Doug Knuth's Mailbag: Wolf Pack athletic director fields fans' burning questions

Doug Knuth
Nevada athletic director Doug Knuth answers your questions in his Monday Mailbag. (Byrne Photo/Nevada athletics)

Typically, Nevada Sports Net columnist Chris Murray publishes his weekly Monday Mailbag in this spot. But with Murray on vacation this week, Nevada Wolf Pack athletic director Doug Knuth is pinch hitting in his place. Knuth opened his Twitter account Sunday night to inquires from Wolf Pack fans. Here are some of his answers to those questions.

(Note: If you're not seeing the tweets, it's probably because you're not using Google Chrome. Use Google Chrome).

Fantastic question to start because I believe strongly in the power of advisors, guides or mentors. No one accomplishes anything great without help. I lean on so many people professionally, and personally, that to acknowledge one person without the many others would be improper.

I’ll answer your second question more directly with a memorable piece of advice from my favorite sports administration professor at Ohio University, Dr. Andrew Kreutzer. About the old adage that people use when talking about advancing in a career – "It’s not what you know, but who you know that counts," he stated, paraphrasing, that it’s not who you know that counts but rather – who knows you. His point with that redirect is that it doesn’t matter so much if you "know" important people. It matters much more that important people know you, by your hard-work and results. That has always stuck with me and I always share that story with students who want to meet with me about being an AD some day! Work hard, produce good results and the right people will know you.

I don’t play golf enough to be truly competitive. I play for fun and relaxation. Some people don’t understand that perspective, but I really enjoy spending time on the golf course with people and could care less about my score (85-90, depending on the difficulty of the course for those that care). Maybe someday I’ll be more competitive on the golf course, but right now it’s a relaxing way to step away from the stresses of life and spend quality time with people.

Impossible to answer because the eras and styles are so different. Rod Laver was a magician. Ivan Lendl, my childhood hero, was like a robot and crushed people. Pete Sampras was the greatest serve and volley player (my style). Roger Federer is an artist on the court and maybe the best all-around player. Rafael Nadal is unequivocally the greatest clay court player and challenging to be the best all-around competitor/athlete to ever play tennis. Novak Djokovic is the mentally toughest person to ever play the game. I’ll go with Federer at this point but Rafa and Joker are close behind.

On the women’s side, I have always been a Steffi Graf fan but it’s impossible to say Serena Williams isn’t the GOAT. Her power is unmatched and now she has proven longevity.

I don’t see how the Mackay renovations are related to decreasing attendance. The renovated areas – additional permanent women’s restrooms are a big positive; the new scoreboard and sound system have been positive; the chairback seats are a relief compared to the old bleachers in those sections and relatively full on the west side (we rarely sold many season tickets on the east side with, or without, chairback seats); the Club Level and Loge Box seats have been sold out each year.

From my perspective, the decline in attendance is more a function of softness in the less expensive seating areas. More on that in the next question.

Getting more fans to attend games depends on a lot of factors – a consistently winning Wolf Pack team, weather, opponent name brand, current Wolf Pack win/loss record, kick time, whether our game is televised, other games televised, other community activities at the same time. Each person reading this response can probably add more items to the list that are important to their decision to buy tickets and attend Wolf Pack games.

In terms of things we can control, Coach Norvell is doing a solid job building a consistently winning team. When possible, we schedule non-televised games to meet the preferred kick times that our fans often request (evening times in September/early October and afternoon times in late October/November), and, when possible, we schedule around other local community events.

Our challenge is to make the game-day experience more entertaining so every person in Northern Nevada views a Wolf Pack game (any sport) as simply the best entertainment value for their family or business. We aren’t there yet but we are always looking at ways to improve.

In recent years, we improved tailgating by moving large tailgate groups closer to the stadium; we improved post-game traffic flow leaving the stadium; and we are working with our concessionaire to enhance and improve food/beverage choices. Beginning this year, we sent a survey to season ticket holders after games to ask for feedback and the responses have been very helpful. As we prepare for the 2020 football season, we are reviewing ticket prices, student section seat location and looking for ways to make the pre-game and in-game atmosphere more fun to meet the goal of being the best family/business value in Northern Nevada. I expect to share more details of these topics by early February.

I can’t comment on how or why other schools make the decisions they make, but @MurrayNSN provided the budget data in a recent post. Check it out here.

In terms of our budget, we are one of the smallest budgets in the MWC. That dictates our ability to offer competitive salaries, invest in competitive operating budgets, improve our facilities, and much more. Until @mugtang wins the lottery and donates millions to the Pack, we offer the best we can with what we have.

Most people reading this piece understand that living in Northern Nevada is pretty nice. I enjoy the outdoor lifestyle and I love the people here. Ultimately, what every coach and AD wants is an opportunity to win at a high level. I believe we can win at a high level and we are building toward that goal.

In terms of what fans can do to help keep people here: keep supporting our teams and helping us win MWC championships. The more support our coaches experience (buying tickets, supporting the department and team booster clubs), the more likely coaches will stay a long time because they can win here and have a great quality of life.

Can we do it? Yes, we can but it’s not something I take lightly and there would have to be significant benefit to the athletics department to add a corporate name to our venues.

I have so many great memories. The first great memory was traveling to Las Vegas with our Track & Field team in the spring of 2013 – my first trip with one of our teams. I loved seeing our athletes compete – the school pride in these young women is unmatched.

My second great memory was traveling to Wyoming with our women’s basketball team. After the game our flight was cancelled due to weather and the next available flight was four days later (I’m not kidding) so we rented a bus and drove fifteen hours back to Reno. It was great getting to know that team and coaches during that challenge. They were so resilient and inspiring.

I have many other memories of winning MWC titles, upsetting a favored opponent, and Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, but the one great memory I get to experience twice each year is graduation. There is nothing better than seeing the pride in the faces of the athletes’ parents, siblings and families as their student dons the cap and gown for commencement. It’s magic every time!

Opportunity to win and a great quality of life in this community.

The long-awaited and much-needed indoor fieldhouse is still a dream for us. The project is estimated to cost $15-18 million and will be 100% privately funded. Finding that amount of money has been a challenge for decades. I believe we can get it done as a shared-use, shared-funded facility with the university students funding a portion and private fundraising providing the rest. We have to find the private dollars before we can ask the students to participate.

Nevada and UNLV petitioned the MWC to move our game to the traditional football rivalry weekend for a number of reasons. Here are a few of the reasons: it’s a tradition for teams to play their rival on the final weekend of the regular season – look around the country at all the great games that weekend, we want Nevada/UNLV to be in that conversation; it’s an emotionally draining game for both teams and it’s really hard to bounce back the following week to play another opponent; when both teams are good in the same year the game is incredibly meaningful for the Cannon, state bragging rights, MWC Division championship and access to the MWC championship game; bowl placement and more. The key part of that sentence is – when both teams are good – and in contention for a MWC Division title – this should be a great game for our State, our Division and our Conference.

If all those things are true, I think people will be excited to be in the stadium and cheering for their team to beat the rival, win the Cannon, win the MWC Division and go to the MWC championship. That’s the kind of thing fans want most!

I understand it might be cold in November but I look around the country during rivalry weekend and it’s cold every place. I’m from the east coast and I’ve worked in the upper mid-west and mountain time zones – believe me when I tell you it’s MUCH nicer in Reno in late November than those other places. We can get better crowds.

I love to vacation any place – mountains, beach, warm, snow, etc. I always find great things to do on vacation. My favorite place to visit is my parent’s house in Connecticut where I grew up. For obvious reasons, there’s no better place to visit than family and friends.

The best part of my job is the people you meet. Every day I am surrounded by people who LOVE the Wolf Pack. There are rarely people at our games who are luke-warm about the Pack. They buy tickets and support the teams because they want us to win and enhance school and community pride. Nothing better than that.

Worst part of my job is losing. When any team loses, it hurts me because I know the amount of time and effort the coaches and athletes have invested in preparing to compete. Losing stinks and I feel every loss with our teams. I can be having a perfectly nice day and then I hear one of our teams lost and it sinks my day. Imagine living that way – it’s not for everyone!

In addition to funding higher education and college athletics at higher levels, our legislators are tasked with balancing myriad of other important needs for the citizens of our State. They have a tough job.

Couldn’t agree more. He is a wonderful person and a heck of a basketball coach. We are lucky to have him and we need to help him build the program to sustain national level success. We tasted that in recent years, now we have to invest to make sure we stay at that level.

I wouldn’t put a number on coach Alford other than to say that if any coach can get us to the NCAA tournament on a regular basis, he and his staff are the right people.

You’re right. We have to find the voice in our program to talk directly to fans to in the social media world. It’s so important for recruiting and fan engagement.

Simple answer, it would take the head coaches at those schools to agree to play us at Lawlor. We had USC and Utah play here this year but those type of games are difficult to get on the schedule because most coaches don’t like to play tough opponents on the road. A stronger RPI/NET ranking has helped us the last few years because potential opponents see us a good road win or a good road loss due to the NET rankings. If we stay higher, we have a chance to get solid opponents at Lawlor.

Thanks for asking, but I never discuss personnel issues in public.

Trail running/hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing, skiing, tennis, golf or anything active. As I look at those activities, none of them are‘leisurely!

Thanks for asking, but I never discuss personnel issues in public, especially searches that are occurring at other schools.

See previous answers – I love living here and want to stay as long as I believe we can win at a high level.

I was in the front of Nevada section cheering with our fans!

I don’t get involved in hiring assistant coaches. That’s up to the head coach and I’m certain coach Norvell will hire a great DC.

Is that a thing for serious runners, burning through shoes? I wear the same running shoes for roughly six months regardless of the mileage on the shoes. End of football season means new shoes for me! New shoes coming soon after the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl #gamedayrun

I moved the Penn State game back a few years because the 2020 schedule had us playing twice in the Eastern time zone (Penn State and USF) and once in Hawaii. That’s a lot of travel for the team. The Penn State game will happen in a year when we play Hawaii at home (odd numbered year).

Of course. See you there!

I have no idea what it takes to play in the NFL. I don’t watch the NFL or any pro sports. Too many college and Wolf Pack games to watch.

I sure hope so. Lacrosse is a great sport. I don’t see Nevada adding Lacrosse any time soon but that’s because of our budget, not because Lacrosse isn’t a fantastic sport.

You’re right about our need for new and improved facilities to help us compete in the MWC. President (Marc) Johnson and I are talking about prioritizing the use of this new funding. I don’t have a final answer yet, but I am very aware of the needs.

Returning home to Reno is always my favorite MWC road trip.

I love every destination in our conference, but Reno is the best.

Running in Hawaii is always amazing. Tucson and Laramie were the toughest runs – one was far too hot (96 degrees at 5:30am) and the other was far too cold (-3 degrees and snowing blowing sideways). Buffalo and Indianapolis were the most dangerous/scary. My favorite #gamedayrun is always the one I’m doing at that time because it means I’m on the road with one of our teams and I’m out of the hotel and seeing the community.

Generally speaking, work your tail off, do great work for the right people who will guide your career. Do more, work harder and produce better results than anyone else. And maybe, with some luck, you will get a chance. My story is a long story for another day.

I love rivalry games and UNLV earned the in-state bragging rights for this year in football. I congratulated my friends and colleagues at UNLV after the game.

What I don’t like and I want to eliminate is the dumb way people treat each other around our rivalry. It’s classless and immature. I would like our fans to grow up. I would like UNLV fans to grow up.

Did you watch the Army/Navy football game? Those two schools dislike each other so much. It’s literally tradition to dislike the other team/school. Both teams are incredibly proud and fight so hard throughout the game. Their alumni are proud of their team and cheer like crazy in the stadium and around the world in support of their team. But, when the game ends, both teams and the alumni around the world, have the utmost respect for the other. It’s incredible.

That should not be unique to the Army/Navy game. The same should apply to our rivalry game. We all like a hard-fought game. We all like to win. And after the game, regardless of the result for your team, we have to respect the other team, the other university and the other fans/alumni. That’s a great tradition and we can do that too.

The answer will remain a mystery until someone can answer me this riddle – what is a catch and what is not a catch in college/NFL football?

We didn't quite get to everything, so maybe we can do this again sometime. Thanks for all the questions!

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