weather icon Clear

UNLV coach Marcus Arroyo won press conference — now must win games

Updated December 13, 2019 - 5:46 pm

He couldn’t have known, of course, sitting between his brother and father, driving across Las Vegas to Arizona in a 1972 Primer El Camino listening to, among others, the rock band Santana.

He might have even heard the lyrics to “Day of Celebration,” a hidden track which begins 12 seconds following the end of, “The Calling.”

Such appropriate song titles for Marcus Arroyo on Friday.

Such a difference between then and now, a young boy not understanding that his journey would one day turn that middle bench seat in Dad’s car into glancing out the window of a plane, descending into the city that has afforded him the professional opportunity for which he has worked his entire life.

I have to believe Arroyo is a big proponent of the idea that reality has finally bested his grandest dreams, the new UNLV head football coach who was introduced as the next option to try and stir a program from its seemingly endless state of on-field insensibility.

“This is a place,” said Arroyo, “that wants to be great.”

I’m pretty sure it will settle for 6-6 and being invited to the New Mexico Bowl.

First victory

Arroyo won the press conference. While that won’t help him beat Boise State or San Diego State or continue to keep the Fremont Cannon from UNR’s blue hands, first impressions can certainly work wonders in terms of how a community will support a program which has rarely succeeded on the scoreboard.

He will need every ounce of it.

It won’t take a village to awake UNLV football. Try a metropolis.

I was impressed with who he mostly addressed during opening remarks, beyond the typical words of thanks for family and mentors and those who have now hired him as a first-time head coach.

Arroyo directed a majority of his comments to and about those UNLV players in attendance, a group brought here by former coach Tony Sanchez and his staff. They were staring back at their new leader, a time of uncertainty and anxiousness for each of them.

“I have been in their shoes,” said the 39-year-old Arroyo, a former quarterback at San Jose State. “You can’t forget for a second what those guys are going through. They are pivotal to our success. … It was very important that my first meeting (Thursday) night was with them. I loved looking into their eyes and shaking their hands and seeing their demeanor and getting ready to hear their stories.

“I have to earn their trust and re-recruit the ones who are here and recruit our tails off for the ones who aren’t. The 2020 season started for the (returning players) the minute our meeting ended. I know they’re excited. I know they’re anxious. That’s the beauty of it all, the process of doing something amazing together.”

He would be smart to at least try and include in such an undertaking the idea of developing relationships with highly influential folks, specifically the family for which the building he spoke in Friday is named.

Engage the Fertittas

Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta were not at attendance and neither were any of their representatives, curious given that without the family’s financial contributions there is no state-of-the-art football complex in which Arroyo can now recruit.

It’s true the Fertittas have an incredibly close bond with Sanchez, so if fences need to be mended, Arroyo needs to pick up a hammer and nails.

The Fertittas want UNLV to succeed, a football family which is unquestionably important enough to the overall goal to warrant Arroyo reaching out. He will need it all to win here — a great coaching staff, successful recruiting and major communal support.

“We will win,” Arroyo said. “We will win at a really high level. The goal is to compete for championships. We will block out all the naysayers and build a winner that will last.”

Sounds good. Also heard it before here.

A lot.

But as first impressions go, Arroyo was terrific.

I’m just not sure how trustworthy he is.

In meeting him for the first time, I shook his hand and introduced myself.

“I’ve heard a lot of great things about you,” he said.

To which I replied, “Well, I highly doubt that.”

More Rebels: Follow at reviewjournal.com/Rebels.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.