Rebels To Honor Memory Of Coach I In '07
Aug. 22, 2007
LAS VEGAS - UNLV will wear special helmet decals during the 2007 season to honor the memory of the "Father of Rebel Football," the late Bill Ireland, athletics director Mike Hamrick and head coach Mike Sanford announced Wednesday.
Because Ireland, who died July 31 at the age of 80, was warmly known as "Coach I," the back of this year's team helmet will include a round black sticker imprinted with a block "I" with the word "Coach" inside.
"In this day and age, there are not many people who can say they helped build a college football program from scratch but Bill Ireland did," Hamrick said. "He also went on to become an influential athletic director here and was a giant in the Las Vegas sports community for many years. It is only fitting that we honor him this season as part of a game that he clearly loved."
A native of tiny McGill, Nev., Ireland left his alma mater, the University of Nevada, Reno, to head south and become the first head coach of the Rebels on May 12, 1967. His squad began play in 1968 and quickly found success, posting an impressive 8-1 record in their inaugural season.
Also credited with the idea for creating the Fremont Cannon as the symbolic trophy for the winner of the each season's game between UNLV and UNR, Ireland's prize was first awarded in 1970 to his victorious Rebels. Ireland would post a winning record in four of his five seasons on the sidelines, finishing with a career record of 26-23-1. He retired from coaching and served as athletics director from 1973-80 before entering private business. "Coach I" continued as a key member of the local sports scene, serving as executive director of the UNLV Athletics Hall of Fame and an executive consultant for the Las Vegas Bowl.
Ireland was honored as part of the inaugural class in UNLV's athletics hall of fame in 1987 and entered the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.
Sanford, heading into his third season leading the Rebels, said Ireland's influence on UNLV's football program continues to be felt today.
"Coach Ireland was a proud Nevadan who broke a lot of ground when he came to this university and made Rebel football a reality," Sanford said. "He did so much for this program and essentially created the rivalry between the two football-playing universities in our state. Our players are proud to have the honor of wearing `Coach I' as part of the Scarlet & Gray uniform in 2007."