On December 8th, 2014 UNLV made the decision to hire Bishop Gorman High School head coach Tony Sanchez as their 11th head football coach in team history and the person in charge of leading the Rebels football program in the right direction. Sanchez was coming of a National High School title, 6 straight NIAA 4A Championships and built Gorman into a national high school football power. While the school could have gone in a more traditional direction by hiring an established college coach, hiring Sanchez was the right move for the present and the future of UNLV football.
The UNLV football program has 4 Bowl appearances, with 3 resulting in wins, in school history (I included the 1984 Bowl win against Cal even though the NCAA forced UNLV to forfeit the win due to violations). Only 1 coach in school history, Harvey Hyde, has a winning record in conference and is one of three head coaches with a winning record as a head coach at UNLV. The program has no where to go but up, and Sanchez is just the person to lead them that way.
The thing that I love about Coach Sanchez is his out of the box thinking. He uses social media to help recruit and help make the Rebles program more visible. Unlike UNLV coaches in the past, Caoch Sanchez has used the Strip as a recruiting tool and embraced it. He is promoting a family first/friendly enviroment for his players. His confidence in himself reminds me of Pete Carroll when he first took over USC. Carroll wasn't the first or the popular choice, but his unbridled enthusiasm and infectious personality made recruits, parents, fans and all around him feel welcomed. Lastly, Sanchez is attempting to keep the talent from leaving Las Vegas. Part of his plan is to keep the best athletes from going out of state to play football. He has made keeping Vegas' best football players in state a top priority.
Coach Sanchez's offense is a fast paced, high powered offense, providing he has all the right pieces for it. When all the pieces to the puzzle fit, the Rebels offense could be a football version of the Runnin' Rebels under the late, great Jerry Tarkanian. The spread offense, when ran to it's fullest capabilities, is a fast, high octane offense that actually is predicated off the run and takes what the defense gives them in the passing game. It is not a difficult offense to learn and extremely fun to play in for players.
In order for Sanchez to have the type of success every UNLV football player, booster, alumni and fan wants, he will need the school to step up and help him. Sam Boyd Stadium is out of date and no bigger that a high school football field. UNLV needs to build a new, state of the art stadium that can also double for concerts, fights, Bowl games and High School football championship games to name a few. It also has to be closer to the campus and preferably to the Strip. It needs to be easily accessible to both the students as well as locals and visitors.
UNLV has to also build a new football facility that can hlep attract the type of recruits needed to be a successful program. The 2016 UNLV recrutiing class is a great class to build on for Sanchez. He landed a prozed Quarterback in Los Angeles native Armani Rogers and some much needed line debth as well. But he still needs to add playmakers on the outside as well as a running back that can be a threat to score everytime he touches the ball. Make no mistake about it, the class Coach Sanchez and his staff brought in is a talented class and one that the foundation of the UNLV program should be built on going forward.
The Rebels finished 3-9 under Sanchez in his first year the head coach, but there is a lot to be excited about. The Rebels lost 4 games by a touchdown or less and very easily could have finished 7-5 and played in a Bowl game. The team grew week by week and improved measurably. Given time and a commitment the UNLV, Coach Sanchez can be the type of difference making coach most colleges crave. Now he needs to continue to bring in his players and keep the top local players from leaving. That could be challenging, but given his track record, Coach Sanchez will find a way to to win.