Rebel Football Team's Biggest Wins Coming Off The Field This Season
The UNLV football team might be just 1-3 for the season, but it has scored big victories off the field.
The Fertitta family, which made its fortune in casinos and with the UFC, pledged $10 million earlier this month for a new training facility.
The planned Fertitta Football Complex is expected to open in early 2018 and be an on-campus hub for the team. Its 9,000-square-foot training room, offices, full kitchen and even a barber shop are expected to help woo recruits as well.
“It’s flashing," said Taylor Bern, who covers UNLV football for the Las Vegas Sun and ESPN Radio, "It’s something you show recruits. It is basically what is needed to even attempt to compete on that type of level.”
He said investing facilities rather than hiring a new coach is better in the long run because facilities don't go anywhere, but coaches often get lured away by bigger paychecks.
The Rebels also stand to benefit should the Legislature move ahead with plans to build a partially tax-funded domed stadium near the Strip.
If the $1.9 billion stadium lures the NFL’s Raiders to town, the Rebels would share it with the pro team. If the Raiders stay in Oakland or move to another location, draft legislation allows room tax dollars to go to a less-expensive collegiate stadium.
A new stadium for UNLV has been part of the pitch from supporters of the stadium plan. Many claim Sam Boyd stadium is too old and too far away from campus.
Bern admits there are some reasons to complain about Sam Boyd Stadium, but he believes there would be a lot less complaining if the Rebels were winning.
“I think what they mostly hate is losing football," he said, "If UNLV football was winning more, people would not care nearly as much about the stadium.”
He said winning is the best way to gain and keep fans.
Still, second-year coach Tony Sanchez and his team have found this season a tough slog, with poor quarterback and defensive secondary play contributing to the team’s slow start. This continues a long dry spell for the team, which has enjoyed only two winning seasons since 2000.
One bright spot is sophomore running back Lexington Thomas, the nation’s 12th leading rusher going into Saturday’s home game against Fresno State.
Taylor Bern, covers UNLV football for the Las Vegas Sun and on ESPN radio