Hauck’s contract says it all

Three years makes perfect sense. It shouldn’t be any longer to start. Not in this economic climate. Not when your athletic department was just burned by a football coach who won 16 games over five seasons and is paying him $254,000 to coach a sixth year for a different program.

A three-year contract says everything about the naming of Bobby Hauck as the man now responsible for trying to make UNLV football meaningful.

Translation: Work quickly and with purpose.

Hauck will be introduced at a news conference on campus today, his time of taking Montana to national championship games at the Football Championship Subdivision level over.

Jim Livengood used his first major hire as the school’s athletic director to cast his support behind the younger and more unproven of two candidates, choosing the 45-year-old Hauck over 58-year-old Dennis Franchione and a resume that included running some of the nation’s more prestigious Division I programs.

Both coaches made sense in different ways.

Hauck does in this one: He’s not just hungry to succeed at this level, he is starving to do so.

UNLV football is worse than bad. It’s irrelevant. The Rebels might draw a large gathering here and there (meaning whenever Brigham Young or a Bowl Championship Series conference team visits), but you know things are dreadful when you can glance at the Sam Boyd Stadium parking lot most Saturdays and not totally determine if there is a game.

To this point, Hauck shouldn’t get a false sense of things when the Rebels open at home against Wisconsin next season. He shouldn’t think the likely sellout is anything normal for these parts.

Losing season after season, you see, is one thing.

Losing and having nobody care is an entirely different problem to tackle.

Hauck on paper is a bigger risk than Franchione but also a pick with more upside. UNLV has visions of Hauck becoming the next Urban Meyer, of being the coach at a non-BCS school who can in a few years fill those 30,000 empty seats Sam Boyd Stadium consistently offers. It’s a daunting challenge, but greatness is hardly ever achieved by small thinkers.

Franchione directed programs at places such as Alabama and Texas A&M. He has lived the big-time. The Rebels are hoping Hauck not only dreams of it but desires it with immense determination, that he will work tirelessly to reach it, either by turning UNLV’s program around in dramatic fashion or enough that a more prestigious program whisks him away.

They won’t admit the latter. I’m sure when Livengood and Hauck face cameras today, they will speak about building for the long haul and striving to make UNLV another Boise State or Texas Christian with a coach who has no intention of going elsewhere.

UNLV fans shouldn’t have a problem with the football program being defined as a steppingstone. It is one for anyone good enough to win here. Hauck probably wouldn’t agree publicly with such a statement, but if in three years he has turned the program around enough that a BCS team pursues him, what is the downside?

You sign him to three years now because you should know after two if he was the correct choice, and if he proves to be it and things are going well, you immediately extend him three more. It’s how Livengood apparently likes to handle these things, and considering how strapped the university system is monetarily, it’s the correct approach.

Hauck will be asked about his baggage today, about shutting out reporters from the student newspaper at Montana following a story about an alleged assault by two Grizzlies football players, about being part of minor NCAA recruiting infractions while an assistant at Washington, about how some of his players conducted themselves around Missoula. He will undoubtedly have answers for all of it and plenty of time now to prove them credible or not.

He is an immediate upgrade on the field from Mike Sanford, who on Tuesday was officially named offensive coordinator at Louisville. Hauck is an upgrade because he has lived the life of a head coach and, better yet for UNLV, succeeded at it.

Franchione would have brought his own set of strong points. He wouldn’t have been a poor choice.

But the Rebels today have opted for a younger man, an energetic man, a man whose incentive-heavy contract and the craving to prove his formula works at this level won out in the end.

Montana is nicknamed the Treasure State.

UNLV hopes it landed its own jewel in Bobby Hauck.

Football-wise, this is a good day for the Rebels.

Three years from now, we’ll know if it was a great one.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He also can be heard weeknights from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. on “The Sports Scribes” on KDWN (720 AM) and www.kdwn.com.

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