Hauck Starting To Change UNLV's Luck|
By Drew Harris For the Heart of Dallas Bowl
What happened in Vegas this year didn't stay in Vegas. And that's a good thing for head coach Bobby Hauck and his 2013 UNLV football team.
When Hauck took over the UNLV football program four years ago, he knew the challenges facing him.
"We knew it was going to be a big job to turn it around," Hauck said. "There have been a lot of really, really fine coaches go through here and no one's had much success."
The program had been to just three bowl games in school history, and hadn't played one outside of Las Vegas since 1984. Furthermore, UNLV managed just three winning seasons in a quarter century, from 1987 to 2012, with the most recent coming in 2000.
And despite having players such as Randall Cunningham, Ickey Woods and Keenan McCardell go on to successful NFL careers, UNLV was unable to turn Sin City into Win City on the gridiron.
Instead, the university has been much more readily identified with its basketball program. The Runnin' Rebels gained national fame under Jerry Tarkanian, winning the NCAA title in 1990 in the first of two straight Final Four appearances. That program continues to rank as one of the nation's most storied in college hoops.
"The four letters are recognizable, but not for the football program," Hauck said. "We want to build it into a football school as well."
This year, Hauck and his crew have started to get noticed thanks to a 7-5 record that included two consecutive impressive wins to end the season. ESPN Events, which operates the Heart of Dallas Bowl presented by PlainsCapital Bank, was among those who saw the growth, and extended an invitation for the Rebels, over several other bowl eligible teams, to face another program on the rise: North Texas.
"We're excited. It's a big deal for us," Hauck said. "Our guys have had to overcome some things at UNLV in order to get to where they are. As you build a program, one of the major milestones is getting to a bowl game, and that's what we've done. It's been a fun season."
Hauck knows how to win. To take the UNLV job, he left a juggernaut Football Championship Subdivision program in Montana, where he had fashioned a Big Sky Conference all-time best 80-17 (.825) record from 2003-09. The Grizzlies also reached three FCS championship games (2004, 2008 and 2009) during his tenure.
Now he is changing the culture at UNLV. This year, the Rebels won three road games, which was as many as the squad had won over the previous eight years combined.
"He came in a tackled a tough task," quarterback Caleb Herring said. "He took some lumps early, but he stuck to his plan. How we are turning it around is just a reflection of his leadership."
"We're moving forward," Hauck said. "We're evolving as a program. We started from below ground, basically, and built a foundation. And now we are seeing the rewards for that."
And the first of what UNLV faithful hope will be many rewards to come will be this national television appearance on New Year's Day 2014 in the historic Cotton Bowl.
Drew Harris (email@example.com) is the founder of First Pitch Public Relations, a sports-focused media relations company in Fort Worth. He has 15 years of experience in the sports communications industry with UW-Green Bay, TCU, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Kansas City Royals. His current clients include: ESPN Events, UT Arlington Athletics, The Ben Hogan Award and the Fort Worth Stock Show Syndicate.