clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

BREAKING: Nevada officially names Ken Wilson as next head coach

Wilson will be Nevada’s 27th head coach in program history.

Oregon Athletics

After previously spending over two decades with the program (1989-2012) as a coach and athletic administrator, the Nevada Wolf Pack football team has officially hired Ken Wilson as their next head coach, the program officially announced Friday.

Wilson will hold his introductory press conference for members of the media and invited guests this afternoon at 3 p.m. PT at Basin Street Club in Mackay Stadium.

“I couldn’t be happier about becoming the 27th head coach in Nevada football history,” Wilson said via press release. “It’s a dream come true and a job that I have always hoped and worked toward becoming a reality like this is fantastic.

“Thank you to President (Brian) Sandoval and Athletics Director Doug Knuth for believing in me and giving me this opportunity. Also, thank you to Chris Ault for giving me my start here and being a great leader and mentor to me ... My family and I couldn’t be more excited about the future of Wolf Pack football.”

He is Nevada’s third consecutive head coach (Brian Polian, Norvell) without any previous head coaching experience, though he has 30 years of previous collegiate coaching experience dating back to when he was a graduate assistant at North Carolina Central college in 1986.

Wilson, 57, replaces Jay Norvell, who signed a five-year, $9 million deal with in-conference foe Colorado State on Monday. The final details of his contract have not been disclosed yet; Norvell made $625K (plus incentives) last season, so Wilson — who made $465K last season (yes, as an assistant) — could potentially make close to Norvell’s previous mark annually.

Wilson is a familiar name with the Wolf Pack football community, spending two stints — 19 combined seasons — as a defensive assistant with five additional years in an athletics administrative role at Nevada.

“We are thrilled to welcome Ken and his family back to Nevada,” Knuth said. “The Wilsons have very deep ties to this University, Wolf Pack Athletics, and to the Reno community, and have been part of some of the most successful teams in program history. We look forward to this new era of Wolf Pack Football under Ken’s proven leadership.”

Longtime Nevada head coach Chris Ault brought him onto his staff as an outside linebackers and defensive ends coach in 1989. He spent the following 10 seasons with the program, elevating to defensive coordinator in 1996 under Jeff Tisdel. He was the nation’s youngest coordinator at the time.

Wilson spent three years as the defensive coordinator before transitioning into an athletics administrative role as the assistant to the athletic director (who was Ault) and sports services for five years (1999-2003).

He returned to the gridiron in 2004 for another nine seasons in silver and blue, coaching linebackers, safeties and defensive ends, while also serving as Nevada’s defensive coordinator in 2007. Wilson held the associate head coaching title in his final five seasons (2008-12) with the Wolf Pack.

“Ken Wilson, and the Wilson family, have a deep connection to our University, and we proudly welcome them back to the Wolf Pack Family,” Sandoval said. “He embodies The Wolf Pack Way, and will continue to lead and mentor our student-athletes to success on the field of competition and in the classroom, as well as representing our University and our community to the highest standards.”

After he was not retained under Brian Polian’s staff, Wilson was hired onto Washington State’s staff as a linebackers coach in 2013, where he spent the six seasons. His linebacking core helped the Cougars place in the top-4 in the Pac-12 in tackles-for-loss in each of his last four seasons and top-3 in rushing defense in each of his last three years.

He joined Oregon in 2019 as its linebackers coach, earning two Pac-12 titles in his first two years. Wilson coached Noah Sewell, brother of former Nevada linebacker Gabe Sewell, who claimed the Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year in 2020.

His lone season as Oregon’s co-defensive coordinator came alongside former Nevada assistant and Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter. The Ducks were No. 58 in the FBS in total defense (370.8 ypg), No. 60 in scoring defense (25.5 ppg), No. 79 in tackles-for-loss (67.0) and T-84 in sacks (24) through 13 games.

Wilson has sent over a dozen defensive players to the NFL under his guidance, including current NFL linebackers Troy Dye (Minnesota Vikings) and Frankie Luvu (Carolina Panthers).

Wilson’s been apart of 18 bowl teams, including 15 in his last 16 seasons. With Nevada, he earned nine conference championships — including seven straight from 1990-97 (two Big Sky, five Big West) — with two more in the WAC in 2005 and 2010.

ScoopDuck.com reported Thursday that Mario Cristobal, who was hired as Miami’s head coach this week, offered five assistants — including Wilson — to join his staff. Wilson also rejected a head coaching job at Montana State before returning to Oregon prior to the 2021 season.

This is a breaking news story. Stay tuned for updates.


Here’s an overview of Wilson’s career and accomplishments, per the Athletics’ page:

COACHING EXPERIENCE:

  • 2021: Co-Defensive coordinator, Oregon
  • 2019-20: Linebackers, Oregon
  • 2013-18: Linebackers, Washington State
  • 2012: Associate Head Coach/Linebackers, Nevada
  • 2010-11: Associate Head Coach/Defensive Ends, Nevada
  • 2008-09: Associate Head Coach/Linebackers, Nevada
  • 2007: Defensive Coordinator/Safeties, Nevada
  • 2004-06: Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers, Nevada
  • 1996-98: Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers, Nevada
  • 1991-95: Inside Linebackers, Nevada
  • 1989-90: Outside linebackers/Defensive Ends, Nevada
  • 1987-88: Graduate Assistant, New Mexico
  • 1986: Graduate Assistant, North Central College

OTHER ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS (12):

  • 2020 Pac-12 Conference – Oregon (Linebackers)
  • 2019 Pac-12 Conference – Oregon (Linebackers)
  • 2019 Pac-12 North – Oregon (Linebackers)
  • 2010 Western Athletic Conference* — Nevada (Associate Head Coach/Defensive Ends)
  • 2005 Western Athletic Conference* Nevada (Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers)
  • 1997 Big West Conference* — Nevada (Defensive Coordinator)
  • 1996 Big West Conference* — Nevada (Defensive Coordinator)
  • 1995 Big West Conference – Nevada (Assistant Coach)
  • 1994 Big West Conference – Nevada (Assistant Coach)
  • 1992 Big West Conference – Nevada (Assistant Coach)
  • 1991 Big Sky Conference – Nevada (Assistant Coach)
  • 1990 Big Sky Conference – Nevada (Assistant Coach)

* Co-champions

BOWL GAME APPEARANCES (18):

  • 2021 Fiesta Bowl – Oregon (Linebackers)
  • 2020 Rose Bowl – Oregon (Linebackers)
  • 2018 Alamo Bowl – Washington State (Linebackers)
  • 2017 Holiday Bowl – Washington State (Linebackers)
  • 2016 Holiday Bowl – Washington State (Linebackers)
  • 2015 Sun Bowl – Washington State (Linebackers)
  • 2013 New Mexico Bowl – Washington State (Linebackers)
  • 2012 New Mexico Bowl – Nevada (Associate Head Coach/Linebackers)
  • 2011 Hawaii Bowl – Nevada (Associate Head Coach/Defensive Ends)
  • 2010 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl – Nevada (Associate Head Coach/Defensive Ends)
  • 2009 Hawaii Bowl – Nevada (Associate Head Coach/Linebackers)
  • 2008 Humanitarian Bowl – Nevada (Associate Head Coach/Linebackers)
  • 2007 New Mexico Bowl – Nevada (Defensive Coordinator/Safeties)
  • 2006 MPC Computers Bowl – Nevada (Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers)
  • 2005 Hawaii Bowl – Nevada (Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers)
  • 1996 Las Vegas Bowl – Nevada (Defensive Coordinator)
  • 1995 Las Vegas Bowl – Nevada (Inside Linebackers)
  • 1992 Las Vegas Bowl – Nevada (Inside Linebackers)

1-AA PLAYOFF BERTHS:

  • 1991 Quarterfinals – Nevada (Inside Linebackers)
  • 1990 Championship {runner-up} – Nevada (Outside Linebackers/Defensive Ends)

NFL DRAFT PICKS COACHED & RECRUITED (7):

  • 2020 (RD 4) LB Troy Dye (Oregon)
  • 2012 (RD 4) LB James-Michael Johnson (Nevada)
  • 2012 (RD 5) LB Brandon Marshall (Nevada)
  • 2011 (RD 3) OLB Dontay Moch (Nevada)
  • 1998 (RD 4) LB Deshone Myles (Nevada)
  • 1998 (RD 6) DT James Cannida (Nevada)
  • 1997 (RD 6) LB Mike Crawford (Nevada)

UNDRAFTED NFL PLAYERS COACHED & RECRUITED (10):

  • S Jon Amaya – Nevada
  • LB Steve Bryant – Nevada
  • DE Kaelin Burnett – Nevada
  • DL Joe Caspers – Nevada
  • LB Ryan Coulson – Nevada
  • OLB Jeremiah Green – Nevada
  • OLB Kenneth Jackson – Nevada
  • LB Jerome Johnson – Nevada
  • LB Frankie Luvu – Washington State
  • LB Josua Mauga – Nevada

ALL-AMERICANS COACHED:

  • 2010: Moch – Nevada (Sports Illustrated)

FRESHMAN ALL-AMERICANS COACHED:

  • 2020: Sewell – Oregon (247Sports, ESPN, FWAA, Rivals, The Athletic)

CONFERENCE PLAYERS OF THE YEAR COACHED:

  • 2009: Moch – WAC Defensive Player of the Year
  • 1996: Myles – Big West Defensive Player of the Year

CONFERENCE PLAYERS OF THE YEAR COACHED:

  • 2020: Sewell – Oregon – Pac-12 (Freshman Defensive Player of the Year)

ALL-CONFERENCE SELECTIONS COACHED (35):

  • 2020: Sewell – Oregon – Pac-12 (Coaches – HM)
  • 2020: LB Isaac Slade-Matautia – Pac-12 (Coaches – HM)
  • 2019: Dye – Oregon – Pac-12 (AP – 1st, Coaches – 2nd)
  • 2018: LB Peyton Pelluer – Washington State – Pac-12 (Coaches – HM)
  • 2018 LB Jahad Woods – Washington State – Pac-12 (Coaches – HM)
  • 2017: Luvu – Washington State – Pac-12 (Coaches – HM)
  • 2016: Pelluer – Washington State – Pac-12 (Coaches – HM)
  • 2015: Pelluer – Washington State – Pac-12 (Coaches – HM)
  • 2014: LB Jeremiah Allison – Washington State – Pac-12 (Coaches – HM)
  • 2012: LB Albert Rosette – Nevada – Mountain West (Coaches/Media – 1st)
  • 2010: Moch – Nevada – WAC (Coaches – 1st)
  • 2009: Johnson – WAC (Coaches – 2nd)
  • 2007: LB Ezra Butler – Nevada – WAC (Coaches – 2nd)
  • 2006: Butler – Nevada – WAC (Coaches – 1st)
  • 2005: LB Roosevelt Cooks – Nevada – WAC (Coaches – 2nd)
  • 2004: LB Jeremy Engstrom – Nevada – WAC (Coaches – 2nd)
  • 1998: OLB Jason Burk – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 1st)
  • 1998: CB Don Morgan – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 1st)
  • 1998: S Maxzell Williams – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 1st)
  • 1998: DL Rick Cross – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 2nd)
  • 1998: ILB Ken Sapolu – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 2nd)
  • 1998: S Reggie Mitchell – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 2nd)
  • 1997: DL James Cannida – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 1st)
  • 1997: Morgan – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 1st)
  • 1997: Sapolu – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – HM)
  • 1996: Cannida – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 1st)
  • 1996: ILB Mike Crawford – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 1st)
  • 1996: OLB Deshone Myles – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 1st)
  • 1996: CB Darnell Hasson – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 1st)
  • 1996: S Molech Blythe – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 1st)
  • 1996: Morgan – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 2nd)
  • 1996: S Garnett Overby – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 2nd)
  • 1995; Crawford – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 2nd)
  • 1993: ILB Steve Bryant – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 2nd)
  • 1991: ILB Matt Clafton – Nevada – Big Sky (Coaches – 1st)