Raising stakes in UNLV-UNR rivalry

A new competition involving Nevada's two public universities will boost the rivalry between the schools' students, athletes and supporters to even higher levels - in a positive way.

With pomp that included cheerleaders, mascots and university officials, Gov. Brian Sandoval on Monday unveiled the Governor's Series, a year-long competition that measures UNLV and UNR against each other in 15 sports, as well as how their athletes perform in the classroom. The winning school will receive the Governor's Cup.

The Rebels and the Wolf Pack finally compete in the same league, the Mountain West Conference, which means they'll play each other more often in more sports. Previously, football and basketball were the focus of the rivalry, while some UNLV and UNR teams went years without playing one another.

With the Governor's Series and Cup, however, UNLV-UNR contests in other sports have new significance, which should lead to additional fan interest. The cup could be decided by the last pitch of a baseball game, the winning spike in women's volleyball or even a golfer's score on a final exam in math or science.

"Each and every grade will matter," Gov. Sandoval said Monday.

In the event of a tie, the winner of the annual football game between UNLV and UNR will decide which university claims the cup. That game will be played today at noon at Sam Boyd Stadium. The Rebels will try to take back the Fremont Cannon for the first time since 2005.

In addition to the cup, the program provides an award to one student-athlete from each school. Named in honor of Bill Ireland, a 1952 UNR graduate who coached at both schools, it recognizes the students' athletic excellence and sportsmanship, grades, community service and character.

NV Energy and Barrick Gold Corp. are co-sponsoring the first three years of the Governor's Series and will provide additional scholarship support to both schools. Their three-year commitment to the program totals $270,000.

This is a fun, constructive way to raise the stakes of the UNLV-UNR rivalry. Rebel and Wolf Pack fans should give Gov. Sandoval a high five for this idea.