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Tony Sanchez joins list of prep-to-college coaching failures

It probably will be remembered as just another failed experiment, taking its place alongside Michelson-Morley’s theory on light waves and the New Coke.

After being fired by UNLV, Tony Sanchez suggested college football coaches who jump directly from high school might be doomed to fail before the Bunsen burner gets lit.

“A guy making a jump like that, sometimes you don’t take over the Cadillacs” of college football programs,” Sanchez said in discussing his ouster.

Instead of a Cadillac, Sanchez was handed the keys to an Edsel.

There was hope he could transform a Rebels program that had produced four winning seasons in the past 30 into something special, like the Bishop Gorman program he left. Or, at least, a 6-5 team that could qualify for a minor bowl game.

Sanchez guided the Rebels to a 20-40 record in five seasons. He joins a short list of contemporaries — Gerry Faust at Notre Dame, Todd Dodge at North Texas and Bob Commings at Iowa — who didn’t get it done upon going directly from high school to a college head coaching job.

Only Faust, 30-26-1 in five seasons at Notre Dame, drove a Cadillac. Dodge was 6-27 and Commings 18-37 at Iowa, where he inherited an 0-11 team.

“I was like Sinatra — I did it my way,” Sanchez said about what advice he would give the next guy who makes the jump.

“The one thing I would say on behalf of the high school coaches out there is that we’ve had some really good guys come through here and this (job) has chewed up a lot of good coaches. We won more than they did in the past. We got more competitive … and I’m proud of that.”

Around the horn

— Friday marked the one-year anniversary of The Match: Tiger vs. Phil at Shadow Creek. Or as guest commentator Charles Barkley aptly put it “… some crappy golf. Y’all know that.” Phil Mickelson pocketed $9 million on the day after Thanksgiving during a dubious showdown with a taciturn Tiger Woods that finished under temporary lighting on a makeshift 93-yard hole.

— Las Vegan Brendan Gaughan earned the first victory of his post NASCAR career by finishing first in Class 1 Superlative (unlimited off-road racing buggies) at the Baja 1000. Gaughan’s time of 20:57:38 was 16th fastest overall. Fellow Las Vegan and four-time Baja winner Rob MacCachren finished fifth overall in a Trophy Truck.

— If you’re wondering why the UNLV-UNR football rivalry doesn’t resonate with the average college football fan — or even supporters of the two teams themselves, based on Saturday’s meager turnout in Reno — here’s a pretty good reason: Only one of the 45 games in the series has featured a nationally ranked team — and just barely. The Wolf Pack were No. 25 in 2010 when they defeated the Rebels 44-26 behind quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

— A social media post listing the Broyles Award (top college assistant) semifinalists suggested these were names that could emerge as candidates to replace Sanchez at UNLV. They include Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, who tried to run up the score against the Rebels when he was head coach at Baylor in 1999, only to be victimized by Kevin Thomas’ historic 100-yard fumble return and game-winning touchdown.

— The Arena Football League has folded after 30 years. Hunkie Cooper, a former UNLV star, Canyon Springs High School football coach and 2019 Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame inductee, was a two-time recipient of the AFL’s Iron Man of the Year Award (for playing both ways) and was league MVP in 1993. The Thomas & Mack Center hosted the Arena Bowl championship game in 2005 and 2006.

— Trivia question sure to win a bar bet at a PT’s Pub near you: What do convicted con man and former Las Vegas resident Art Schlichter; Jon Gruden’s brother, Jay; and former UNR and Las Vegas Bowl quarterback John Dutton have in common besides their football position? Each was a former Arena Bowl MVP — Schlichter with the Detroit Drive in 1990, Gruden with the Tampa Bay Storm in 1993 and Dutton with the San Jose SaberCats in 2002.


After the New York Post reported that Jets quarterback Sam Darnold got “wasted” and “hooked up with a girl” after leading his team to an easy victory over the Raiders last week, the popular website Super 70s Sports seemed less than mortified.

“This is the whole point of becoming a quarterback in the first place,” it said via Twitter, perhaps forgetting the virtuous R0ger Staubach and that Tebow guy.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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