Can UNLV ever change their football culture? This has been a perpetual question on Rebel fans minds for the last. . . well, decade it seems. What is UNLV's football culture? Losing.
Under Bobby Hauck, UNLV made a bit of a resurgence from some of the dreary days under Mike Sanford. Perhaps the most successful Rebel football has ever been in recent memory was the early 2000s under former USC coach John Robinson's leadership. However, lots of time has passed since then and UNLV's prospects have been minimal (and I mean that both figuratively and literally).
Until recently, however.
Hope has spread across the desert valley of Sin City in the form of a familiar face: Tony Sanchez, former, successful head coach at the high school athletic power house in Las Vegas, Bishop Gorman. The buzz (as well as some skepticism) that came from his hire has lifted UNLV's football program into a tinge of national attention that it hasn't experienced, maybe ever.
Can Sanchez's grind and discipline attitude translate to victories for a football program that has experienced much more disappointment than success? Certainly, UNLV Athletics hopes that Sanchez's recruiting clout can bolster a program that often sits at the very bottom of the barrel in the Mountain West.
This year's schedule won't exactly assist Sanchez in his quest to overcome the brutal years of loss. Along with tough conference games that include at Reno, at Fresno State, and home games against SDSU, and Boise State; the Rebels have to serve as a sacrificial lamb to two football titans: Michigan and UCLA. There's no doubt that if Sanchez's Rebs acquire yet another season in the dump that he will have another chance or two or three in upcoming years to rectify the situation. But, like a gambler anxiously sitting in front of a slot machine waiting for the big pay off, Rebel fans wait for a miracle. Why?
Despite the successes of their basketball team over the course of history, UNLV's football culture has been one of a mockery in their conference; one that has been a previously marked "W" for their MWC opponents; one that has been a half filled stadium with many fans cheering for the other team.
Yet, Rebel fans in Vegas love their sports. Without a professional team (yet) in Sin City, and despite a record of defeat, these fans remain loyal. So, perhaps there is a new term to describe the football culture in Las Vegas this upcoming season: Hope. But, Rebel fans, proceed with caution, because that's a four letter word.