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‘Rebels in Ruins’ series examines fall of UNLV athletics

This was supposed to be the year it finally changed.

Coming off a 5-7 season that included an upset victory over Fresno State, it appeared that the UNLV football team was poised to make more progress under fourth-year coach Tony Sanchez.

After four games, the Rebels owned a 2-2 record. The schedule was trending in their favor. Acquiring momentum and becoming bowl eligible seemed possible.

Instead of the team draining the athletic department of valuable resources, there was optimism this might be the season in which the football team started producing some.

But on Oct. 6, the Rebels suffered a 50-14 home defeat to a New Mexico team that was both crushing and familiar. Four additional losses in which UNLV allowed 59, 41, 50 and 48 points followed, before a 27-24 upset victory at San Diego State momentarily stemmed a tide of regression.

With the football team now 3-8 after a crushing loss at Hawaii and a malaise enveloping a basketball program that once was UNLV’s cash cow, new concerns have emerged about the Rebels’ ability to remain relevant and self-sufficient in a city that is transitioning to major league sports.

In a five-part series titled “Rebels in Ruins,” which begins Monday, Review-Journal sports writers Ed Graney, Ron Kantowski and Mark Anderson will analyze UNLV’s downward trajectory in the revenue sports, how expansion and television revenues have widened the gap between the Power Five and Group of Five conferences, and what, if anything, the Rebels can do to expedite a return to prominence.

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