New Mountain West coaches take over solid programs

Coaches who take over football programs usually inherit messes left behind by previous staffs that failed to get the job done.

That’s not the case for the three new coaches of Mountain West programs.

Brian Polian takes over at UNR, which comes off eight consecutive bowl appearances. Ron Caragher at San Jose State and Matt Wells at Utah State lead programs that each went 11-2 last season.

The vacancies were created when Chris Ault retired from UNR, Mike MacIntyre left San Jose State for Colorado and Gary Andersen exited Utah State for Wisconsin.

“I could’ve gotten a job that was 1-11 and deteriorating,” Polian said Tuesday during conference media days at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

“Our staff is inheriting a thing where there is a standard of excellence that’s already established. There’s a winning tradition. These are good problems to have.”

■u2007SPECIAL HELP — Wyoming junior quarterback Brett Smith received personal work last week in San Diego from current NFL starters Drew Brees and Carson Palmer and former pro QB Jeff Garcia.

“For me, also being a fan of the game, it’s so cool to be a part of that,” Smith said. “Being in that environment with these guys, seeing how they approach their work … is a really valuable experience for me.”

Smith is dangerous with his arm and feet, last season throwing for 2,837 yards and 27 touchdowns and rushing for 248 yards and six scores.

But he also wasn’t completely healthy, dealing with concussion issues and even missing two starts.

“We had four games he didn’t play in the fourth quarter, and we lost by one (point), two and three and overtime,” Wyoming coach Dave Christensen said. “He’s obviously the catalyst of our offense, and not having him there could’ve been the difference in the score in those four games that were so close.”

Meaning the Cowboys easily could’ve finished 8-4 rather than 4-8.

■u2007BOWL TALK PART I — The Las Vegas Bowl extended its contract with the Pacific 12 Conference for six years, taking the deal through 2019. An agreement with the Mountain West has not yet been reached beyond this year.

This year’s game will be Saturday, Dec. 21, at 12:30 p.m.

■u2007BOWL TALK PART II — Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said the conference probably won’t renew its agreement with the Armed Forces Bowl after this season.

That game could be replaced with a series of three rotating games over six years in the Southeast, such as in Shreveport, La., and a possible new bowl in Montgomery, Ala.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.

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