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Know your enemy: UNLV edition

We’ve got a full day to look forward to UFC 243 Boise State football, so might as well pass that time on your couch watching other football and reading obscure and tactically-unimportant facts about tonight’s foe, right? Most of these are repeats from KYE’s gone by, but if you’re like me, you’ve forgotten them (speaking of which, where are my keys and more importantly—where am I?).

Ten things you might not know about UNLV or the bettor place they call home

10) Las Vegas, Nevada was established in 1905 and incorporated in 1911, but it had been a stopover for European explorers and westward settlers all the way back to the mid-19th century. The name Las Vegas was given by Spaniard Antonio Armijo and either means “the meadows” or “$2.99 Seafood Buffet”. Early on, the city was a lot less glitzy and a lot less crimey. In fact, early on the settlement was rather Mormony—with Brigham Young deploying scores of missionaries to the area to convert the Paiute Indians (rather than bring gifts of blankets, they brought Jell-O casseroles and funeral potatoes). It wasn’t until the ‘30s and ‘40s that Hoover Dam workers and later Manhattan Project workers helped fuel the “entertainment” aspects of the desert oasis. Legitimate businessman* Bugsy Siegel funded most of the original gambling dens in the city and would be quite put out to see what Celine Dion has done to the joint.

9) Nevada Southern University—now UNLV—was first devised as a southern offshoot of the University of Nevada in 1951 and held their first classes at Las Vegas High School. In 1957, the Board of Regents got around to making its founding official and after another 7 years they held their first commencement. Let’s see...13 years between inception and commencement; that sounds like the same college plan I was on...of course my first 3 years were spent largely playing hacky sack and Goldeneye.

8) UNLV adopted The Rebels as their official nickname on or around 1969, and according to wikipedia legend did it to take a bit of a dig at their northern rivals, the University of Nevada-Reno. Of course, the school reasoned that the best way to do this would be to adopt a mascot wearing a confederate army uniform...because that doesn’t have any other connotations whatsoever. The original mascot, an anthropomorphic Wolf, was named Beauregard, but he’s since become human and renamed “Hey Reb!” I believe this moniker came about when an administrator overheard the following exchange on the sidelines of a football game: “Hey Reb! Can you move out of the way? I’m trying to watch some terrible football.”

Mustache on loan from Pat Hill...hat on loan from Boris Badenov

7) UNLV played their first collegiate football game in 1968 with coach Bill “Blarney Stone” Ireland at the helm. The team went 8-1 that first year—which merely served to get everyone’s hopes up as they’ve only notched 18 winning seasons in the subsequent 42 years. Of course, the winningest coach in their history was near and dear to Bronco hearts—coach Tony Knap, who notched 47 victories with the Rebels...a tally that no other UNLV coach has even come within striking distance of. The late coach racked up 71 victories at Boise State—making him the winningest coach at BSU as well until Chris Petersen flew into town on angel wings.

6) No coach has left UNLV with a winning record since Harvey Hyde did so in 1985. Hyde didn’t set the college football world ablaze with his .576 win percentage, but he does have the distinction of coaching one of the best squads in UNLV history—the 11-2 1984 team—that also was one of the most ineligible teams in UNLV history, forcing them to vacate all those ill-gotten wins. Hyde stepped down after a dismal 5-5-1 campaign and took all the remaining chutzpah the program had with him as the rebs have notched just 5 winning seasons since. This sad saga disproves the old adage that “cheaters never prosper” as they seem to have been the only ones to have had any success at UNLV for quite some time.

5) Jerry Tarkanian looked like Uncle Fester, had an odd habit of biting towels on the bench, and may have allowed a prominent gambler to win over recruits...but the dude could coach. Tarkanian arrived at UNLV in 1973...just 3 years after the school’s athletics programs had joined Division 1 and built the team into a national powerhouse. Tarkanian took the Rebels to their first Final Four after just 4 years on the job and led them to 3 more before leaving the school (in shame, I might add) in 1992. The Runnin’ Rebels won the title in 1990 by destroying Duke 103-73...a beating that the Duke program was sadly never able to recover from. Tarkanian left the school amid allegations of running a dirty program...just like he did after coaching at Fresno State. Bummer...otherwise that legacy would’ve been as sterling as Bobby Knight’s...oh wait.


”The higher the thread count, the tastier the towel.”

4) UNLV’s oldest and bitterest rival is their northern counterpart, the University of Nevada-Reno (and frankly, I’m not that fond of them myself). The Rebels have played the Wolf Pack, nearly uninterrupted, since 1969...with 15 of the contests going their way and 22 going to Reno. Annually, the two squads play for the Fremont Cannon—an actual cannon donated to the schools by the Kennecott Copper Corporation. The cannon is named after famed(?) explorer, politician, military officer, and general doer-of-things John C. Fremont, who legend has it, left a similar such cannon in a snow drift in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The cannon used to be completely functional prior to 2000, but UNLV fans attempted to lift the nearly 600 lb. armament after a victory over Nevada and subsequently dropped it (sadly not trapping Chris Ault underneath). This butterfingers move earned UNLV fans the Al Borges Award for failure to “act like you’ve been there before.”

3) UNLV’s school of engineering bears the name of famous aviator, director, rich guy and weirdo Howard Hughes. Hughes connection to UNLV can probably best be traced to the end of his life, when his reclusive lifestyle and crippling OCD led him to take up residence in the famous Desert Inn in Las Vegas. Hughes originally was supposed to stay at the hotel for 10 days, but when checkout time came and the staff got impatient, Hughes pulled a Bruce Wayne and just bought the hotel outright, then lived there for another 2 years...2 more really creepy years.


Not just a weirdo with a mustache. A billionaire weirdo with a mustache.

2) Archie C. Grant Hall, is a multipurpose facility on the campus of UNLV that was built in 1959. The building is named for a Nevada Southern regent who championed the need for a separate state college in Las Vegas and despite not being mentioned anywhere, the building has an ear on it. Honest to goodness—an ear—but that wasn’t worth even a passing mention, UNLV? Come on, people this could be on of the 8 wonders of the modern world and you’re leaving it to google sleuths like me to ferret out this info? Is UNLV trying to cover up the fact that one of their campuses oldest buildings has a human ear on it? Is there a wax problem? Did Vincent Van Gogh leave money in his will to fund the project? That’s a pretty big appendage to hang out there with no explanation, UNLV. The Sphinx has no nose and it’s a huge deal...Archie C. Grant Hall has an ear on it and you’d never know it except that I just told you. This is an outrage.

“Speak up—my other ear is a block away.”

1) In 1967 Evel Knievel was in Las Vegas to watch a middleweight title fight when he gazed at the fountains in front of Caesar’s Palace and quipped “what a magical place to break every bone in my body”. A few phone calls were placed and on December 31st of the same year, Knievel got his chance to show the world what it would look like if a human’s body was made of gelatin. The following footage is of Knievel’s slightly less-than-successful jump. 7 years later, Knievel attempted to jump the Snake River Canyon outside of Twin Falls, Idaho (and failed). Because of these two events, Idaho and Las Vegas are inextricably linked as two places that Evel Knievel valiantly tried to pulverize himself in front of a TV audience.

Nailed it. His humerus into his ulna, I mean.