UNLV hopes Hawaii doesn’t say aloha to football

HAUCK HOPING HAWAII RIVALRY REMAINS INTACT

ELY — Except for UNR, UNLV has no bigger football rival than Hawaii.

It’s a rivalry that began even before the Rainbow Warriors joined the Mountain West in 2012, and those in Southern Nevada are well aware Las Vegas is commonly referred to as the “Ninth Island.”

Now that rivalry could be in danger.

Hawaii athletic director Ben Jay told a committee of the state’s board of regents Monday the athletic department might not be able to afford the football program. He said the department has run a deficit in 11 of the past 13 years and could be in the red by as much as $3 million after this fiscal year.

“There is a very real possibility of football going away,” Jay told the regents.

He acknowledged football is the school’s main revenue source, so dropping the sport would be a last-ditch move.

But even bringing up the topic must be alarming to UNLV because of the unique relationship with the islands the school and Las Vegas enjoy.

“We love playing those guys, and they like playing us,” UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said. “In all of our league games, there’s great history, and we really enjoy our conference games. Football’s an expensive sport, and we have to find ways to make it work, and it’s hard to do.”

Hawaii not only is looking at fiscal issues, but what could be coming with the five power conferences assuming more control. Those conferences could take on additional financial commitments, such as increasing the value of a scholarship.

That’s something schools in the Mountain West, UNLV included, might not be able to do.

Hauck said he’s “always” concerned about trying to keep up.

“There are a lot of schools within conferences that have big TV contracts that are worried about it as well,” he said. “So it’s an interesting time. We’ll all find ways to get it done.”

NOTABLE

Hauck answered Utah State coach Matt Wells’ recent call to participate in the ALS ice bucket challenge. “Since I didn’t make it within my 24-hour window, I’ll be writing a check to ALS,” Hauck said, with his players standing behind him after Wednesday’s afternoon practice. “I hope all Rebels fans and anyone else listening will join me. With that being said, I don’t think these guys are going to let me off the hook.” He was right. These guys, his players, doused him with several buckets of water and some water balloons. … When defensive end Josh Shirley was looking to leave Washington and play his senior season elsewhere, he wanted to go where he could be more of an every-down player. He initially was such a player with the Huskies, but ended up as a pass-rush specialist. UNLV defensive line coach Michael Gray didn’t promise Shirley (6 feet 3 inches, 230 pounds) anything other than a chance. “Right now, he’s an every-down guy,” Gray said. “He’s not the biggest guy, but he understands leverage. He understands pad level. He has an understanding of how to play against a guy who’s 300 pounds. I think it’s a good mix, but I like him in that third-down situation. He gives me a guy who’s actually got some pass-rushing skills. We’ve never had a guy like that as seasoned as he is.” … The Rebels scrimmage at 8 a.m. today, then return to Las Vegas. They open their season Aug. 29 at Arizona.

POSITION SPOTLIGHT

Defensive ends: This a deep position, with five players capable of receiving significant playing time. Siuea Vaesau has had a particularly strong camp.

Starters

Jordan Sparkman, Sr., 6-6, 270

Siuea Vaesau, Sr., 6-4, 250

Backups

Josh Shirley, Sr., 6-3, 230

Najee Johnson, Jr., 6-4, 220

Dominic Baldwin, So., 6-5, 240

SITTING OUT

Player, Pos., Status

Brett Boyko, OT, Out

Phillip Haynes, OL, Out

Jack Killian, WR, Out

Ron Scoggins, G, Out

MARK ANDERSON/LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL

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