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Regents chairman Rick Trachok wants to get out of coach hiring business

Chairman Rick Trachok wants the University of Nevada Board of Regents to get out of the business of approving coaches’ contracts.

He will make the proposal at a June 2 meeting for the ad hoc Committee on Athletics at the Nevada System of Higher Education office on Maryland Parkway with the hope it goes to the full board, which next meets June 9 and 10.

Regents have say over contracts for head coaches in football and men’s and women’s basketball at UNLV and UNR.

Trachok’s proposal puts the onus on the university president to structure contracts so the athletic department budget is balanced and enough funds raised to cover contracts are checked and enforced. The regents would hold the president responsible in the annual review to ensure those criteria are met.

“This is the only way I can see to ever do our financial oversight,” said Trachok, who represents Washoe County. “Otherwise, we have no control. The Board of Regents would never say no to a contract no matter how unreasonable it is.”

UNLV president Len Jessup said in an emailed statement the proposal would help both state schools.

“The concept has the potential to streamline the hiring process and benefit multiple stakeholders,” Jessup said. “It would allow the universities to operate in a manner similar to many of their peer institutions around the country.”

UNLV athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy also released an emailed statement expressing support.

“I applaud Chair Trachok for taking this matter forward,” Kunzer-Murphy said. “The oversight of these coaches’ contracts was implemented with the best intentions but many times has placed an undue burden on the Board of Regents.”

Three of the six regents on the athletics committee said they favored the proposal, but James Dean Leavitt (Clark County) wanted more information. Attempts to reach Cedric Crear (Clark County) and Kevin Melcher (rural Eastern Nevada) were unsuccessful.

The regents came under criticism during UNLV’s search for a men’s basketball coach.

UNLV officials reached an agreement with Chris Beard on March 27 to take over the program, but the regents didn’t vote on the contract until April 8, approving it 9-4.

After Beard left a week later for Texas Tech, the approval process went much smoother. Marvin Menzies agreed on April 16 to become the coach, and he was approved 12-1 six days later.

Kevin Page (Clark County) is co-chairman of the athletics committee and said he supported Trachok’s proposal “1,000 percent.”

“I think it makes a ton of sense because right now we’re in a no-win situation,” Page said. “How do we ever turn a contract down? If we do, it would make national news. I think it puts the responsibility back where it should be — back on the president.”

Jason Geddes (Pershing and Washoe counties) is the other co-chairman. He said Trachok’s proposal allows regents to maintain oversight.

“I believe we can (keep oversight) through the code changes, annual reports to the board, budget approval and assurances of financial resources through the presidents,” Geddes said in an email. “I also think the contract templates will provide assurances for academic success and compliance with campus and system rules.”

Michael Wixom (Clark County) agreed change was needed.

“It’s probably not appropriate for the regents to be involved in the contracts,” said Wixom, vice chairman of the board. “First, it adds a whole layer of time, unnecessarily so, I think, to this process. And to be candid, I don’t know anything about football or anything about basketball, and for me to have to make an evaluation is just not appropriate.”

Leavitt said he didn’t know enough about the proposal.

“Sometimes there’s value in more oversight,” Leavitt said. “I’ve got to look at that piece, too. We’re the ones accountable to the electorate. Whether we want to be passing off our decisions to people that aren’t elected, I think that’s always a concern.”

Contact Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65

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