Now that it’s official and Bobby Hauck will return for a fifth season and beyond as football coach at UNLV, it seems a good time to evaluate significant parts of his tenure.
Hauck agreed to a new three-year contract Wednesday through the 2016 season, for which he undoubtedly will offer a special dose of thanks today.
The Rebels host San Diego State in a regular-season finale Saturday night, leaving just UNLV’s first bowl game since 2000 as the final time we will see Hauck’s team this year.
Here, then, is how he has fared in some of the more important factors when building a program …
■ Phase: Recruiting
It’s all relative. UNLV isn’t going be mentioned alongside Alabama and Florida State and Ohio State when the country’s best classes are ranked come February. The Rebels probably never will sign a haul of players with the number of stars attached to their resumes as top-10 programs do. But when you consider where Hauck began — the Rebels had few legitimate Division I-A players on the roster upon his arrival — and the upgrade in talent he has compiled, his efforts and those of his staff are more than admirable.
He also has built primarily with high school recruits, not biting at the temptation of quick fixes with junior college players and the problems that can accompany such strategy. UNLV has better players today than four years ago. Bigger. Stronger. Faster. The Rebels look like a college team now.
■ Phase: Coaching staff
Hauck has demoted coordinators, fired coordinators and now seems to have the right coordinators. His hiring of Timm Rosenbach (offense) and Tim Hauck (defense) has paid off in a far more positive manner than not this season, and there are terrific assistants in the likes of Cedric Cormier (wide receivers) and Dominic Daste (running backs).
■ Phase: Game-day coaching
Hit and miss and more often miss. UNLV this season has played better in the second half than first most games, a sign someone is saying something right at halftime. Still, it’s also true the Rebels have their own special math in deciding whether to go for two after a touchdown and haven’t defeated a team with a winning record this season.
The six wins are against opponents that are a combined 18-49 and the five losses against teams that are 37-17.
The Rebels don’t fare well against good people.
Do you know that crazy uncle every family has, the one who shows up to Thanksgiving dinner uninvited, has a few pops and starts knocking over furniture and small children?
That is Hauck as special teams coordinator.
He’s crazy Uncle Bobby.
I long have thought he needs to replace himself in this area, but the more bizarre Hauck gets on special teams, the more I want to be there when he calls for an intentional backward punt to challenge his defense with poor field position or having his kicker throw the ball through the uprights instead of booting it.
He constantly says his gambles on special teams are “good plays.”
Doesn’t mean they’re smart ones.
And we still haven’t mentioned that final offensive play-calling sequence against Utah State …
■ Phase: Media relations
Don’t laugh. This matters when you’re begging people to make the drive to Sam Boyd Stadium each week. Hauck is above average in one-on-one settings and can be even better immediately after games, but put him in a weekly news conference with TV cameras and an Internet feed rolling, and he becomes a telecommunications analyst.
He’s pretty good on Saturday.
He’s a mortician on Monday.
He closed practices to the media this year, but that’s somewhat standard nationally, and you have to believe his beat writers would prefer to be pleasantly surprised like all of us with the special teams lunacy each Saturday.
But the Rebels are bowl eligible, and UNLV still is having to offer creative ways to draw fans. Hauck can be a bigger help in this matter by at least pretending not to be annoyed at what often are legitimate questions he won’t answer. I just can’t see this guy breaking up any crowd of boosters on a fundraising circuit.
Many believe Hauck will become worse in these situations if the Rebels continue to find success and bowl appearances, which will make deciding whether to make those drives to weekly pressers easy.
Not worth the gasoline.
■ Phase: Accountability
This is a big deal. Hauck isn’t going to make anyone forget Tony Robbins when talking motivational speakers, but what he does do is fall on the sword when his team plays poorly. He, unlike the coach he replaced four years ago, takes responsibility when the Rebels fail.
Mike Sanford threw more people under the bus than a senator might his fellow party members to win votes. Hauck takes the blame, shoulders the majority of fault after losses and constantly props players up instead of publicly correcting their flaws.
Plus, unlike Sanford, he never has tripped over a TV cord when running back onto the field after a loss screaming to speak to the athletic director.
Although he might have a returner soon trip over a TV cord while attempting a quadruple reverse on an opening kickoff.
It’s how crazy Uncle Bobby rolls.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at email@example.com 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.