The writing has been on the wall and the words followed earlier this week. On Monday, two days after Bobby Hauck’s career record at UNLV dropped to 15-48, the fifth-year Rebels coach tendered his resignation and Athletic Director Tina Kunzer-Murphy accepted, she said.
The paperwork was finalized today and Hauck decided to announce it ahead of UNLV's final game of the season.
“None of us have been happy with the way the season went,” Kunzer-Murphy said from her office at the Thomas & Mack Center this evening.
Hauck will coach UNLV (2-10, 1-6 Mountain West) one last time, when it hosts UNR (6-5, 3-4) at 7:32 p.m. Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium on ESPNU. Two days later, the resignation becomes official.
Keeping the cannon red has been the sole meaningful goal left for the Rebels for the past month. After a breakthrough 2013 campaign that included numerous offensive records and the program’s first bowl game since 2000, a roster that Hauck touted as his best at UNLV dropped right back off to its two-win level of the previous three seasons.
The problems were there from the opening weeks, when UNLV lost to Arizona 58-13 and then followed it up with a one-point home victory against Northern Colorado (3-8). The Rebels’ other victory this season came on Oct. 10 at home, an overtime 30-27 victory against Fresno State, which can win the Mountain West’s West Division with a victory on Saturday.
“We were given an opportunity to get it done here at UNLV and we simply did not win enough games,” Hauck said in a statement. “It’s my responsibility to push the program forward and I wish we would have produced better results.”
Hauck, who has two years remaining on the new contract he signed in January, will receive a one-time payment of $400,000 from the university. If UNLV fired him Hauck would be owed $700,000.
“I absolutely think it was the right thing to do,” Kunzer-Murphy said of her decision to give Hauck a raise and a three-year deal about 12 months ago. “We made a commitment to UNLV football by rewarding our coach for something that nobody had done here in so many years.”
That deal also included a bump for Hauck’s staff. Kunzer-Murphy said she would meet with all members of the staff, who are on 60-day contracts, on Sunday morning.
The coaching search has already been ongoing behind the scenes and will come into a clearer focus in the coming days and weeks. Kunzer-Murphy said UNLV would not use a search committee and that she has had some names in mind, though she wouldn’t disclose them. Some of the rumored candidates include Utah defensive coordinator Kalina Fifita Sitake, USC assistant Tee Martin and Bishop Gorman High coach Tony Sanchez, who could potentially bring financial help to the university.
That last part is key in this search because Kunzer-Murphy made it clear the university knows this isn’t strictly a Hauck issue.
“It’s not the coach. It’s us,” she said. “We have to change the culture.”
With any new stadium conversation tabled for now, Kunzer-Murphy said one of the priorities has to be an on-campus facility, similar to the Mendenhall Center for basketball, that shows recruits who step in the door that the university is committed to football. From facilities and academic support to fringe benefits like the food and travel offered, UNLV is on the fly trying to convince itself and its next coach that the program can at least be on the same level as its Mountain West competitors.
All of the culture changes Kunzer-Murphy discussed will take time and, more importantly, money, so the next coach is going to have to believe in a new vision or at least believe in whatever behind-the-scenes work is already being done to make some of those dreams reality.
“We can’t just keep putting people in that chair without fixing the culture of UNLV football,” she said.
Of the many roads these conversations with UNLV supporters and the Las Vegas community could take, the one Kunzer-Murphy isn’t willing to go down is shuttering the football program or dropping divisions. Many might look at the situation, at the years of mediocrity or worse and the widening financial gap between the autonomous five leagues plus Notre Dame and the rest of Division I football, and deem it a bad investment. That’s not something Kunzer-Murphy is willing to do, though she does recognize the pivotal point the Rebels are at right now.
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“The next step is a big one because of all the changes going on nationally,” she said.
As for Hauck, his $400,000 payout and agreement mean he’s free to coach elsewhere as soon as the resignation becomes official Monday. Hauck came to UNLV after seven successful seasons leading Montana in Division I-AA, and with Grizzlies coach Mick Delaney set to retire at the end of the season it certainly seems possible that Hauck, a Montana native, could return to the Grizzlies.
Before any of that, though, there’s the cannon, and if the players take on their coach’s mentality then a letdown won’t be a concern. On Monday afternoon, when Hauck already knew how the week was going to go, he was breaking a smile at the mention of keeping “our” cannon.
It didn’t work for Hauck at UNLV, just as it hasn’t worked for several other coaches in the program’s rocky history. But in many ways he took on the Rebels’ strengths and weaknesses as his own and with a roster made up of entirely his own players, Hauck has one last shot at winning with the Rebels.
“I really love our guys,” Hauck said. “… I wouldn’t trade them for anybody else.”