Nevada lost a coaching legend on Friday night as Chris Ault decided to retire.
Chris Ault is Nevada Wolf Pack football, and there is no denying that. Ault began his coaching career with Nevada all the way back in 1976 when the Wolf Pack was a Division II school. Nevada moved up to the FCS in 1977 and saw immediate succes in the FCS level.
During Nevada's time at the FCS level, Ault took them to seven playoff appearances, which included five trips to the semifinals, one quarterfinal appearance and in 1990 Nevada was the national runner-up.
He guided the team to the FBS level in 1992 and led the team to the Las Vegas Bowl as part of the Big West in their first year, and then again in 1995. Ault retired after that 1995 season, only to become the school's head coach once again from 2005 up until he retired after the 2012 season.
A few things that Ault accomplished during his career, was first being inducted as a member of the college football Hall of Fame in 2002. While I am not sure of this, I believe Ault was the only active head coach who also was a member of the college football Hall of Fame, and a select few to ever hold that distinction. His record during his 28 seasons in Reno was an impressive 233-109-1, nine conference titles, three of them shared, 10 bowl appearances and as mentioned already seven playoff appearances.
However, his most notable accomplishment is the creation of the Pistol offense. Ault created the offense when he took over the struggling Wolf Pack program in 2005, and it took off with amazing success. Nevada's offense has been one of the nation's best over the last eight seasons, ranking in the top 10 nationally in total yards in each of the last six years.
To read more about the Pistol offense, just this past week Chris Brown of Smartfootball.com wrote up a long form piece here at SB Nation discussing the offense at length, so a very timely piece on the offense.
A lot of these so-called 'gimmick' offenses are used by smaller schools to off set a superior opposing team. However, the Pistol has been picked up by most of college football, and even the NFL. A lot of BCS and non-BCS programs have an element of the Pistol, thus proving that the offense is the real deal.
The Pistol offense even helped Colin Kaepernick to be drafted in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft, and Kaepernick is now the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers in just his second year.
Other innovations that Ault help become a norm in college football, as well as the NFL, is the jailbreak screen. The jailbreak screen is a screen thrown in the middle of the field, he developed that all the way back in 1981. Every team in every single level of football uses that play.
Ault also was one of the first to want to see overtime in college football developed. As a member of the Big Sky back in 1980, Ault suggested overtime and have each team get a chance with the ball at the 15-yard line, of course, today's overtime gives the team the ball at the 25.
Ault has built up Nevada to be a fringe top-25 team over the past few years, and even more over the past few years which included a 13-1 season in 2010 where the Wolf Pack was ranked No. 11 and No. 13 in the final polls. Had Nevada not lost to Hawai'i in 2010 the Wolf Pack would have earned a BCS bowl bid.
The only minor blip in Ault's career is that his teams were just 2-8 in bowl games, and that the 2010 season is the only one that netted a ranking in the top 25 to end the season.
Being at Nevada for most of his career did not provide the spotlight that Ault probably deserved, but other coaches know him as one of the most innovative minds that college football has ever seen.
Ault insists that he has done all he can t Nevada, but also mentioned that he feels the program is at a point where his replacement can have the same success, if not more.