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New UNLV baseball coach needs latitude to raise funds

Words won’t get UNLV baseball where some aspire it to be. Talk won’t create league championships or NCAA regional appearances. The status quo won’t save the Rebels from the ocean of mediocrity they have been drowning in for some time.

It’s easy: Decide how good you want to be and support the program at that level.

Problem: It can’t be done under the athletic department’s current fundraising system.

Buddy Gouldsmith was shown the door this week as coach, and while he leaves a legacy of some positive things — for starters, his kids went to class and graduated — his record wasn’t good enough in a results-driven business.

He lost more than he won in seven years.

It’s a tough way to survive.

But if the cliche remains consistent, that the guy who follows the guy almost always inherits a better situation, Jim Livengood must be an athletic director open to change. Or at least to doing things the old way.

I understand the theory behind a centralized fundraising system within an athletic department, of having others chase sponsorships and donations and extra dollars for all teams while telling coaches to worry only about recruiting athletes and helping improve their skill.

I understand wanting to ensure everyone receives a slice of the pie in hopes of keeping numerous programs viable.

It’s a wonderful concept for teams from Bowl Championship Series leagues, where massive revenues can at times be spread throughout a department.

It’s a terrible concept at UNLV.

Mike Hamrick as athletic director brought all fundraising efforts under one umbrella for the Rebels and, in the process, limited what a program like baseball could accomplish.

Hammy the innovator. Oh, how I miss him.

Look, coaches of nonrevenue sports at colleges not part of the BCS must accept their job is about cultivating relationships with those outside the program as much as the players in it.

Not allowing Gouldsmith to fervently pursue fundraising dollars earmarked specifically for his team is like forcing him to instruct hitting while handcuffed.

Hamrick forgot the golden rule of non-BCS programs: Know who you are, and it’s not Texas or Ohio State.

Dwaine Knight is one of the best coaches in UNLV history because of his ability to raise funds and apply them intelligently to the men’s golf program.

Hamrick couldn’t touch Knight’s way of doing things, and it’s a good thing, because Knight is one of the best examples nationally of a coach who understands how to thrive in the non-BCS world.

“Anyone who is allowed to come in next and do their own fundraising could elevate things in baseball quickly,” Gouldsmith said. “From that standpoint, there is so many things you can impact. Your facility. Your operating budget. The schedule you play. Your recruiting. Everything.”

Livengood has probably heard the name Tim Chambers more the past few weeks than any other. Chambers should certainly be given a strong look as UNLV’s next coach, but there is no way the man who has built College of Southern Nevada into a national power should consider the move if he isn’t offered full control over fundraising.

Why wouldn’t UNLV want a coach like Chambers to take full advantage of his local popularity to raise funds, to increase the paltry baseball operating budget of around $300,000 annually and deliver it to the neighborhood of the $1 million that Texas Christian spends?

Fred Dallimore won 794 games in 23 seasons as UNLV’s baseball coach, seven times advancing the Rebels to the NCAAs. He won 53 in 1980 playing on an old field with benches for 200 fans. His jersey is retired.

He also had complete control of baseball fundraising.

“It is sad to see what has happened to (the program),” Dallimore said. “It’s disturbing. There is no reason they shouldn’t be highly competitive in baseball like we were. They have everything you need to be consistently good.”

But they haven’t been. UNLV baseball has needs. It needs to win more. It needs to upgrade parts of Wilson Stadium. It needs to have a recruiting budget fat enough to allow more official visits by prospects and for assistant coaches to be on the road more often.

It needs to allow its next coach freedom to raise as much money as he can, and any applicant with a brain wouldn’t touch the job if that part isn’t included in the offer.

He won’t win without it.

I understand the concept of centralized fundraising. At many schools, it’s a sound philosophy. For baseball at UNLV, it has earned you losses piled on mediocrity piled on a coaching search.

Know who you are.

For those coaches who can’t develop relationships and raise money, too bad.

Welcome to life as a non-BCS program.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618.

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