UNLV’s football team had last week off, a chance for coaches and players to rest and watch film and mix in a few full-pads practices. It’s a good time for teams that are beat up at this point in a season (meaning everyone from Mississippi State to Southern Methodist and all in between) to get healthy while also remaining somewhat sharp.
It’s also a good time to check in with those you believe could one day help your program.
The Rebels are 2-5 and play at Utah State on Saturday, having ended a four-game losing streak by beating Fresno State 30-27 in overtime on Oct. 10. What surprises some is that neither fact — a losing record to this point in a season following the school’s first bowl berth in 13 years or a win against the defending Mountain West champions — means much at all to those recruits interested in UNLV.
“We don’t get to talk to them in person this time of year, so we were just out evaluating,” Rebels coach Bobby Hauck said. “But when you talk to them on the phone, it’s a lot more fun coming off a win than a loss. To be honest, I don’t think they pay much attention on a week-to-week basis. They are into their own season. They want to know about your program and how you do business, but weekly (results) never seem to be a major emphasis with them. They win and lose games, too.
“It never changes in recruiting. The parents are interested in academics and the kids are interested in uniforms and depth charts. Unless you’re Alabama and winning every week, talking much on a specific result doesn’t happen too often. At this point, we are so late into the process for this recruiting class, they’re either interested in us or not.”
Hauck was given a contract extension following last season’s run to the Heart of Dallas Bowl, offering him the security to inform recruits he would was signed as head coach through 2016.
But his buyout — essentially $700,000 — is reasonable enough to believe that if this season ends with a record not near .500 and UNLV officials determine it would be impossible to continue selling the school’s football future with Hauck in charge, it’s not crazy to think a change would occur.
That’s definitely one thing recruits notice.
Beyond it, they are almost always self-centered in their own desires.
When it comes to recruiting, UNLV is like all most Mountain West teams short of Boise State, given the Broncos as the league’s best and most influential program nationally own all sorts of advantages over conference opponents.
The Mountain West, in essence, sold its soul to keep Boise State from jumping to the Big East Conference. Look at the discrepancy between the television bonuses Boise State receives compared to most Mountain West schools. In some cases, it’s the difference of nearly $2 million.
It all trickles down to allowing the Broncos a clear and decisive edge in the most important sport. The rich get richer, even in what has proven to be a second-class football league this year.
For the most part, a Mountain West team’s recruiting class is judged on those few players it can sign that Power Five conferences back off on at the end.
“We stay on kids who might be getting interest from the Pac-12 or Big 12 but who are eventually told they don’t have room for them,” Hauck said. “We’ve had guys like that suddenly become available for us. I think winning last year and making a bowl gave us some tangible evidence that it can get done here, that I wasn’t a guy out there just selling snake oil. I still get asked about my (job status) but now have an answer for them with the (contract extension).”
Recruiting is as much about pecking order as is who gets the shower first in a family of eight. UNLV is always going to recruit against the Utah States and Colorado States and San Jose States of the world, but whether a specific class can be deemed successful or not often comes down to those two or three kids who had interest from more powerful programs.
And whether or not the class Hauck and his staff are working on now ultimately earns high rankings will have little to do with weekly results or overall records.
Kids don’t think in those terms.
Uniforms. Depth charts. That sort of stuff.
“It didn’t really matter to me what (UNLV’s record) was at the time I was being recruited,” said senior cornerback Kenneth Penny. “I was basically, as an individual, looking more at going to a place I’d have a chance to play at while helping the overall program. It wasn’t about (weekly results) at all.”
A popular theme which, you could argue, is a very good thing for the Rebels right now.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.
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