Outgoing president plans to back Rebels

DALLAS — Neal Smatresk has chosen to laugh at what could be a predicament if he chose to make it one.

Because he is UNLV’s president for now, Smatresk said he will cheer for the Rebels when they take the Cotton Bowl Stadium field against North Texas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on Wednesday.

But on Feb. 3, he will become North Texas’ president.

“I probably would’ve preferred the teams to go to two different bowl games. But, hey, it is what it is, and we’re going to have fun with it,” Smatresk said. “I think a good, close game is something that we’d all like.”

He will be more than just an interested bystander; Smatresk will be the official coin flipper before the game.

Because he has a rooting interest for both sides, Smatresk will come out a winner no matter which team scores the most points, and he’s happy both programs seem to be turning around.

UNLV is making its first bowl appearance since 2000, and North Texas is in its first postseason game since a run of four consecutive trips to the New Orleans Bowl ended in 2004.

Smatresk said he hopes the schools agree to a home-and-home contract.

“They’re both stabilizing now,” Smatresk said. “I would like to see both be very competitive. In fact, one of the things I hope will happen is we’ll get more Conference USA teams on our schedule instead of having to play (Football Championship Subdivision) teams or Big Ten or Big 12 or whoever. I think it’s a good matchup for us, especially if we can play in Texas, which is fertile recruiting ground for (coach) Bobby (Hauck).”

Smatresk and current North Texas president V. Lane Rawlins agreed to a wager in which the losing president will wear the opposing team’s colors at a dinner, though it doesn’t seem too much of a risk for Smatresk, who soon will wear plenty of green anyway.

The respective mayors, Las Vegas’ Carolyn Goodman and Denton’s Mark Burroughs, made a similar bet, but the opposing colors would be donned at a city council meeting.

■ BOWL SWAG — One of the players’ perks of going to a bowl game is getting to visit the gift suite. The NCAA allows up to 125 participants at each school to receive up to $550 in merchandise. Schools also can purchase extra packages if the party is greater than 125.

From the Heart of Dallas Bowl, the Rebels received their gifts Saturday night after arriving separately on commercial flights from various destinations.

They had numerous choices, including everything from a 24-inch high-definition TV and Blu-ray DVD player to watches, headphones and speakers.

■ AWAY NEUTRAL GAME — The Rebels knew they would be outnumbered by what essentially is a home game for North Texas, which is about a 45-minute drive from downtown Dallas.

StubHub, which sells tickets on the secondary market, shows how one-sided the support should be.

As of Saturday, the cheapest ticket close to the 50-yard line on the Mean Green’s side of the stadium was selling for $150. On UNLV’s side? You could get a ducat for about $50.

No matter the size of the Mean Green crowd, however, don’t expect a packed stadium. The venue, one of the most storied in college football, seats 92,100, and a turnout of closer to 30,000 is expected.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.


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