If these are the finalists, it must be some mistake

We know the young and energetic senior associate from UCLA isn’t even a finalist. He was the candidate most favored by many on UNLV’s athletic director search committee, which sort of makes you wonder why there was a committee at all.

Many people seemed to really like Ross Bjork and what he could bring to the position. Obviously, not the right person.

We also know a top local candidate and favorite of many influential boosters is out, Steve Stallworth having been told such Tuesday evening.

Stallworth was my choice from the start, but it appears an alum and former football player who is incredibly passionate about the university and could have raised millions of dollars for athletics with contacts developed over decades was not who the decision makers wanted.

Silly me.

This much, though, is true: Stallworth learned he was not a finalist by e-mail from the search committee’s chairman, and the fact the news didn’t come via direct telephone call from UNLV president Neal Smatresk is embarrassing for those deciding this process.

The same goes for acting athletic director Jerry Koloskie, if and when he is notified. Local candidates deserve as much. They deserve to hear from Smatresk and him alone. E-mails don’t cut it for those who care about UNLV as deeply as Stallworth and Koloskie.

We know an announcement is expected today that will reveal finalists for the athletic director’s spot, that it appears Smatresk has narrowed his list, that names such as Jim Livengood and Bill Moos and John Johnson seem to be those most likely to be on it.

It’s uncertain where Koloskie fits. Maybe he is still in this race. It sure would make breakfast taste better.

We don’t know much else, which means Livengood could still be a leader in the clubhouse, which certainly doesn’t have us standing and cheering.

My position has not changed the last few days, meaning the fact his contract at Arizona reportedly won’t be renewed raises a bright red flag as to his true motivation for pursuing the UNLV job.

I’m sorry. It matters. How inspired is a 64-year-old nearing the end of his career going to be to build a successful non-BCS program in a city to which he has no direct ties, after 15 years in charge of a Pac-10 program with a budget this year in the $40 million range?

Livengood’s first order of business would be to identify a head football coach. At Arizona, he hired arguably the worst in school history. John Mackovic was a disaster.

Livengood also hired Mike Stoops as football coach, who over the last few years has proven to be an extremely solid choice.

Some at Arizona tell you Livengood completely floundered the end of Hall of Fame basketball coach Lute Olson’s career; others insist Olson owned absolute autonomy and there was nothing Livengood could do in terms of how things played out.

I don’t know which side is correct. I don’t care.

I know Livengood first tried to land John Calipari and his past issues with the NCAA to replace Olson and then tried to hire Tim Floyd from Southern California, a coach with one the dirtiest reputations in college basketball. Two months after turning down Livengood, Floyd resigned from USC amid allegations he gave $1,000 in cash to a man who helped steer former star player O.J. Mayo to the school.

I’ll repeat that. Livengood went after Floyd.

Livengood didn’t hire Olson. He didn’t hire Arizona and former Olympic softball coach Mike Candrea. Would he make the best decision for UNLV football? Would he really, as some believe, arrive here with the idea that the best choice is a coordinator from, yep, Arizona (be it Sonny Dykes or Mark Stoops)?

Please. Let that one exist among the laughable rumors.

Livengood has proven to be a fantastic fundraiser. He is said to be an expert at balancing budgets. But this is about the best fit for UNLV, and he isn’t it. Not at this stage of his run. Not when his contract is set to expire in June and no extension has been offered.

I don’t know the man from a wall. But his rollercoaster hires and near-hires in major sports is troubling, as is his current contract situation in Tucson. Every athletic director makes questionable hires. I’m not concerned with every one, but rather the one UNLV is about to hire.

Moos, 62, is a former Oregon athletic director who raised millions in Eugene and built that program into one of the finest in the Pac-10 before resigning in 2006, reportedly having had issues with Nike co-founder and major donor Phil Knight.

Johnson is in his fourth year as a senior associate at Washington State, which begs a question: Would UNLV really hire someone as its AD who comes from a school with a worse football program than its own?

Maybe this is it. Maybe these are your finalists. Maybe there is another. Maybe the game isn’t over for Koloskie.

But it is for Ross Bjork.

And it is for UNLV alum and South Point Arena director Steve Stallworth.

He has the e-mail from a committee chair to prove it.


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-AM (720) and www.kdwn.com.

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