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UNLV, UNR strike out with homecoming date

Can’t these two schools talk to each other?

Nevada’s two state universities — UNLV and UNR — had their homecoming football games on the same date this season, Oct. 18.

It would be bad enough if Nevada’s institutions of higher learning did it out of arrogance or self-serving reasons alone.

But — get this — they did it because neither one knew what the other was doing. Neither one had any idea when the other one had scheduled its homecoming game.

When told the state’s only two football-playing schools had the same homecoming date, UNLV athletic director Mike Hamrick said, “Is that right? I didn’t know.”

UNR athletic director Cary Groth said she didn’t know about the conflict until Jeanne Ireland told her the night before the Reno homecoming game. Ireland is the widow of Bill Ireland, UNLV’s first football coach.

Jeanne Ireland saw Groth at the dinner ceremony to induct Bill Ireland, a former UNR baseball coach, into the Reno school’s Hall of Fame.

The homecoming conflict hit the Ireland family perhaps harder than anyone else. UNR’s Hall of Fame inductees were also honored at the Wolf Pack homecoming game, which meant the Ireland family could not attend the UNLV homecoming game the same night when the school honored the 40th anniversary of the first Rebels football team coached by Ireland in 1968.

It is a big mistake by both schools to have their homecomings on the same date. Many people have ties to both schools and would like to attend both homecomings. Even if they don’t have direct ties, there are football fans who would like to go to both games. That is a point that Hamrick volunteered.

Officials such as the governor and U.S. senators should go to both homecomings if their schedules allow. And they should do everything they can to make their schedules allow it.

I remember the late Gov. Mike O’Callaghan being a big college football fan and a huge Oakland Raiders fan. His son, Mike, played football at UNLV in 1975 and 1976.

Another former governor, Richard Bryan, is from Las Vegas and was student body president at UNR, and I know that he has attended many homecomings at both schools.

Former Gov. Kenny Guinn played freshman football at Southern California, then played at Fresno State, and he’s a huge college football fan.

Hamrick and Groth said they will try to avoid homecoming conflicts in the future. I suggested to them that the schools alternate every other year having first choice of their homecoming date and the other school find another date. They have the rest of the home schedule to do it. That seems easy enough.

Both schools said that the athletic department wasn’t alone in selecting the homecoming dates and the student associations, alumni associations and the administrations also were involved.

Hamrick said, “I’ll have a conversation with (Groth) the next time I see her.”

Hamrick said it would be good to have separate homecomings for the two schools, if possible.

“I don’t know if I would make it a policy,” he said. “The conference tells us to hold (homecoming) early.”

Groth said she never talks about homecoming with Hamrick.

“We probably should on a regular basis at least touch base,” she said. “I just don’t think about it. You bring up a good point. But sometimes you don’t have a choice.”

Being an old native Nevadan who has ties to both schools, traditional things such as homecoming games maybe mean more to me than to most.

I also understand that Nevada’s higher education system has greater issues, such as the massive budget cuts the schools are facing. But at the same time it shouldn’t be too difficult to find separate homecoming dates so those who want to can attend both games.

Royce Feour, a longtime sportswriter and boxing columnist for the Review-Journal who retired in 2004, writes an occasional column for the R-J.

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