Joe Santoro: Many questions as football season approaches | NevadaAppeal.com
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Joe Santoro: Many questions as football season approaches

By Joe Santoro For the Nevada Appeal
Nevada quarterback Carson Strong drops back to pass against Fresno State during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Fresno, Calif., Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019.
AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian

Is the Nevada Wolf Pack really going to be ready to open its football season in a little more than two months? That’s right. The 2020 season is scheduled to open Aug. 29 at Mackay Stadium against UC Davis in roughly 79 days (depending on when you are reading this). Will fans be allowed in the stadium? If so, how many? How close can they sit together? Do they have to wear masks? Can they use the public restrooms? Can the players high-five the fans? Will tailgating be allowed? Will the freshman students run out on the field before the first game? Do the band members have to march six feet apart? Will anyone stand for the anthem? Will it be safe for teams to travel by airplane across the country and stay in unfamiliar hotels on road trips? Is it really safe to play football during a pandemic, when just about half the plays end up with a half dozen players laying on top of or close by each other? Does a huddle violate social distancing guidelines? Do fans have to stand at least six feet apart as they enter the stadium? There are still so many questions in everyone’s mind.

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The lack of fans in the stands will have a tremendous effect on college sports. First of all the contests will be ridiculously boring. But there will also be very little home field or home-court advantage. How will the officials know when to call a penalty or foul? It’s no secret that the officials are swayed by the fans. That’s what coaches really mean by homecourt or home-field advantage. Basketball, where the fans are close to the officials, is where you really see the difference. The Wolf Pack has had a distinct home-court advantage in basketball for decades and has suffered just as much the other way when it has gone on the road. Take away the fans (or most of them) and the games will be all about strategy and athletic ability? How boring is that?

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Basketball games in Reno have always had a reputation as being difficult for the road team. The following is from a 1950 San Francisco Chronicle story . . . “Most of the cage officials in this neighborhood (Bay Area) break out in a cold sweat when they draw an assignment in Reno, which harbors the roughest, noisiest bunch of roosters west of Brooklyn. You think the California rooting sections are rough on officials? One of them said, ‘Opposed to working at Nevada, refereeing at Berkeley is like listening to a chamber music recital, it is so restful.’” The Wolf Pack beat St. Francis (N.Y.) late in the 1949-50 season in Reno, 70-62. That prompted a Brooklyn Eagle newspaper reporter to write, “(St. Francis) was battling a couple referees as well as the Wolf Pack. All through the game it was noticeable. The referees were awful when the home forces held a comfortable margin. But whenever the pressing Terriers bounced back and began to move into the driver’s seat the whistle-tooting was just plain smelly, like a dead fish off the ice.”

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The Wolf Pack has always had the same sort of complaints about the officiating when it has gone on the road. The officials in the Bay area, for example, always treated center Edgar Jones and the Pack teams of the late 1970s unfairly. “I know they (University of San Francisco) outshot us on the free-throw line,” Jones said after one 1979 game. “It’s not that we fouled. It’s just that, well, what can I say? The refs live here.” Pack coach Jim Carey also didn’t hide his anger at the officials. “People come to see the players, not those cats in the striped shirts,” Carey said. “How long was Edgar on the court? Just a few minutes? It happens in every big game for us. It’s a crime not only against us but for the fans who pay the money to see the game.” Jones was routinely frustrated after games on the road. “How much were tickets for this game?,” he said, also in 1979. “I should have bought one and sat in the stands. All I ever hear are the officials saying, ‘Edgar, don’t do this. Edgar, don’t do that.’ Those dudes (USF) get the best of the officiating at home.”

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Former Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald, who passed for 571 yards and seven touchdowns with no interceptions the past two seasons against the Pack, is a new man. The 6-foot-4 McDonald became famous at Hawaii for big passing stats and long dreadlocks that flowed out of his helmet. Well, the dreadlocks are now gone, ever since McDonald was a seventh-round pick by the Tennessee Titans a couple months ago. “It definitely was a tough decision for me,” said McDonald, who might turn out to be the top sleeper pick of this past draft. “It was more than a hairstyle for me. It was a symbol of my journey, it was who I was. Cutting it off was a big deal for me. But for the opportunity (in the NFL) that I have, I felt it was the right time. I’m going to be focused on football and worry about the hairstyle later.”

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McDonald lasted until the seventh round despite being one of the more talented quarterbacks to actually take part in this year’s Indianapolis NFL Scouting Combine. He ranked first at the Combine among all quarterbacks (Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa did not compete at the Combine) in the 40-yard dash (4.58 seconds) and vertical leap (36 inches). He was even better that Justin Herbert of UCLA (35.5, 4.68), Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts (4.59, 35) and Utah State’s Jordan Love (35.5, 4.74), who were all picked in the first two rounds. Colin Kaepernick, in case you are wondering, ran the 40 in 4.53 and had a vertical of 32.5 in the 2011 Combine. Cam Newton, also in 2011, was at 4.56, 35). The Titans got a steal with McDonald in the seventh round.

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The University of Nevada needs to retire Colin Kaepernick’s No. 10 jersey. Now. Not next year. Not five years from now. Now. Call Kaepernick, ask him when he can be in Reno and set the date. Let him talk via Skype, if that’s what he wants. It’s up to him. Just do it. The Pack not only hasn’t retired No. 10, it has let other players wear it since Kaepernick left after the 2010 season. Griffin Dahn wore it a couple years ago. Reggie Coates wore it. Yes, Griffin Dahn and Reggie Coates. No Wolf Pack player should ever wear the No. 10 again. It is a cherished number at Nevada. Great Pack quarterbacks of the past (Jeff Tisdel, Eric Beavers, Chris Vargas) also wore it and excelled even before Kaepernick. They could all be part of the ceremony. But let’s get one thing perfectly clear. The reason No 10 would be retired is because of Kaepernick. The Wolf Pack needs to remind everyone each and everyday that Colin Kaepernick went to school at Nevada. Retiring his number would be the first step. Put his name on a building on campus. Name an award after him. Stick a No. 10 patch on the jersey of every Pack player. He deserves it all and more.