Know your enemy: Nevada edition

Special Collections Dept., University of Nevada, Reno

"The best way to get along is never to forgive an enemy or forget a friend." —Walter Winchell


Nevada week used to be just like every other week. Boise State would calmly stroll into Mackay Stadium, blow out the hapless Wolf Pack and then celebrate a conference title at midfield. Well, a funny thing happened in 2007...Nevada started fighting back culminating in the epic 2010 game that dashed the Broncos title hopes (we're talking national title hopes), made Kyle Brotzman and Colin Kaepernick household names and for some reason left a really bad taste in the mouths of Bronco fans everywhere. The Broncos were back to their winning ways last season, dispatching the Wolf Pack 30-10 at home...but this will mark the first return game in Reno since the...unpleasantness. Should be more than enough to get the attention of the fans and team—oh, and another title is on the line. This week's Know your enemy is a compilation of old and new factoids about one of the Broncos oldest and bitterest rivals. Enjoy.

Ten things Bronco fans probably didn't know about the Nevada Wolf Pack or their big little city in the desert

10) Reno, Nevada was founded round about 1860 by an intrepid swindler gentleman named William Fuller. Fuller decided to take advantage of the Nevada gold rush by constructing a log bridge over the Truckee river and then charging people to cross it. Soon, Fuller built a hotel on the other side of the bridge, and presumably charged people to look at it. The area became widely known as Fuller's Crossing, for reasons still unknown to historians. Soon, a fellow named Myron Lake decided he wanted in on the sweet "charging people not to drown" racket and bought the bridge and hotel from Fuller. The requisite name change to "Lake's Crossing" followed and by the time the Central Pacific railroad came winding past 8 years later, a city was finally incorporated. The new town was named "Reno" in honor of General Jesse Reno, a Union officer that was killed in the Battle of South Mountain during the Civil War. Those of you waiting for the obligatory Chris Ault joke will be disappointed—he didn't arrive in Reno until at least the turn of the century.

9) The University of Nevada was established in Elko, Nevada in 1874 by the Nevada State Constitution but moved to Reno in 1885 as Reno had much looser slots. The university's first structure, Morrill Hall, was completed in 1887 and named for Sen. Justin Morrill—author of the 1862 Land-Grant College Act and guy that was once sued by the estate of Charles Dickens for stealing the likeness of many of his notable characters.


I have a sudden intense craving for chopped mutton.

8) Nevada played their first season of football (or as it used to be called "bloodbath") in 1896 and went 1-2 against a tough slate of teams that don't exist any more. Wadsworth AC (presumably, a large air conditioner named "Wadsworth") was the squad's first ever opponent, and first ever win...a 30-0 romp. The team quickly fell back to earth, however, with a 70-0 loss to Simon Belmont Academy and a 40-0 defeat at the hands of Cal's JV squad. I know...this would've been a perfect place to put in a "Chris Ault is old joke"...but the head coach of Nevada's inaugural football team was actually Frank L. Taylor. Besides, I find nothing about Ault's age or stature amusing and neither should you.

7) On second thought...
Some don't know that before Chris Ault was the head coach at Nevada he waited tables at the last supper he was starting quarterback for the Wolf Pack. Ault led the Wolf Pack offense from 1965-1967...and how was he? Meh. He guided the Pack to a 16-11-1 record during his time under center...and being only 4'11", I use the term "under center" quite literally.


The photographer is standing in a very deep pothole.

6) UNR football's first All-American (1923) was a diminutive scat-back named James "Rabbit" Bradshaw. After Bradshaw's playing career was over, he went on to coach at Fresno State, where he holds the second highest win-percentage (75%) among all coaches after coaching the Bulldogs for 8 seasons. Bradshaw claimed what drove him from day one was two small children that repeatedly taunted and teased him with a bowl of fruity Trix™ cereal.


"Rabbit" with close personal friend, Jimmy Stewart.

5) The famous "Reno Arch" was erected on Virginia Street in 1926 to promote the Transcontinental Highways Exposition of 1927. After the exposition, the Reno City Council decided to keep the arch as a permanent downtown gateway, and Mayor E.E. Roberts (no relation) asked the citizens of Reno to suggest a slogan for the arch. In 1929, after a $100 prize was offered, G.A. Burns (George?) of Sacramento was declared the winner with "Reno, The Biggest Little City in the World". G.A.'s backup slogan was "Abandon hope, all ye that enter".


Well, you're've probably made a big little mistake.

4) The Wolf Pack's mascot is a anthropomorphic wolf by the name of Alphie. Alphie has a younger brother named Wolfie Jr., who was apparently named after Alphie's uncle Wolfie (I'm not making this up, folks). Keen observers will tell you that Wolfie Jr. resembles his uncle a little "too" closely, if you know what I mean.

Alphie is the central character in a novel children's book called The Wild Wolf Pack Mystery where he scours Reno for legalized brothels the game day basketball. Frankly, I found the book to be predictable...Alphie finds the ball in the end and returns it to the arena rather than being picked up by Fish and Game officers and relocated to Canada.

3) In 1919 coach R.O. Courtright led his team to back-to-back 100+ point wins as he downed Pacific 132-0 and then blanked Mare Island Navy 102-0 three days later. As usual, a little more research tends to diminish the wins a tad as I later found out that "Pacific" was just a jug of ocean water and "Mare Island Navy" was a discount purveyor of jeans and t-shirts in the GAP family of stores.


"I will use this 3-wood to crush your dreams."

2) The Wolf Pack play their games at Mackay Stadium (33,400 capacity). The stadium is named for Clarence H. Mackay, the son of John W. Mackay, a silver and telegraph mogul. Clarence Mackay was an early financier of the university and gifted the school the Mackay School of Mines. Mackay was a tad eccentric, some might say...he collected medieval suits of armor, refused to marry his second wife for 15 years until his first wife died, and disinherited his daughter after she married composer Irving Berlin.


Clarence Mackay celebrating the first Movember.

1) Each year, UNR and UNLV battle on the gridiron for the Fremont Cannon. The cannon goes to the victor of the contest for a year and it's undercarriage is painted in the winning school's colors. The cannon is a replica of the howitzer cannon that explorer John Fremont and his party hauled west and abandoned (a loose cannon, perhaps) in the Sierra Nevada in 1844. Fremont was also the first Republican nominee for President of the United States...he didn't win, of course—maybe the nation was looking for a leader that didn't just leave cannons lying around.

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