Nevada football hire has work to do with Pack
The biggest college sport in the area found its replacement coach on Wednesday.
Nevada welcomes Jay Norvell to the Wolf Pack staff after Brian Polian was let go last month following a blowout win over UNLV. Norvell has plenty of experience and has proven himself at both the college and NFL ranks, unlike Nevada’s last head coach.
His pedigree is impressive, including playing in the Big Ten, and coaching at Arizona State in his last stop. Previous gigs include being an assistant with the Raiders and Colts, as well as Nebraska, UCLA, Oklahoma, Texas, Wisconsin, Iowa State and Northern Iowa. Also, unlike the previous Nevada coach, Norvell was an offensive coordinator for the Cornhuskers, Bruins and Sooners. His transformation at Nebraska moved the Midwest school into the nation’s top 20 offenses.
Norvell has ties with California and Texas for recruiting and believe it or not, there’s a Chris Ault influence in this hiring. Ault helped teach the Sooners the pistol offense and aided in the interview process with Nevada AD Doug Knuth.
Time will tell if Knuth has hit another home run in the coaching hire like he did with men’s basketball and baseball most recently. Football’s the biggest sport on campus as it draws the most fans and money. Attendance is critical in football, especially after the upgrades at Mackay Stadium, and when the crowd numbers drop to less than half capacity, they’re in trouble.
One name that was quickly dismissed during the process of finding the next Nevada coach was Chris Klenakis, who coached the Greenwave and Wolf Pack. He also recruited Harvey Dahl and Josh Mauga to the silver and blue. Nevada had its chance with Klenakis after Ault retired. Instead, outgoing AD Cary Groth passed on the logical choice and instead, went after a name with nothing proven. Several high school coaches proved their worth better than Polian.
With Klenakis, though, he has it better in Louisville. The Cardinals ranked in the top 10 throughout the season and their quarterback is the front-runner for the Heisman. Lamar Jackson, if he wins, would become the first quarterback running the pistol offense to win the prestigious award. And if money mattered, Klenakis makes more as an offensive coordinator than Norvell will as a head coach.
For now, though, Knuth puts his faith in Norvell to help make the football team relevant like the basketball team, which won the CBI last year and could crack into the Top 25 rankings for the first time since Mark Fox was at the helm. The expectations will be high for the football team. Nevada will need to win at least 7 to 8 games, beat UNLV and go to a bowl game not located in New Mexico. Getting fans in the seats for all six home games is a priority.
Walk around in any city in Northern Nevada and you will find several people wearing Wolf Pack gear. They support the Wolf Pack and want to believe the future is bright. It’s up to Knuth and Norvell to show the fans that Nevada can finally rise above mediocrity and to compete and dominate the Mountain West Conference.
Thomas Ranson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.