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Police Squad: Nevada

BY DARRELL MOODY

Nevada Appeal Sports Writer

One of the worst things to happen to a college coach is to see one of his players flunk out, or worse, show up on a police blotter.

The latter has happened to the University of Nevada basketball coach Mark Fox, who suspended indefinitely junior guard Brandon Fields, freshman point guard London Giles and freshman forward Ahyaro Phillips after the trio was charged with petty larceny on Wednesday in Sparks.

Fox said he wouldn’t make a statement until he had more facts.

I also know the Nevada staff well enough that they believe in “high character” guys. However, this is the second problem that has hit the Nevada program in the last three years.

Right before the 2006-07 season, Tyrone Hanson was kicked off the team. He had flunked a drug test and sat out a preseason scrimmage. Despite warnings by Fox to not go out over the weekend, Hanson attended a Halloween party which later turned deadly when three party-goers were shot and killed.

Hanson himself was badly beaten. He was dismissed from the team and played last year for Josh Newman, a former Wolf Pack assistant coach, at University of Arkansas Fort Smith.

What Fox decides to do remains to be seen. It could be out of his hands.

I honestly don’t know the university policy, so I don’t know if a guilty plea would mean that they would be dismissed from the school or the team.

– The Western Athletic Conference keeps talking about tough economic times having a big effect on its member institutions.

Nevada is leaving on Friday instead of Thursday for its game at Hawaii later this month.

One WAC athletic director said that maybe basketball should start playing Saturday afternoons so visiting teams could fly home that night, thus saving hotel and food costs. I know Nevada usually travels 20 in its party and if everybody shares a room, that’s 10 rooms at least $120 a room. Throw in 20 breakfasts the next day, and you have trimmed probably $1,200. That would be a cost of $7.000 just during conference play.

A Nevada athletic department representative said that playing during the day wouldn’t draw a big crowd. I reminded that person of the 8,000 fans Nevada drew for a BracketBuster game against Vermont. If the team is successful, the team will draw no matter what time they play. That’s the kind of city Reno is.

Cary Groth, Nevada’s athletic director, said that was just a small piece of the pie. She questioned having conference championships. This year is especially tough because Hawaii is hosting three events, and that’s not a cheap trip for any of the WAC schools. Groth estimates that Nevada will have to spend more then $100,000 on those three trips.

A bigger problem is scheduling. The football and men’s basketball teams have to attempt to be more geographically friendly when setting their schedules.

It’s very tough for men’s basketball because they need so many nonconference games and, as a rule, basketball teams don’t like to play two nonconference games against the same school even though that would make sense for Nevada and UNLV. It would be impossible to get Arizona, USC or UCLA to play a home-and-home against Nevada. Those schools might be willing to do a two-for-one, though.

Nevada and California is a good matchup. I’d like to see that series continue past this year. Now that Trent Johnson has left Stanford, I ‘d like to see the Cardinal and Wolf Pack play.

I’d like to see Nevada play some more Mountain West schools like BYU, Utah or Air Force. All three are fairly close and Nevada should be able to get home-and-home arrangements with them.

– I’m serving my first year as a voter for the Fred Biletnikoff Award, which is given annually to the top college receiver.

I thought voting in the Harris Poll was hard, but this award might be tougher. I found that I haven’t seen a lot of guys that were on the ballot, but the two I have seen a lot of are Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree and Missouri’s Jeremy Macklin.

Crabtree won the award last season and he is tremendous, as is Macklin, who destroyed the Wolf Pack in Missouri’s 69-17 win earlier this year.

This first vote was to get the list down to a top 10. There are two more votes after that.

– Boise State got a huge break when TCU knocked off previously unbeaten BYU on Thursday night. That no doubt will drop the Cougars down in the polls, especially since TCU wasn’t ranked.

I think if Boise State can take care of business, it stands a good chance of qualifying for a Bowl Championship Series game again. The Broncos’ toughest games down the stretch will be against Nevada at Mackay Stadium on Nov. 22 and against Fresno State on Nov. 28.

– Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com or (775) 881-1281