Opened as a satellite campus in 1957 with a total of 28 students, the southern regional division of the University of Nevada became Nevada Southern University in 1965 and finally evolved into UNLV four years later when the Board of Regents granted it autonomy under the state's higher education system.
Men's basketball was the first sport organized at UNLV, opening play in 1958 under head coach and athletic director Michael "Chub" Drakulich. Baseball, also coached by Drakulich, started in 1960 and football came to campus nearly a decade later when head coach Bill Ireland's squad went 8-1 in 1968. Women's club sports such as tennis emerged in 1960 under administrator Alice Mason but basketball became the first women's varsity sport in 1974.
Moving to Division One in football in time for the 1978 season, UNLV would become a member of the Big West Conference (originally called the PCAA) in 1982. The Rebels moved to the 16-team Western Athletic Conference from 1996-98 before becoming original members of the new Mountain West Conference beginning in 1999. The department currently sponsors seven men's and 10 women's athletic varsity programs.
Pictured on the right: The first Rebel football team (1968) was the only squad that played as Nevada Southern University.