When I turned on the TV Monday morning, Vanderbilt was playing North Carolina State in the Argyle Sock Bowl. (Actually, it was the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, so it might as well have been the Argyle Sock Bowl.)
The ESPN announcers were saying that Vanderbilt had won eight games in the mighty Southeastern Conference. The inference was that this was remarkable, because whereas the SEC is known for football, Vanderbilt is not. Vanderbilt is known for Rhodes Scholars, Nobel Prize laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners.
The announcers said Vanderbilt - Vanderbilt! - beat Tennessee by 23 points this season by running the pistol offense.
The pistol was developed by Chris Ault, the longtime football coach at UNR, who has retired (again).
Chris Ault: The Little General. Five stars on his epaulet, nine or 10 wins in the standings.
The Little General was the nickname bestowed upon Ault by a former Reno Gazette-Journal sports writer named Steve Sneddon, a bear of a man who wore a thick, black beard and told great stories during halftime.
The Little General. Another Reno sports writer who had played for Ault and covered his teams said that title conjures an image of Patton on the desert battlefields of North Africa.
I think more of Ault as Napoleon Bonaparte: Bicorne hat, cocked at a jaunty angle. Doublet overcoat. Breeches. The long, woolen socks.
Just don't let Ault reach into his waistcoat for a halftime adjustment, or he's going to beat you.
A lot of people down here didn't much care for Chris Ault, though he started his college coaching career at UNLV as an assistant under Ron Meyer.
Ault had an ego, they said. Ault always was making spiteful comments about UNLV.
Mark Alden, who on Monday completed an 18-year run as a Nevada System of Higher Education regent, has known Ault since they attended classes at UNR 30 years ago.
Ault doesn't have an ego, Alden said. Ault has principles.
"On a scale of 1 to 10, he's a 14. He broke the barrier in what you look for in a coach," Alden said.
And the spiteful comments about UNLV? Well, yeah, guilty as charged.
Ault said the color red reminded him of communism, the devil and UNLV. He refused to wear his sideline pass at Sam Boyd Stadium because it said "UNR" and not "Nevada."
In 1991, Ault was elected to the UNLV Hall of Fame in a collateral damage sort of way. He was an assistant coach for the 1974 Rebels who went 12-0 during the regular season. He did not attend the ceremony.
"I was busy coaching," he would later say. "It was during the season, thank God."
Call me naive, but I believe the UNLV vitriol was mostly gamesmanship. Like a boxer before a big fight, Ault wanted to fan flames, ignite passion, insult manhood, sell tickets. Sell lots of tickets.
After returning to Reno, Ault sensed there wasn't much interest up there in playing UNLV anymore. There is now.
After the 1995 smackdown and festival of cheap shots, Quincy Sanders, a UNLV defensive back who had played at Reed High School up north, threw his helmet at Ault.
There now is interest down here in playing UNR, too.
"We started in 1976 to where it is now," Ault said in 2009. "It's very competitive and heated. It's a nice rivalry."
Nice rivalry? Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson have a nice rivalry. Coke and Pepsi have a nice rivalry.
UNR (sorry, coach, newspaper style) and UNLV have a bitter rivalry. They now must play in the afternoon, to cut down on the drinking in the parking lots and the fighting in the stands and the throwing of projectiles from the end zone seats.
As for Ault loathing UNLV, don't believe it. More than once, to more than one reporter, he has tried to set the record straight.
"When I came out of high school, (UNR) wasn't looking for assistant coaches. UNLV gave me my first shot, and I've never forgot that and will never forget it," he said.
"I'm competitive about UNLV, but that's where I got my start in college coaching. Without that, I might not be in the position I am today."
That was Chris Ault in 2009. That's the Chris Ault I know.
I remember when I was first starting out here, when I was assigned to write about the UNLV-UNR game when the rivals opened the season against each other. The story was due Tuesday; I would make arrangements to speak with Ault on Monday.
Monday was Labor Day.
The UNR sports information office had gone fishing.
I called Ault's office in a panic, left a desperate message, mentioned my tight deadline. Within the hour, Ault called me at home, apologized for not calling back sooner, said he was working, too. (The Wolf Pack were on the practice field when I rang.)
Ego? I wouldn't know. Principles? Yeah, Ault's got a few.
At 66, I don't know if the Little General is retired for good this time, if he's through reaching into his waistcoat for adjustments (like he did against the Rebels in October, down 17 at halftime), if he will follow his quarterback Colin Kaepernick to the NFL as an assistant coach/handgun expert.
Have pistol, will travel.
What I do know is that Chris Ault was a helluva football coach for a helluva lot of years, was an adroit fanner of flames, returned phone calls and conceived an offense that helped Vanderbilt - Vanderbilt! - beat N.C. State in the Argyle Sock Bowl.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski