Sanford Takes Over At UNLV
Dec. 6, 2004
LAS VEGAS - Mike Sanford, one of college football's leading offensive minds, has been hired as the ninth head coach in Rebel football history, UNLV Director of Athletics Mike Hamrick announced Monday.
Sanford, 49, enters his first head coaching position after an outstanding career as one of the top assistants in the nation. He has spent the last two seasons as offensive coordinator at Utah, which went 21-2 overall and 13-1 in the Mountain West Conference during his time in Salt Lake City. The 2004 Utes, currently ranked fifth by the Associated Press, yesterday earned a spot in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl as part of the Bowl Championship Series.
"Mike Sanford brings precisely the kind of experience needed to take UNLV's football program to the next level," President Carol C. Harter said. "His distinguished record with some of the nation's top programs, as well as a demonstrated commitment to academic as well as athletic success, makes him an ideal choice. Mike brings the promise of a truly exciting future for Rebel football."
A California native, Sanford is regarded as one the top recruiters of the key state.
"Mike Sanford met all criteria that we set for a new coach from day one," Hamrick said. "We believe our fans are in for some exciting, wide-open football. I know that he can't wait to get started on continuing to build this program into a consistent winner."
At UNLV, Sanford replaces his college coach, John Robinson, who retired last month after a legendary career that included six seasons with the Rebels.
"I have been preparing for this moment for 27 years as a coach and I am extremely honored and excited to be leading UNLV football," Sanford said. "This process has been positive and professional throughout. I have great respect for Dr. Harter as an educator and supporter of athletics in general, and football in particular. I have also really gotten to know Mike Hamrick during this time and it is clear that he is intent on taking this program to a higher level.
"The UNLV job was one I looked upon with great respect over the years," Sanford said. "Because of the way this university and city are emerging, this football program is a gold mine. This is a great community and campus that offer so many opportunities and advantages. John Robinson laid the foundation here and I am ready to build on that. This football program is ready to explode."
In his two years as Utah's offensive coordinator, Sanford helped instigate one of the biggest offensive turnarounds in the nation while directing an innovative spread offense. Utah, which finished last in the MWC in scoring offense in 2002, currently ranks third in the nation this fall at 46.3 points per game and boasts Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Alex Smith.
A 27-year college and NFL coaching veteran, Sanford came to Utah from Stanford, where he was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2002. Most of his coaching career has been spent at the collegiate level, although he spent three years as the receivers coach for the NFL's San Diego Chargers from 1999-2001.
His NCAA Division I coaching experience includes stints at Notre Dame, USC, Purdue, Long Beach State, Virginia Military Institute and Army.
Sanford's first coaching position was as a graduate assistant under the man he replaces, John Robinson, at Southern California in 1977. His full-time coaching chronology began in 1978 as the defensive coordinator at San Diego City College.
As an assistant coach, Sanford has participated in nine bowl games with three programs. As the wide receivers coach at USC from 1989-96, Sanford assisted in two Pac-10 championships and two Rose Bowl victories (vs. Michigan in 1990 and Northwestern in 1996). Three of his Trojan receivers were selected in the first round of the NFL Draft: Curtis Conway in 1992, Johnnie Morton in 1993 and Keyshawn Johnson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 draft and a consensus All-American in 1995.
As a player, Sanford was a reserve quarterback for USC's 1973 and 1974 Rose Bowl teams (the 1974 team beat Ohio State for the national championship). He played free safety in 1976 when USC beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl and finished second in the nation.
Sanford, born on April 20, 1955, earned his bachelor's degree from USC in 1978. He and his wife Melinda have two children: daughter, Lindsay (25), and son Mike (22), who is a senior quarterback for 10th-ranked Boise State.
THE MIKE SANFORD FILE
COMMENTS ON NEW UNLV HEAD COACH MIKE SANFORD
Utah Head Coach Urban Meyer: "Mike Sanford has an excellent offensive mind. He has been a big part of our success this year. He is not only a great coach, but a great person. Mike will do an outstanding job at UNLV."
Retiring UNLV Head Coach John Robinson: "I have the highest regard for Mike Sanford as an individual. I have known him for nearly three decades. He and his wife are two of the best people Linda and I know. His qualifications are impeccable and he coaches the best offense in America right now at Utah. Mike has coached at many great universities and also in the NFL so his experiences are fabulous. He is enthusiastic with an outgoing personality. Everyone is going to love him. I am happy for our players and I am ecstatic for Mike and Melinda Sanford."
Oregon State and former San Diego Chargers Head Coach Mike Riley: "Mike is a very meticulous, detailed head coach. I have had the pleasure of working with him in a couple of football offices and he is one of the great guys in the world. To go with that, he is a very fine football coach and I am excited for him. This is a great opportunity for both Mike and UNLV."
Oakland Raiders Head Coach Norv Turner: "I think it's really exciting for Mike and for UNLV. I've worked with Mike a couple of different times and he's just an outstanding football coach. The great thing that he has is he's got that background now. He' been in a lot of different situations, a lot of different systems, and certainly his experience the last couple of years in Utah -- I think it makes him a perfect fit."
San Francisco 49ers Wide Receiver and Former USC Star Curtis Conway: "Mike Sanford coached me both in college at USC and in the pros (at San Diego) as well. He was a great coach and he is going to do well as a head coach. He is a good, hard-working man who does things the right way. Give him some time to get his thing going and it's going to happen there."