athletics. The 1948 Wolf Pack graduate (Drakulich was a standout middle infielder for the Wolf Pack baseball team) grew up, like Ireland, in McGill and graduated from White Pine High. Drakulich served two years in World War II before enrolling at Nevada. Drakulich played baseball for the Reno Silver Sox in the 1950s and also became a coach at Fallon High and Rancho High in Las Vegas. The Rebels then turned over their entire athletic department to him in 1958. At the time Nevada Southern had just a total of 800 students. Drakulich became the Rebels’ athletic director and first men’s basketball coach for the inaugural 1958-59 season. Drakulich coached the Rebels for five years, compiling a record of 68-45 mainly against small California colleges and, in the first two years, junior colleges and freshman teams. But Drakulich’s Rebels went 16-8 and 21-4 in his last two seasons. Drakulich also became the Rebels first baseball coach in 1960 and then became the school’s first golf coach in 1966, a role he remained in through 1987. Ireland has frequently been given credit in the media for hiring Jerry Tarkanian as UNLV’s men’s basketball coach. In reality, though, it was Drakulich who hired Tarkanian in one of his last official acts as UNLV’s athletic director in March 1973. Ireland wasn’t named UNLV’s athletic director until May 1973.
Wolf Pack coaches had defected to the Rebels before and hardly anyone noticed or cared. But when Jeff Horton did it after the 1993 season, well, the entire state erupted. Horton, who graduated from the University of Nevada in 1981, began his coaching career at Bishop Manogue High in 1981. He spent two years as a Miners assistant coach and then took over as head coach in 1983, leading Manogue to a 9-2 season. Horton then returned to the Wolf Pack as an assistant from 1985-89 under Ault before going to UNLV for two years (1990-91) as an assistant. He then came back to the Pack in 1992 and was named head coach the first time Chris Ault retired in 1993. Horton, though, left the Pack after 1993 to become the Rebels head coach in 1994. Horton had one winning season at UNLV (7-5 in 1994, beating the Pack 32-27 in Las Vegas in the final regular season game of the year). The following year, though, Horton brought his Rebels to Mackay Stadium and was involved in a fight-filled afternoon as the Pack won 55-32. Horton was just 13-44 in five seasons as the Rebels coach. He is now in his ninth season as an assistant at San Diego State.
Ireland simply belonged to both ends of the state. But he got his start in Northern Nevada. Ireland, a McGill native, played football and baseball for the Wolf Pack in the early 1950s. After graduating in 1954, Ireland then coached football and basketball at Fernley High and South Tahoe High through the spring of 1960. The Wolf Pack hired him in June 1960 as its head varsity baseball coach and freshman football coach. Ireland stayed at Nevada through 1967, winning the 1965 College Division Pacific Coast Regional title with the Pack baseball team. Drakulich then lured him south to become UNLV’s first football coach in May 1967. Ireland led UNLV’s first football team to an 8-1 record in 1968, still one of the best records for a football team in its first year of existence in college football history. Ireland then led the Rebels to consecutive 6-4 records in 1969 and 1970 and a 5-4-1 record in 1971. The Rebels fell to 1-10 in 1972, giving Ireland a 26-23-1 career record over five seasons as head coach. It was Ireland’s idea in 1969 to make a replica of the Fremont Cannon as the trophy given for the winner of the Wolf Pack-Rebels football game. Ireland’s Rebels won the first Fremont Cannon in 1970 and also in 1971. Ireland then became UNLV’s athletic director in May 1973.
Kuster, it seems, was born to hit a baseball. Kuster was one of the more powerful high school hitters in the state in the late 1980s playing for Reed High. He set the school records at the time for home runs (10) and RBI (50) in a season (1988). He was a perennial All-Northern AAA First Team selection. Kuster then took his talents to Southern Nevada to play for the Rebels and, well, he just kept on hitting. The powerful first baseman played with the Rebels from 1990-94 for coach Fred Dallimore. He was named to the All-Big West Conference team in 1991 and 1994. Kuster suffered an injury just four games into his senior year in 1993 and missed the rest of the year. He came back in 1994 and hit .333 with eight home runs. Kuster hit .311 in his Rebels’ career with 33 doubles, 34 home runs and 161 RBI in 199 games.
Osborne is one of the greatest pitchers in Nevada high school and college history. The 1987 Carson High graduate was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the ninth round in 1997 as a senior after a 10-1 season that included a victory over Las Vegas Valley High in the state tournament. He also came on in relief with the bases loaded and one out in the Northern AAA Zone title game and struck out the only two hitters he faced to preserve a 13-10 win. Earlier in the year he fanned nine in a five-inning no-hitter against McQueen in a game stopped because of snow. In another game he fanned 10 and allowed just three hits in a 1-0 win over Wooster. Osborne went on to UNLV and had a marvelous three-year career as a Rebel. His 35 victories (just 12 losses) are tied for first in UNLV history with Herb Pryor while his 358 strikeouts are third. He struck out 15 twice in a game for UNLV (once against the Wolf Pack). Osborne had a 4.21 career ERA at UNLV and walked just 127. He was drafted after his junior year in the first round by the St. Louis Cardinals (13th overall) and began his pro career. Osborne pitched from 1992-2004 in the major leagues mainly with the Cardinals and briefly with the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees with a 49-46 record and 4.03 ERA.
Pace, a 1981 Reno High graduate, was a baseball, basketball and football star in high school. He was named the Northern AAA baseball Most Valuable Player in 1981 and then chose UNLV over the Wolf Pack. Pace was one of UNLV’s most hardest working and productive players in school history. When his four-year Rebel career ended in 1985 he set the school record for games played (258) and at-bats (888). Pace, a teammate of Carson High’s Matt Williams with UNLV and the Carson Capitols summer team, was a solid .292 career hitter at UNLV and drove in 136 runs, playing all over the infield. In one game for UNLV he walked four times. Pace, who returned to UNLV as an assistant baseball coach in 1993 and is now the Reno High athletic director after coaching baseball and softball at the school, played in 1988 for the Reno Silver Sox and played all nine positions in one game.
Sanders was one of the best athletes to play high school football in Northern Nevada in the 1990s for the Reed Raiders. The defensive back went to UNLV to play for coach Jeff Horton in 1996. Sanders had three interceptions in his UNLV career, returning one for a 34-yard touchdown in 1999, his senior year. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Sanders played four years for the Rebels (he redshirted in 1998) and finished with 270 career tackles, at the time the sixth most in UNLV history. He was picked in the fifth round in the NFL draft by Washington in 2000, though he never played in a regular season game. Sanders was best known in college for throwing a helmet in the direction of Wolf Pack coach Chris Ault after a game in 1995 at Mackay Stadium.
Stolte was the Wolf Pack pitching coach and recruiting coordinator for 14 seasons, from 1996-09 after replacing John Savage on the Wolf Pack staff. He was also part of three NCAA Regional teams (1997, 1999, 2000) while at Nevada under head coach Gary Powers. He was pitching coach during the Wolf Pack career of former Carson High standout Darrell Rasner. Stolte, though, became an assistant coach at UNLV in 2011 and has been the Rebels’ head coach since 2016 after replacing Tim Chambers. Stolte’s Rebels have gone 114-132 in five seasons (6-11 in the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season) with one winning season (34-29 in 2018).
Williams is a legend at both ends of the state. Williams was one of the top third basemen on the west coast for the Carson Senators and was drafted in the 27th round by the New York Mets in 1983. He was a two-time Northern AAA Player of the year. As a junior in 1982 he hit .500 for the season with 53 RBI. Williams then went to UNLV, switched to shortstop and became one of the greatest Rebel players in history. His No. 15 jersey has been retired at UNLV. As a freshman in 1984 he led the team with 12 homers and 52 RBI and also hit .324. As a junior he hit 25 homers. Williams, who played three seasons in Las Vegas, is UNLV’s all-time leading home run hitter with 58 and is second with 217 RBI. His 223 runs scored are third and his 470 total bases are fourth. He hit three home runs in a game for UNLV three times. In 1986 he was named an All American and was picked in the first round (No. 3 overall) in the Major League Baseball draft by the San Francisco Giants. Williams would play in the major leagues from 1987-2003 with the Giants, Cleveland Indians and Arizona Diamondbacks, hitting 378 career homers. His 122 RBI led the National League in 1990 as did his 43 homers in 1994.
Yeskie, a Carson High graduate in 1993, is one of the best starting pitchers in Rebel history. His 147 strikeouts in 1995 are a school record. Yeskie led UNLV with eight wins in 1994 and 11 in 1995. In 1995 Yeskie was 11-3 with a 3.72 ERA. He battled injuries his senior year and made only six appearances, though he did win two games to finish with 21 wins for his career. He had seven complete games in 1994 and nine in 1995. Yeskie also led the Rebels in earned run average in 1995 at 4.36 and was named all-Big West Conference that year. Yeskie, who was drafted in the sixth round by the Los Angeles Dodgers out of Carson High in 1993, also was drafted in 1996 in the ninth round by the Minnesota Twins.