It was at the end of a story regarding UNLV baseball and its successful weekend, an extra bit of news beyond what was an impressive sweep of first-place New Mexico.
The Rebels have very much returned to the hunt for a Mountain West regular-season championship, having spanked the Lobos all around Wilson Stadium for three days. UNLV outscored New Mexico 39-10. It was a good ol’-fashioned thrashing from first to third and all the way home, drawing the Rebels to within one game back in the loss column of first place.
But amid the celebration and the fact all appears right again with no more games scheduled in that death trap known as Colorado Springs, Colo., came news that fourth-year UNLV coach Tim Chambers recently rejected a five-year contract extension from athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy.
It reportedly didn’t include an increase to his $110,000 salary.
He reportedly didn’t like that part.
“I respect Tina tremendously, and I understand the budget, but I felt I should be rewarded with a favorable contract,” Chambers told the Review-Journal in Monday’s edition. “I’m going to ride out the one-year deal.”
Just don’t talk about it again until the season’s final out has been recorded.
I’m not sure why anyone talked about it in the first place. Even if asked the question, any ensuing comments should have been about the team, on the team, only in regards to the team.
A team that lost 8-2 Tuesday at UC Riverside.
There is a time and place for contract discussions, and this isn’t it, not for a coach whose side has an opportunity to make the sort of history UNLV’s athletic department rarely enjoys from one of its leading sports.
Make that almost never enjoys.
Consider: In the past 20 years, UNLV football, men’s basketball and baseball have combined to produce two outright regular-season conference championships.
They came from baseball in 2003 and 2005.
Basketball last won an outright title in 1992, when “Roseanne” topped the TV ratings chart and Amy Fisher shot Joey Buttafuoco’s wife in the face. Since then, basketball has tied for a conference championship twice.
I’m guessing few are aware of such a drought, or at least all the illogical types who still believe the Rebels are an annual national contender.
Football has been even worse. It last won an outright conference title in 1984, back when a gallon of gas cost $1.20. It managed being part of a tri-championship in 1994.
Nothing, then, should define Chambers and his team more today than a laser focus on the final 10 regular-season games. Specifically, those six remaining Mountain West matchups of three at San Diego State (May 9 to 11) and three against visiting UNR (May 15 to 17).
The Rebels have a chance to be special, to perhaps win the conference and then a conference tournament they will host and then make the NCAAs. They have one thing — pitching depth — that allows any team at a regional the chance to stick around and advance.
The last thing anyone should be talking about is a contract extension.
“I apologized to Tina and (UNLV president) Don Snyder that it even came up,” Chambers said. “I didn’t mean for any of it to come out. Forget me. Forget anything about a contract. We are 100 percent into this team and these kids right now. For us to do what we did against New Mexico with our backs against the wall after getting swept at Air Force the previous week was incredible. We are going to make a regional. We are going to do those special things.”
If they do, then the type of contract extension he is seeking will take care of itself. The more UNLV wins, the better chance Chambers has of more zeros being attached to his salary. He is the right person to lead UNLV baseball now and in the future. He was the right one for years before taking the job. He always has been the best fit.
Bobby Hauck went 6-32 in his first three seasons as football coach, managed a 7-6 record and bowl berth last year and was awarded an extension and raise to $700,000 despite the realization his program would be hit with a postseason ban for not meeting Academic Progress Rate standards. Dave Rice was denied an extension after his basketball team’s failure to make the NCAA Tournament, but then parlayed himself into one after gaining the leverage of another school offering him a lucrative deal.
Translation: Things should work out for Chambers at UNLV in time. He has a year remaining on his deal, and yet anyone he is recruiting that pays attention in the least should understand his place as baseball coach is beyond solid.
“We all want Tim to stay and be our coach for a very long time,” said Kunzer-Murphy, who won’t and shouldn’t speak publicly on contract negotiations. “But the (talk of a contract extension) now made us all look bad. I told Tim to focus on the task at hand. This is not the time for distractions. We have a great opportunity to be really good. I like what he has done. He has a superb coaching staff that works very hard. I like how he conducts himself leading our baseball program. He loves his players. We want him to be successful.”
Chambers’ contract includes financial incentives for things such as making an NCAA regional and advancing. If he does, the part about being given a raise in his next deal shouldn’t be an issue.
For now, all focus should be on winning games.
You know, short of some bizarre call from South Florida offering a coach with absolutely no connection to its program the world.
Then, as we know, all hell breaks loose.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.