Randall Cunningham still has his UNLV letterman jackets from the early 1980s — “made out of satin,” he said — but the College Football Hall of Famer is ready for something more modern.
With Wednesday’s hiring of Oregon offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo as UNLV’s head football coach, an obviously excited and pleased Cunningham exclaimed, “I’m going to buy UNLV gear!”
Cunningham, the greatest player in UNLV history, received his introduction to the new coach with a phone call from Arroyo shortly after he was hired.
“I’m more excited than I ever have been since coach Harvey Hyde left (in 1985),” said Cunningham, who played quarterback for Hyde from 1982 to 1984. “I am very excited about Marcus, like overwhelmed excited. I think we have hope now that we’re going in the right direction.”
Arroyo will be formally introduced at a news conference at 11 a.m. Friday in the Gaughan Family Dining Hall at the Fertitta Football Complex.
Now it’s up to the new coach, 39, to excite the rest of the UNLV fan base. The program has not appeared in a bowl in six years and has put together only three winning records in the past 27 seasons.
One of the longest-suffering fans is Chuck Davison, who was there when the program began in 1968. He is a former two-time president of the UNLV Football Foundation and aches for a day when the Rebels will be consistent winners playing regularly in front of large crowds.
Davison has watched coach after coach attempt to make that dream come true, and in the past he hasn’t been afraid to speak his mind about the state of the program. Arroyo’s hiring also gives him hope.
“I think you’re going to see a new era for UNLV football,” Davison said.
Arroyo was at Oregon for three seasons, also serving as assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach. No. 7 Oregon has averaged 35.9 points a game this season, and quarterback Justin Herbert has completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 3,333 yards, with 32 touchdowns and five interceptions.
The Ducks will face No. 11 Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Arroyo hasn’t said whether he’ll stay on to coach the Oregon offense in that game.
UNLV has not released the financial terms of Arroyo’s contract with the Rebels, but athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois has said it will be competitive compared to other Mountain West schools. That could put Arroyo in the $1 million range.
He inherits from Sanchez the $34.8 million, 73,000-square-foot Fertitta Football Complex that he will be able to use as a major recruiting tool. The Rebels also will begin playing in Allegiant Stadium next season.
“The opportunity to train, practice and compete in some of the country’s best facilities in one of the world’s most vibrant cities cannot be understated,” Arroyo said in a statement. “We will work tirelessly to elevate UNLV football to the championship-caliber program that it is positioned to be. I can’t wait to get started, and I look forward to meeting our student-athletes, support staff and fans.”
He has a big to-do list, from putting together a staff to holding together the recruiting class with the early signing period set to begin next Wednesday.
“We looked for a leader that is a great evaluator of talent, who can sell what makes UNLV, our community and our program unique, and helps develop and prepare our student-athletes for the next level,” Reed-Francois said in a statement. “When Marcus and I reconnected during the search process, his alignment with these attributes became evident.”
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