Pack’s defensive changes only a Band-Aid
Despite not playing a game in almost two weeks – or longer depending on if you believe Nevada was actually at the Hawaii Bowl – it has been an eventful time for the Wolf Pack football program.
Since suffering a deflating 45-10 bowl loss at the hands of SMU on Christmas Eve, nearly everyone with a voice or ability to write a letter or e-mail has been calling for Chris Ault’s head.
It is certain that athletic director Cary Groth has spent a lot of time recently sending replies to almost each and every complaint about the football program. She even admitted to doing so. Another thing she admitted was that there was a divide between the university and its fans.
“We have community and fan indifference right now in our football program,” she said.
A word such as “indifference,” barely scratches the surface. And the recent moves of hiring ex-Nevada linebacker Andy Buh and former UNLV secondary coach Mike Braderson aren’t going to do much to fix that relationship except to buy the program a little more time.
I, as much as anybody, would like to see these moves payoff and finally be the answer to what has been an abysmal defensive unit for quite some time. Afterall, Nevada is my alma mater and the college team I felt closest to, having lived in this area for 20 years.
But the problem isn’t something that Groth can slap a Band-Aid on and call it day.
The problem lies with the community’s disdain of Chris Ault.
I always knew there was some disconnect between the community an Ault, but I didn’t realize how deep it ran until this summer. Over the summer and into the fall I took on a part-time job at Reno golf course that was home to a few of Reno’s elite, who for the most part were either alums of Nevada, season ticket holders or even boosters.
Like many Pack fans, the excitement of playing at Notre Dame to kick off the season was unwavering. Many of those members had plans of traveling to South Bend, Ind., taking in the sights and watching Nevada pull off the biggest win its history. But after a 35-0 beatdown, the shine had begun to wear down. Then came losses Colorado State and Missouri and all that anyone could talk about was how poor of a coach Ault was and that some of those members, many of which have had relationships with Ault in some capacity, couldn’t stand him.
Striking up conversations with members regarding the football team turned from hopeful to a what Domino’s must have felt recently during a focus group that labeled its pizza as tasting like cardboard.
For many of these members, that’s what watching a Nevada game tasted like.
In her statement to the media before introducing Buh as the defensive coordinator, Groth said that “there are a lot of schools around this country that wish they were 8-4 and had the opportunity to play in a bowl game.”
Well going to a bowl game simply isn’t good enough for the regular Joe’s who spend what little discretionary money they do have on tickets to a Nevada game hoping for a good time, instead to be disappointed by an embarrassing loss.
And if a bowl game isn’t good enough for a regular fan spending $60 for his family to watch a game, what makes Groth think that’s good enough for a booster who is spending thousands of dollars to help put a worthy product on the field.
Maybe if Nevada was still in the Big Sky, or the Big West, an 8-4 season would be good enough. But when you are in the same conference that has seen Boise State win two BCS games in two appearances, 8-4 simply is going to cut it.
Now that Ault has bought some time, he needs to use it wisely. He needs to spend some time now trying to mend relationships with the community, by becoming a voice, by lending a hand and becoming more inviting.
The additions and subtractions to the defensive coaching staff has likely bought Ault another two to three years as long as he doesn’t suffer any more embarrassing loses.
But if this doesn’t work, Groth needs to be ready to pull the trigger or it might be her head the fans will call for.