After numerous delays, UNLV Football’s new training facility, the Fertitta Football Complex, finally opened on October 3rd. The man who helped raised the funds for the building, Tony Sanchez, is no longer the coach. And, 71 days after Sanchez helped up the ribbon to open the facility, the Rebels introduced Marcus Arroyo, the new coach UNLV hopes can turn the program around.
Arroyo, who turns 40 in January, is a young, ambitious coach who is earing his first chance at being a head coach. Now, he will face the tough task of brining consistent winning to a program that has only had three winning seasons in the last 20 years.
“This is amazing,” Arroyo said at the introductory press conference. “I’m so fired up and have been preparing for this job my whole life. The fact that I get to do it here with UNLV during this unique time in this community, is amazing. My goal here is to build and develop a culture founded in accountability and toughness.”
There is no hiding UNLV’s lack of success on the football field. In 42 years as a Division 1 program, the Rebels have only made four bowl games. The program has been in a cycle of hiring and firing football coaches who have tried, and failed, of bringing winning football to UNLV, but none of the previous coaches have walked into a situation like what Arroyo is entering.
With the lack of on field success, especially in recent years, there is growing excitement to the upgrades in facilities. First, is the aforementioned Fertitta Football Complex. The Rebels have moved out of the old Lied Athletic Complex and have the new complex all to their own. It is decked out with pools, barber shop, a new dining center, and an updated weight room. UNLV is now up-to-par with other FBS schools in terms of facilities.
Then, there is there is the new stadium, Allegiant Stadium. The Rebels move on the strip to play in the new stadium they will share with the Raiders. It will be the best stadium in the entire Mountain West Conference and be an upgrade from Sam Boyd Stadium.
There are plenty of things to be excited about Arroyo. One is his offensive mindset. He is a former quarterback who has been a quarterbacks and running backs coach, along with being an offensive coordinator. His journey has seen him make stops in the WAC, PAC-12, Big 12, Mountain West, and even the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
He has worked with talented offensive players, like Justin Herbert, who is expected to be one of the top quarterbacks taken in this draft. He has helped Oregon have the top recruiting class in the PAC-12 the last two seasons.
His coaching experience and offensive knowledge can help the Rebels create an identity as a team that puts up a lot of points. And, with his time around great players, he can help develop UNLV’s talent, and talent he recruits, into even better players.
“Marcus knows the West and is one of the country’s best recruiters,” Athletic Director Desiree Reed-Francois said at the press conference. “He creates relationships with his student-athletes that last well beyond their playing days. He has the character to lead, the will to build and the passion to galvanize.”
As with any new head coach, there are some reservations. The obvious one for Arroyo is the fact that he has never been a head coach. The Rebels’ previous three coaching hires have all had no head coaching experience at the FBS level. Should it really be a concern, especially given the number of coordinators that become head coaches? Probably not, expect Arroyo to hire a staff to help him make a smooth transition as a head coach.
The other big concern is if he can recruit to UNLV. It is not a challenging to recruit to schools like Oregon and Oklahoma State, who have winning tradition. But, what about UNLV? Arroyo has a couple things working in his advantage.
One is, obviously, the new facilities that the players will work and play in. Another is Arroyo’s familiarity with the area. Given his track record with Oregon, Arroyo can get the top talent in the west coast and sell them on being the group that helps turn UNLV Football around.
Before Arroyo makes the full transition to UNLV, he will coach his final game with the Ducks in the Rose Bowl.
His contract information was also announced, he has a five-year deal for $1.5 million per year. It ties him for third highest in the conference (Steve Addazio-Colorado State), only Boise State and Wyoming pay their coaches more.
One thing Reed-Francois said, at the press conference announcing Sanchez’s firing, she wants a “ball coach.” She has put her stamp on the program by hiring her guy. Now, the hard work begins for Arroyo. It will be his job to put all the pieces together and lead UNLV on its journey to be a relevant, winning program.
“We will win,” Arroyo said passionately. “We’ll recruit at a really high level. The goal is to compete for championships…administration and build a winner – a winner that will last.”