Murray's Mailbag: What's the most important win in Wolf Pack history?

Nevada football
Nevada versus Boise State in 2010 will be remembered in Northern Nevada forever. (Nevada athletics)

I've heard from several people that the intros to the Monday Mailbag are important, so I'm going to write one this week. Wear a mask in public spaces! Just do it. It doesn't matter if you can't breath as well, it's uncomfortable or you break out. Wearing a mask saves lives and will help us "get back to normal" faster. So put one on when you leave your house and don't complain. So there's the intro. And let's get to the questions for this week's Monday Twitter Mailbag. Thanks, as always, for the inquiries.

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

This one is always a tough call for me, and it became even more difficult in 2018 with Nevada's win over Cincinnati. It used to be between Nevada football's 2010 win over No. 3-ranked Boise State and Wolf Pack basketball's 2004 NCAA Tournament win over No. 2-ranked Gonzaga. Now we can toss in the 2018 NCAA Tournament win over No. 6-ranked Cincinnati into the mix. Personally, I side with the 2004 and 2018 basketball wins because of the stage. As great as the 2010 win over Boise State was, the stakes were simply not as great because it was a regular-season game, albeit arguably the biggest sporting event in Reno since the 1910 Jack Johnson-Jim Jeffries fight. The 2004 and 2018 basketball wins were for a berth in the Sweet 16, which means a victory puts Nevada in a realistic spot of winning a national championship. The Wolf Pack could have gone 13-0 in football in 2010 and still wouldn't have played in a top-tier bowl. As a result, I always single out the Gonzaga or Cincinnati wins as the most important in school history given what they meant in the goal toward winning a national championship. But I think most Wolf Pack fans would pick the 2010 football win over Boise State as the most important in Nevada history, and I won't argue against that given: (a) how long the Wolf Pack pounded against Boise State before beating the Broncos (Colin Kaepernick and crew fell just short three straight seasons); (b) the amount of talent on the field that night (28 NFL players were in that game); (c) the location (it was at home so much of Northern Nevada was in attendance and vividly remember being there); and (d) the drama of the game (Nevada's comeback; Kellen Moore Hail Mary; Kyle Brotzman's missed kicks; Anthony Martinez's game-winning kick). I'd pick the 2018 win over Cincinnati, but the Boise State win was incredible.

Minimal change to be honest. Nevada probably would not have gone to a BCS bowl game even if it went 13-0 during the regular season because TCU went 12-0 that season and earned the Group of 5's BCS bowl spot. TCU spent the entire season in the top six in the nation and beat No. 6-ranked Utah and No. 24-ranked Oregon State (comparable to Nevada's wins over Boise State and Cal). TCU beat six bowl teams that season to Nevada's three wins over bowl teams. The Horned Frogs still go to the Rose Bowl in that scenario, and I don't see Nevada getting an at-large spot in the BCS given the at-larges were all to blueblood programs that each had two losses or fewer. If anything, a win over Hawaii and perfect regular season could have pushed the Wolf Pack into the Las Vegas Bowl (where Boise State went), which would have robbed Nevada fans of the incredible scene at the 2010 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco. The biggest different is the final AP Top 25 ranking. Nevada finishes top seven in the nation with a win over Hawaii instead of 11th.

In terms of program-building, I don't see Nevada's trajectory changing at all with a win over Hawaii. The biggest issue post-2010 was Nevada didn't cash in on improving its infrastructure after that season by using the community excitement to build an indoor facility (the Great Recession of 2007-09 didn't help that cause), and the Wolf Pack's start to the 2011 season was the dumbest in school history in any sport. Nevada began that season with four straight road games and didn't play at home until Oct. 8. So you're coming off this historic season and you start the year by playing four times on the road, including against national powers Oregon and Boise State as well as Texas Tech. You limp into Mackay Stadium with a 1-3 record in the first home game post-2010 win over Boise State and all of the excitement from the previous year is gone (Nevada only went up 863 season tickets between 2010 and 2011).

No. He has a fully guaranteed five-year contract. Ever after this season, Nevada would be on the hook for $2.5 million, and that doesn't even include the buyouts for his assistant coaches. Coach Norvell could go 2-10 this season and he wouldn't be fired. It's not feasible financially. I don't expect Nevada to go 2-10 this season, however. Nine wins is in reach if the Wolf Pack performs to its capability given the schedule.

Nevada athletic director Doug Knuth was listed by Stadium as the 11th-best AD in the Group of 5 in terms of hiring revenue-sport coaches, so that's some good pub. His upward mobility is tied mostly to how Coach Norvell and the Wolf Pack football program do. Yes, Knuth's hiring of Eric Musselman was a huge success, but Nevada football has largely been so-so during Knuth's tenure (the Wolf Pack is 41-47 since 2013, although he didn't hire Brian Polian, who was 23-27). If Nevada football gets to a championship level under Norvell, his résumé becomes much stronger. The inability to raise enough money for a football practice facility and the relative lack of success outside of men's basketball will likely be considered, but if you can build winners in men's basketball (he has) and football (he's trying), you can make the jump to the Power 5. It's more likely than not Knuth is still at Nevada in five years (his contract runs through 2023), but I wouldn't rule out a move up if Nevada football can win and draw better than it has in recent years.

I forgot how much I hated traveling to cover road games until just now. We'll include Hawaii, but there are only 10 airports below since I fly into Denver for trips to Colorado State, Air Force and Wyoming. These rankings are not just what's inside the airport. I also factor in convenience, service and location.

1. Reno (we have a very good airport except for the lack of direct flights to places where there should be direct flights)

2. Boise (it's basically the same as Reno's airport, and the reason these are 1-2 is because they don't require a shuttle to get your rental car)

3. Las Vegas (exceptionally smooth considering the size of Las Vegas; biggest downside is the hungover people all over the place after a weekend of partying; reason it's not No. 1 is because it requires a shuttle to get a rental car)

4. Salt Lake (I go into Salt Lake on trips to Logan, and Salt Lake is probably the largest airport with on-site rental car service; as you might notice, on-site rental car service is important to me)

5. Albuquerque (the airport and university are 2 miles apart and there are a ton of hotels in between; very convenient)

6. Hawaii (I love myself a good open-air airport)

7. Denver (some people love it, others hate it; it's in the middle of nowhere and always has horrible lines but is exceptionally nice and modern inside)

8. San Jose (I always drive this trip, but I've been to San Jose's airport a few times for journeys to Hawaii; it's fine, nothing special)

9. Fresno (I've never been to the Fresno airport since I always drive this trip, but I assume it's bad because it's in Fresno)

10. San Diego (worst airport in America; sometimes you have to go through security again on layovers)

Coach Norvell has the right formula in football. Since taking over at Nevada, here is the breakdown of scholarship players he's signed (this doesn't include the 2021 class since those players haven't inked their deals).

California – 55

Texas – 8

Arizona – 6

Utah, Georgia, Oregon, Nevada, Ohio, Florida, Oklahoma – 2

Louisiana, Washington, Nebraska, Hawaii, Alabama – 1

The Wolf Pack should get 60 to 70 percent of its players from California. That's what Chris Ault did to a lot of success. That was one of Norvell's big selling points during the interview process at Nevada. He made a list of all of Nevada's NFL players and showed almost all of them came from California, an area he had recruited for a long time. So you park seven of your 10 assistant coaches in California to recruit and then dabble a little in Arizona and Texas while trying to keep the local kids home (Nevada could do a better job of that).

In basketball, the geography isn't nearly as important because recruiting classes are so much smaller (three or four players per class, and usually one-third of them are transfers nowadays). Just go get the best players available, although most of them should come from the West Coast with some Indiana flair since Coach Alford and Coach Neal have so many ties to the state.

How about the Powers? Walt Powers was an elite athlete at Sparks High who excelled in football, basketball and track and field. Gary Powers was a Douglas High star who coached Nevada baseball for multiple decades. Both are in the Wolf Pack Hall of Fame, one of only two father-son duos to be so honored (also the Keshmiris). I'd also nominate the Nadys with Creighton J. Nady being in the Nevada Hall of Fame, Jeff Nady potentially making it and Jay Nady being a championship-level boxing referee. The coolest story is the Klekas boys. Father Chris Klekas has been Elko's head basketball coach for the last 26 seasons, the longest consecutively tenured basketball coach in the state. Klekas has 10 kids, including nine boys, eight of whom have played in his program with the ninth having Down syndrome and being the team manager. Klekas has won eight regional titles but is still searching for his first state championship. I doubt a story like this ever happens in Northern Nevada again.

I don't think we should be playing sports in 2020, especially college athletics. I don't think we've earned it. I wrote 1,200 words on that earlier this morning. Sports, as much as we love them, are non-essential, and if not for trying to satisfy television contracts, we wouldn't be playing them right now. It's all about the money, which I guess is OK at the pro level where players get millions of dollars. It's far less OK in college where the reward is a scholarship.

Barring the catastrophic, I don't see states closing down completely given the economic toll that follows. Of course, if we closed down early and longer in the first place, we'd be in a much better situation to fully reopen. But we didn't do those things. We half-assed it, and the economic damage is going to be more significant as a result. In terms of mask wearing, if a person is not doing so in public, they're either ignorant or selfish. It's one of those two things.

I've written about this a few times before, and to me knowledge, Karl Malone did not put the chairs in the dumpster but rather hid them. I believe Nevada brought the chairs back to Reno. This is what I wrote about the Karl Malone incident back in 2015 when Carter was fired by Nevada:

"After each season, I write a letter to the head coach thanking him for his time during the season. Just a token of my appreciation their putting up with me all year. After Carter's first season, I tucked a few basketball cards of Karl Malone into the letter. Earlier that season, during a game at Louisiana Tech, Malone, a Tech alum who was at the game, hid Nevada's chairs that the Wolf Pack would sit on during timeouts to draw up plays. Malone didn't want Nevada putting chairs on his court. That upset Carter. After Carter got my note with the Malone cards in them, he called. 'Murray,' he said. 'I just wanted to let you know I just ripped up those Karl Malone cards and threw them away,' he added before letting out a laugh."

I'm not a Karl Malone fan given he got a 13-year-old pregnant while in college. Repulsive behavior.

I can't pick a team that made the playoffs last season because they wouldn't be a big surprise, so I'll go with the Diamondbacks or Phillies in the National League and the Red Sox in the American League. It comes down to pitching for all three because each have top 10ish lineups in MLB. I trust Arizona's pitching more than Philly's or Boston's, so I'll say the Diamondbacks are my surprise pick to win the 2020 World Series. Maybe Madison Bumgarner pitches every game in the playoffs and leads Arizona to the title. The shorter schedule really helps all of the teams in the NL West because nobody would have beaten the Dodgers over 162 games. Over 60, almost anything can happen.

I tackled this in a previous Mailbag and wrote the following:

" has a good review of the massive proposed changes to college baseball, which includes starting the season March 18 rather than Feb. 14 like Nevada. That would push conference tournaments to June 22-26 (rather than May 23-26) and the College World Series to July 15-25, the thought being baseball would make more money (or rather lose less money since most programs operate at a sizable financial deficit) if the season started later when the whether was better. That'd make drawing fans easier. While this could help limit Nevada's travel and increase home games, my main issue is the time frame. Nevada's finals are over in early May, so players would be playing ball for an additional seven to eight weeks after school ends? They're basically employees at that stage, and any additional revenue made by moving the season back could be lost by having to house and feed players through late June or early July. This also would kill, or at least badly wound, summer leagues. The people who sketched out the plan know a lot more about college baseball than I do, but I'm not comfortable with a season going on two-plus months after the school year ends."

Nevada would be helped by a later season more than most schools given the weather in Reno in early February, but I don't see ticket sales increasing enough to make it worthwhile given the additional cost of housing and feeding players by extending the season further into the summer.

You'd have to ask Bryan on that one if he checks out The Motel Life. I liked the book more than the movie, but both are good, and it's cool to see Reno depicted by a Northern Nevada native author. There are sketches in the book of real places around town that were cool. The Sutro Motel depicted in the book, which is included in a sketch, was a stone's throw from my old work place at the RGJ, so I drove by it every day. I think of the book every time I see the motel.

I never saw Joy Ride, which was written by J. J. Abrams and featured Steve Zahn, Paul Walker and Leelee Sobieski, but it does appear to have been partially shot in Fernley, Wells and Winnemucca, so add it to the list.

I'm most interested to know why I only have one meal left in my life, but if that's the case, I'll keep it simple. I'll go with pepperoni pizza with a wedge salad and meatballs as my appetizers, rocky road ice cream as my dessert and a rum and coke for the drink. I imagine if I'm dying early it's because I ate too many of all of the above in my life. But you can't go wrong with a good pizza.

I can't even think of one intro. That's how useless they are in my mind.

I would never bet against myself in a board game situation. The coaches do have a bit of an edge given the array of ages on the team, and that's always an important factor in Trivial Pursuit because the topics tend to span several decades and our team would be loaded with Millenials. But, again, I would never bet against myself in a board game situation. See y'all net week!

Sports columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. He writes a weekly Monday Mailbag despite it giving him a headache and it taking several hours to finish. But people seem to like it, so he does it anyway. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @ByChrisMurray.

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