Most UNLV football players are home for the holidays, but 11 showed up Wednesday at the Thomas & Mack Center to greet their new coach.
And shortly after his introductory news conference, Bobby Hauck made sure he met them, telling the players huddled nearby, "You guys are my first recruits."
It was one of the first acts in a long to-do list for Hauck, who was hired after seven seasons at Montana, where he had an 80-17 record, won seven Big Sky Conference titles and reached three Football Championship Subdivision national title games.
"He was born to coach, and he was born to compete," athletic director Jim Livengood said. "I think that’s something we need at this university in this particular role."
Hauck, 45, accepted a three-year, $350,000 incentive-laden contract, plus a $150,000 annual completion bonus paid at the end of the term. If Hauck stays until the end of the contract, he’ll get a lump payment of $450,000.
Unlike predecessor Mike Sanford, Hauck didn’t promise that UNLV would win the Mountain West Conference, be ranked or win a bowl game in his first season, or at all. After all, the Rebels haven’t had a winning season or played in a bowl since 2000.
Hauck vowed the Rebels would be a physical team with an emphasis on detail and doing "things right" as well as generating enthusiasm with his players and in the community, where Hauck said he would be visible.
"I think people here are hungry to have a football team that plays well and wins some games," Hauck said. "Enthusiasm will be generated if we’re worth watching."
The players who attended the news conference seemed willing to want to give Hauck a chance to try to transfer the success from Montana to UNLV.
"I’m really excited about this guy coming from a good program at Montana," defensive end Malo Taumua said. "When he brought up the word ‘enthusiastic,’ I’m the right guy for him. I’m excited for him to be my head football coach, and somebody who went 80-17 somewhere can always be my coach."
Linebacker Ronnie Paulo said, "It’s sometimes good for change. I definitely think he’s going to bring an aggressive style. I think it’s a good move."
Former UNLV quarterback Randall Cunningham, probably the greatest Rebel of all time, pledged his support.
"Bobby’s a winner," Cunningham said. "As soon as they get into camp and get ready to play, he’s going to have things his way. He reminds me of a young Jon Gruden.
"It’s going to take a little time. We’ve got to support him, let him get his players here and coaching staff together, but I’m excited about it because everything is fresh and new."
Hauck returned to Missoula, Mont., on Wednesday night with his wife, Stacy, and will be there to celebrate Christmas with their four children.
He won’t have much time to rest. In the coming weeks, Hauck will assemble a staff, meet with UNLV’s returning players and try to make up for a late start in recruiting. Hauck said he expects to begin hiring assistants next week.
"Certainly, we have some guys in the hopper," Hauck said. "The staff we will assemble will have great experience."
Recruiting is another issue, and Hauck expects to have about 15 slots to fill. He had been on the stump for Montana, but he said many of those recruits might not be good fits with the Rebels.
Hauck also said he prefers to sign high school players but wasn’t averse to going after junior college prospects.
For now, during an NCAA "dead period," Hauck is able to speak to prospective players only by phone. In early January he can make face-to-face contact, then it will be a mad dash until signing day Feb. 3.
"We’ve got extensive recruiting lists," Hauck said. "I’ve been in the schools that are going to be the recruiting base for UNLV football."
Sanford was fired after back-to-back five-win seasons, so Hauck inherits a team that was on the cusp of bowl eligibility.
"We’re anxious to build on the foundation that Mike and his staff have worked on to build here the last five years," Hauck said.
Next season won’t be easy, though, with a 13-game schedule that includes home games against Wisconsin and Texas Christian and trips to West Virginia, Brigham Young, Utah and Hawaii.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at email@example.com or 702-387-2914.Watch the video