UNLV’s trip to Brigham Young on Saturday is a reminder that putting together a football schedule — seldom an easy chore – is particularly difficult these days.
The Cougars’ decision to leave the Mountain West Conference next year to become a football independent set off a series of events that forced UNLV athletic director Jim Livengood to make changes next season and beyond.
One of those was to schedule Southern Utah next season on Sept. 24. Livengood also has tentatively agreed to play Western Illinois at home in 2012.
The schedule plays a major role in football, probably more so than in any other sport. UNLV has seen that first hand, playing the most difficult schedule in school history in compiling a 1-7 record (1-3 Mountain West) and suffering many significant injuries.
First-year coach Bobby Hauck said his philosophy about scheduling is too complicated to breezily discuss, but one basic belief cuts to the core of his approach.
“There’s no such thing as a good loss,” Hauck said.
He said he’s working closely with Livengood on future schedules.
“Jim’s great,” Hauck said. “Jim’s been around he block. He understands building programs.”
As Arizona’s athletic director, Livengood hired football coach Mike Stoops. The Wildcats didn’t post a winning record under Stoops until going 8-5 in 2008, his fifth season.
Stoops followed with an 8-5 record again last season and has led Arizona to a 7-1 mark and No. 13 ranking this year.
Livengood continues to express confidence that UNLV, which hasn’t had a winning season since 2000, can become a successful program.
Part of the strategy for success is giving the coach a realistic chance to win, which Hauck probably never had this season. The Rebels’ seven losses came against opponents who are a combined 44-15.
But plenty of uncertainty remains when trying to finalize future schedules.
Boise State joins the Mountain West next season, and UNR and Fresno State make it a 10-team league in 2012. Livengood said it appears the Mountain West will play an eight-team conference schedule beginning that year, though that decision hasn’t been made.
If the conference goes to an eight-team schedule, the Mountain West will have to determine what rotation is set up to skip one team each season. There isn’t a plan to go with divisions, but the league could use such a concept in an unofficial manner where UNLV plays all the teams, for example, in the “West” and all but one in the “East.”
“I think we need to know as soon as possible how that alignment’s going to be,” Livengood said.
UNLV still doesn’t know if it’s playing Washington State next season in Seattle or at the Cougars’ home in Pullman. Livengood said he should know either this week or next week.
Also, in 2012, the Rebels can play 13 games because of their trip to Hawaii. If they complete the deal with Western Illinois, that would give them eight home games.
“In Year Three of the Bobby Hauck era, that would be a good time to have eight home games,” Livengood said.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914.