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UNLV Debate A Big Deal For Campus -- And For Debate Commissioner

The view of the Strip from UNLV. The university is often overshadowed by the glitzy of the world-famous road.
"StripFromUNLV". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikipedia -

The view of the Strip from UNLV. The university is often overshadowed by the glitzy of the world-famous road.

Eight months from now, candidates for president of the United States will face each other in the last presidential debate  before the November election.

And it will take place on the UNLV campus.

UNLV President Len Jessup said the nationally televised debate will go miles to showcase the university to a world that now sees UNLV only in the shadow of the Strip.

“For us, this is a great opportunity to showcase the university to the world," Jessup said, "Our top-tier mission and our wonderfully diverse campus that we have to let the world see that is a tremendous opportunity for us.” 

Jessup said the debate in 2012 in Denver brought an estimated $56 million in publicity for the University of Denver. 

Schools from around the country must enter a bid to be part of the debate. The universities are then checked to make sure they meet requirements for a major broadcast event, the secret services and other needs. They are narrowed down from there and finally three schools are chosen. 

The university partnered with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority in its bid to bring the debate here. 

Getting the debate to UNLV was not an easy task, but it is being relished by Nevada native and chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates Frank Fahrenkopf. The commission is a non-profit set up in 1987 to set the format for debates.

Fahrenkopf, a University of Nevada-Reno graduate and former head of the American Gaming Association and chairman of the Republican National Committee, said he was proud to have one of Nevada's universities hosting the debate.

“So long as I’m still doing this I want my home state to host the debate and so I’m so very, very happy that we’re going to be here in October,” he said.

Fahrenkopf told KNPR's State of Nevada that the debates will be different from the raucous free-for-alls that have been televised over the last several months.

“What they’re seeing now with these Democratic and Republican primary debates are nothing like the presidential debates in the general election," he said, "No audience cheering. No clapping allowed. There are no ads. The networks don’t run it. It’s a White House pool that we control that goes out and the networks run. So it’s totally different.”

Fahrenkopf said the format for the debates will probably be the candidates sitting around a table with one moderator. They will also have a town hall-style debate but they're working on incorporating social media. 

According to Fahrenkopf, one of the most difficult parts of putting together the presidential debates is finding the moderator. The person must cover politics and the elections, but the debate commission also wants a diverse group of moderators because the moderators actually develop their own questions. 

Len Jessup, UNLV President;  Frank Fahrenkopf, chairman/co-creator of the Commission on Presidential Debates

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.