With no game to play last weekend, UNLV coach Tony Sanchez and his staff oversaw practices before heading out Thursday for a series of recruiting trips.
Even as speculation swirled that he would soon be on the way out, Sanchez and his assistant coaches approached their jobs as if no such questions existed.
They even landed commitments from two offensive linemen — Alani Makihele from West High School in Anchorage, Alaska, and Dirk Nelson from Central Valley Christian in Visalia, California.
“At the end of the day, no matter what, I control certain things and certain things I don’t,” Sanchez said after practice Tuesday . “I can control how hard I work and the attitude I have every single day. So all the way through the finish line, we’re going to mentor these kids. We’re going to coach these kids. We’re going to recruit our darn tails off. That’s never going to change.”
UNLV has landed 11 commitments for this recruiting class, putting the Rebels fourth in the Mountain West in the 247Sports composite rankings. The two recent commitments haven’t been included in the rankings.
Sanchez said the recruits who have asked about his future are locals.
“There’s a lot of energy about what we’re doing outside,” Sanchez said. “Sometimes inside the bubble it gets tough, and I understand that. But I think there are a lot of people that still believe in what we’re doing, and you get that feedback when you’re on the road.”
UNLV (2-7, 0-5 Mountain West) returns to the field at 1 p.m. Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium to play Hawaii (6-4, 3-3) in the Ninth Island Showdown. The Rebels will be without offensive left tackle Justice Oluwaseun (ankle) and tight end Noah Bean (concussion). Defensive tackle Dominion Ezinwa (ankle) also could miss the game.
Because UNLV has only three games left and can’t get to six victories and bowl eligibility, Sanchez knows his job status is in question. Athetic director Desiree Reed-Francois has said she won’t make any announcements until after the season, but she is on record saying she expected bowl eligibility.
But there was wiggle room in that statement, and perhaps a strong finish by UNLV changes the narrative. In his favor, Sanchez was the driving force behind the recently opened Fertitta Football Complex, and next season the team will begin playing in Allegiant Stadium, which is expected to give the program an immediate boost.
He pointed to the program’s academic improvement with a record 19 players making the UNLV dean’s list in the spring, his 18 victories being more than his two predecessors and a 2-2 record against rival UNR after the Rebels had lost nine of the previous 10 meetings.
On what he’s told recruits, Sanchez said, “I’ve invested the last five years of my life making this a quality place, and regardless of what happens, you should still come to UNLV.”