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UNLV ‘very excited’ to share Las Vegas stadium with Raiders

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The biggest news of the day in the NFL has a decidedly college football connection.

By a 31-1 vote, NFL owners approved the Raiders move from Oakland to Las Vegas later this decade.  The new stadium that will eventually serve as the home for the NFL club is expected to be ready for play for the 2020 season.

As expected, it will also serve as the new home for Sin City’s FBS team, a fact that UNLV’s hierarchy was quick to point out and highlight in the hours after the vote was officially confirmed.  Below are the statements from the three main characters involved with the football program.

Len Jessup, UNLV President
UNLV and the entire Rebel family welcome the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas. We look forward to a long-term partnership with the Raiders and the Stadium Authority Board to give UNLV football access to a world-class stadium and accompanying game day experience that will rival the best in college football. We also recognize and thank the numerous stakeholders – including the Adelson family – who invested their time and energy toward this vision. This is an historic day for Nevada and another example of how Las Vegas continues to reinvent itself.

Tina Kunzer-Murphy, UNLV Athletics Director
We are very excited to welcome the Raiders to our great city of Las Vegas. Our community is on the rise and that has clearly been recognized by the NFL owners with today’s vote. We can’t wait for the day our UNLV football program has a new home, sharing the new world-class stadium with the Las Vegas Raiders. What a great day for the NFL, our city and our university.

Tony Sanchez, UNLV Football Head Coach
Today is a huge development for UNLV Football and the city of Las Vegas. Sharing a state-of-the-art stadium with the Raiders is another thing that will allow us to recruit at a high level. The combination of an NFL stadium and our upcoming Fertitta Football Complex brings so much energy to this program and campus. As someone who has lived here for eight years, I’m also excited for this community. This is a great place to live and the pride of being an NFL city will make it an even better place.

In addition to being tenants in a new state-of-the-art stadium, the university will soon begin construction on an on-campus football practice facility.

There are five FBS teams that will share stadiums with NFL teams on at least a part-time basis in 2017 — UMass (New England Patriots, Gillette Stadium), Miami (Miami Dolphins, Sun Life Stadium), Temple (Philadelphia Eagles, Lincoln Financial Field), Pitt (Pittsburgh Steelers, Heinz Field) and USF (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Raymond James Stadium).  Georgia State had shared the Georgia Dome with the Atlanta Falcons but are moving to the new Turner Field this season, while San Diego State will still call Qualcomm Stadium home even as the Chargers have bolted the facility for Los Angeles.

There has been chatter that both Temple (HERE) and USF (HERE) could find themselves in a position to build an on-campus stadium at some point down the road — although the latter could extend its agreement with its current home as it continues to evaluate its long-term plans.

The Los Angles Rams are also temporarily crashing at the home of the USC Trojans, Memorial Coliseum, until their new stadium is completed.

UNLV goes Ivy in replacing RBs coach poached by North Carolina

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Raided by the ACC, UNLV has officially turned its eyes to the Ivy League for its coaching replacement.

Travis Burkett, the football program has announced, has been hired the Rebels’ running backs coach.  Burkett will replace DeAndre Smith, who left last week for a job at North Carolina.

Smith had been with Tony Sanchez‘s program for just three months or so, coming to Las Vegas by way of Purdue.

The past 10 seasons, Burkett served as an assistant at Cornell.  Prior to that, he was a graduate assistant at Bucknell.

This will be Burkett’s first job at any capacity at the FBS level.  His new employer added the following in announcing his addition:

At UNLV, Burkett inherits a rushing attack that stood 15th in the nation last fall with 241.5 yards per game, which ranked fourth in program history and was the most since 1979. All three of the team’s top rushers return in 2017.

Independents and Group of Five National Signing Day Recap: Irish bounce back, Memphis tops AAC

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Outside of the Power Five conferences, recruiting went about as expected in 2017.

Notre Dame continued to pound the national trail and landed a top 12 class full of players who will be expected to play early. BYU managed another impressive group that was one of the most diverse out there. The schools with a talent-rich backyard to draw on did well in the AAC.  Boise State was once again tops in the Mountain West and did better than a few peers in the region. And yes, Lane Kiffin earned that recruiting reputation by pulling in the best class of Conference USA.

Though there wasn’t much drama outside the top schools, there nevertheless was plenty of action for many programs on National Signing Day.

Top recruits (all rankings via 247Sports Composite): No. 67 overall Brock Wright (TE, Notre Dame), No. 154 overall Chaz Ah You (DB, BYU), Aisa Kelemete (DE, Boise State), Nick Robinson (TE, Memphis), Nicholas Sims (RB, Toledo)

Top classes: Notre Dame (No. 11 overall), Memphis (No. 58 overall), Boise State (No. 60 overall), BYU (No. 65 overall), Florida Atlantic (No. 71 overall), Toledo (No. 74 overall), Texas State (No. 87 overall)

Biggest storyline: Irish still land solid recruiting class

Despite the worst season in South Bend since Charlie Weis and a nearly brand new coaching staff, Notre Dame still managed to cobble together a top 12 class on Signing Day. Tight end Brock Wright was the highest rated player and should see early playing time but the number of quality offensive linemen was really evident in the group Brian Kelly signed. Will it be enough to help with a big turnaround? We’ll see.

Biggest surprise: Memphis runs away with things in the AAC but new coaches still fared well

Given all the turnover in the American this year, it should probably come as no surprise that the Tigers pulled the top recruiting class in the conference. That’s a testament to what Mike Norvell is building with the program and the fact that they don’t have to go far for players. Many of the same factors played a role in Scott Frost landing the second-best class at UCF. It was also pretty impressive what Luke Fickell did on the recruiting trail at Cincinnati and Charlie Strong did at USF given those two didn’t have a ton of time to get things lined up.

Don’t sleep on: Boise State, Colorado State

The Broncos were once again the class of the Mountain West on the recruiting trail and fended off several Pac-12 schools for prospects. That will put them firmly in the mix to win the league again in 2017 but don’t overlook another good job by Mike Bobo and staff at Colorado State in landing 17 three-star players.

We’ll see about: Everybody else

UNLV extends Tony Sanchez’s contract through 2021

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Last season marked just the third time in UNLV history and first time since 1999-2000 that the Rebels won more games than the previous season for a second straight year.  For that rather program-specific historic development, the head coach has been rewarded.

UNLV announced in a press release Friday night that the university and Tony Sanchez have reached an agreement in principle on a three-year contract extension.  The new deal would keep the head coach with the football program through the 2021 season.

Sanchez’s original deal had been scheduled to run through the 2018 season.

“Tony signed a four-year contract and halfway through it, we are even more convinced he is the answer to the question of how to make UNLV Football consistently successful,” athletic director  Tina Kunzer-Murphy said. “Continuity is important in turning this program around and Tony’s success in building a roster, building the brand and building interest and support throughout the community has earned him an extension to see that vision realized.”

Sanchez, hired away from national high school power Las Vegas Bishop Gorman in 2014 having never coached at the collegiate level, went 3-9 in his first season with the Rebels.  That was the most wins for a first-year Rebels coach since College Football Hall of Famer John Robinson hit the same mark in 1999.

He was also the first to stake claim to the Fremont Cannon for beating in-state rival Nevada on the road in his first season.

“I want to thank President [Len] Jessup and Tina for their continued support along with the entire Southern Nevada community, which has been unbelievable throughout our first two years here,” Sanchez said. “I am so excited to be leading UNLV Football for years to come.”

There was no word on what if any raise was included in the extension.  In 2016, Sanchez was paid $510,000; that level of compensation was 11th in the 12-team Mountain West Conference.

Mountain West commissioner says Chargers’ move to LA played role in Poinsettia Bowl folding

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One of the bigger surprises this offseason has been the announcement that the Poinsettia Bowl was closing its doors and folding for good this year after a strong dozen year run.

The move has left several in college athletics scrambling as a result of the shakeup to the postseason picture and the league most directly affected is the Mountain West. Perhaps not surprisingly, commissioner Craig Thompson isn’t too thrilled with the big hole in the bowl lineup now and went on 93.1FM/1350AM The Ticket up in Boise, Idaho to discuss the move and some of the reasoning behind it.

What’s most interesting there is the fact that Thompson thinks the Chargers move from San Diego to Los Angeles played a role in the decision to cancel the game. The Holiday Bowl, run by the same organization, has denied that is behind folding the game but has already begun to explore moving from Qualcomm Stadium to the San Diego Padres’ home of Petco Park in case the city decides to close the football stadium after next year.

“This is purely a decision made for our organization,” Mark Neville, executive director of the bowl game association, told the Associated Press last week.”It’s a completely different environment. Doing two games in San Diego, in the span of a week, is becoming more and more challenging in relation to ticket sales and sponsorships.”

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, as it has no doubt become much tougher to operate two bowl games in one city and the fact that the local pro football team is heading up the 405 certainly doesn’t help matters. In addition to the Mountain West needing to find a new spot for bowl eligible teams in 2017, BYU — which beat Wyoming in the final Poinsettia Bowl last December — is also looking for a new bowl game to go to next season.