The pandemic rages on, but we're playing big-four sports with MLB, NBA and NHL underway, NFL training camps opened and college football fall camps in full swing. Who knows how long it will last, but we've got sports for now, which means we had more questions for this week's Monday Mailbag. Let's get to them. Thanks, as always, for the inquiries.
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I believe it's only a matter of time before that happens. For starters, it usually takes a while to get a uniform retired, and it's only happened for five players in Wolf Pack history (three in football, two in men's basketball). For Marion Motley, it took 24 years. For Edgar Jones, it took 16 years. For Nick Fazekas, it took 12 years. Football players Frank Hawkins and Dick Trachock have both had their numbers retired, although I don't know the specific timelines for them. Kaepernick last played for Nevada 10 years ago, so he would be due for a jersey retirement, and he deserves it as much as any Wolf Pack athlete. I'm sure his divisive nature since 2016 has played a part, but it should be retired at some point. I would not be surprised if his number is retired when he goes into the Wolf Pack Hall of Fame (he is first-year eligible this fall, but it seems unlikely there will be a ceremony and dinner due to COVID-19).
Whether Kaepernick wants to return to campus is an open question, but it would make sense to put the 2010 Wolf Pack football team and Kaepernick as an individual into the Hall of Fame in the same class while retiring his number during halftime of the Hall of Fame game that same year. Heck, might as well unveil his statue at the same time. Since he graduated in 2010, Kaepernick's No. 10 has been worn by the following Wolf Pack players: Reggie Coates, L.J. Jackson, Griffin Dahn, Lamin Touray and Ben Putman. Touray is scheduled to wear it this season. With it being a decade since Kaepernick played for Nevada, more than enough time has passed to honor him, and taking a fourth number out of circulation isn't going to kill the team. I feel like it's up to Kaepernick agreeing to return to campus for a number retirement to take place, and I do think he'd get a largely positive ovation despite there being some vocal critics.
In terms of the second part of your question, I don't think any other Nevada football player deserves a number retirement, but I could see a jersey retirement where their jersey is on some Wall of Fame inside the stadium. I would guess most Wolf Pack fans don't number Motley's No. 41, Hawkins' No. 27 and Trachock's No. 21 are retired because that's not evident anywhere inside Mackay Stadium. Nevada could hang those numbers, plus Kaepernick's No. 10, in a blue jersey somewhere obvious to the eye in Mackay Stadium for number retirements and add other players in silver jerseys for jersey retirements. In that case, my top-10 list of jersey retirements would be, in no particular order: DE Charles Mann, DB Brock Marion, QB Stan Heath, WR Nate Burleson, QB Chris Vargas, OL Derek Kennard, OL Joel Bitonio, LB Brandon Marshall, K Tony Zendejas and DE Doug Betters.
I don't see anybody on his current staff replacing him, but we're nine years away from Coach Alford's contract expiring, so that's a long time to project forward. I would argue Nevada already is a top-15 mid-major job in the nation. Since 2000, the Wolf Pack had won 12 conference championships, reached seven NCAA Tournaments, advanced to two Sweet 16s, sent nine players to the NBA, been a springboard for three head coaches to get to the Power 5 and has an above-average arena and practice facility for a mid-major. Are there 15 mid-major schools with a better post-2000 résumé? I don't think so.
I'd put Gonzaga, Butler, San Diego State, BYU, UNLV, Wichita State, Houston, Memphis and Cincinnati ahead of Nevada. But after those nine, Nevada is in the same tier as New Mexico, Davidson, Northern Iowa, St. Joes, Dayton, Saint Mary's and VCU, and the Wolf Pack has accomplished more than most of the schools on this list. I don't think you get a coach of Alford's caliber if you're not already viewed as a top-15ish mid-major school.
You have to include quarterback when you're ranking skill position groups. This year's group has top-10 potential, but I wouldn't rank them in the top 10 right now. Toa Taua doesn't have a 1,000-yard season and ranked 24th out of 25 MW qualified runners in yards per carry last season (his offensive line didn't help); Elijah Cooks and Romeo Doubs don't have 1,000-yard seasons in five combined college campaigns; and Carson Strong still has much to prove even though I'm high on him. I ranked Nevada's returning skill-position players first in the Mountain West ahead of Boise State, which many Broncos fans didn't like, so I like the group, but they have to prove it on the field. Nevada's best set of skill-position players came in 2010. The Wolf Pack had a quarterback (Colin Kaepernick), two wide receivers (Rishard Matthews, Tray Session) and two tight ends (Virgil Green, Zach Sudfeld) reach the NFL, plus Vai Taua and Brandon Wimberly, who are both future Nevada Hall of Famers, were on the team.
As noted in this story, Coach Norvell said the Wolf Pack is looking into potentially replacing the Arkansas game. The Big 12 remains the only Power 5 conference yet to cancel its non-conference season, so maybe scheduling a money game with one of those teams is an option considering Norvell has coached for two Big 12 teams and has ties there. But my guess is the Mountain West cancels its non-conference season at some point this week, and Nevada just has to take a roughly $400,000 to $500,000 loss from not playing a non-conference season (the Wolf Pack was scheduled to $950,000 from its non-conference schedule, but that's before charting planes, hotels, food, etc.).
While the sentiment of the boycott is in the right place, I don't see the Pac-12 fulfilling many of these demands, and I don't see many players boycotting (you're talking about trying to get more than 1,000 scholarship players on the same page). The COVID-19-related stuff could be bridged, but there's no way the Pac-12 is agreeing to giving student-athletes 50 percent of revenue created in college football. That's upwards of $35 million a year at a school like Oregon, so I don't see any of the financial stuff passing and sweeping across the nation. The list of demands also includes, "Larry Scott, administrators and coaches to voluntarily and drastically reduce excessive pay." HaHa! Not happening. They're also asking for six-year scholarships, which won't be approved. I would like to see the extended health care players are requesting. Many players require surgeries after college due to injuries suffered in school, and they're on their own to get those done. I just don't see full teams, let alone full conferences, boycotting because thousands of players would be willing to take their scholarships immediately. It's not like you can go overseas and play, which is an option in college basketball.
In general, the majority of college student-athletes get a good deal from a full-ride scholarship, books, housing, food, etc. But many revenue-sport athletes do not. That's the issue here, and there is a racial dynamic. Almost all of the revenue in college athletics is generated by football and men's basketball. You're talking about billions of dollars a year. The athletes in those two sports are heavily African-American. Where do these billions go? To administrators and coaches, who are largely white, and to fund non-revenue sports, which also are largely white (your tennis, golf, baseball, softball, volleyball, cross country, swimming and diving, etc.). So I could see how minorities would not be happy with this setup. The solution to the issue is not an easy one. If you allow the money created in football and men's basketball to go back to the players, you'd have to cut many non-revenue sports or make them club teams. Is that fair? That's up to each individual to make, but I don't like seeing football and men's basketball players not being paid when coaches pull in $3 million or $4 million or $5 million a year. I'd be upset and ask for changes, too.
“If we are treated like employees then we should be compensated as such,” Oregon safety Jevon Holland said in a press release issued by the Pac-12 group. I don't think anybody can deny college football players aren't treated like pro players, and their value is clearly being shown right now, which is why colleges are trying to have a season during a pandemic. Without them, the college model crumbles.
According to a transcript of the conversation between Nick Rolovich and Kassidy Woods, Rolovich never said Woods would get cut for joining the Pac-12 unity group, but he did allude to it. Per the Dallas Morning News' transcript, Rolovich said he was fine with Woods opting out of this season due to COVID and he'd remain on scholarship but not be allowed to train with the team (that makes sense). The dicey part is the following portion from Coach Rolovich:
"OK so that’s going to be, that’s gonna be an issue if you align with them as far as future stuff, cause the COVID stuff is one thing. But, um, joining this group is gonna put you on a, on a — that’s obviously, you know, you get to keep your scholarship this year, but it — it’s gonna be different. You know, if you, if you say, ‘I’m opting out ‘cause of COVID and health and safety,’ I’m good. But this group is gonna change, uh, I guess, how things go in the future for everybody, at least at our school. Um, so just think about that is, if it’s about getting paid and not (inaudible) about racial justice and that stuff. Then it’s probably, it’s there’s two sides, there’s two sides here. I’m good with the Sickle Cell and the COVID, and but this, this group is gonna be at a different level as far as how we’re kind of going to move forward in the future. Does that make sense?"
Honestly, the point Coach Rolovich was trying to make doesn't make a lot of sense, and this situation certainly won't help in recruiting. Personally, I don't think players trying to unionize and draw a salary is worth cutting players, but Coach Rolovich also didn't flat out say Woods would get cut for joining the group. It was pretty clear Coach Rolovich wouldn't be happy with that decision, but there was no direct threat of getting cut if he joined the group. I can see coaches not being happy with players coming for their pocket books. But college coaches in revenue sports are wildly overpaid.
I think the NFL season is going to be a disaster, but I also think the owners will push for a full season as long as no player dies from COVID-19. In terms of Colin Kaepernick, I still don't think an NFL team ever signs him, which would mean in his last four NFL games, he completed 68 percent of his passes for 797 yards, seven touchdowns (one rushing), one interception and a 100.1 quarterback rating. Seems like he could still play when he got blackballed.
I also like the designated hitter in the National League and hopes that sticks. I'm in favor of the rule that mandates relief pitchers must face three batters or finish an inning. Fewer late-inning bullpen changes speeds up the game a little, and if you can't get both righties and lefties out, you shouldn't be in the big leagues. I do not like the automatic runner on second base in extra innings. I also think the Marlins being the team decimated by COVID-19 has been huge for MLB. If it was a relevant team, the season might have been stopped by now. But it is hard to get emotionally invested in a season that appears as if it has minimal chance of actually finishing. The Cardinals' roster is getting blown up, too. Pretty infectious disease we've got going around. Maybe we shouldn't be sending kids back to class in two weeks.
I guess I can avoid saying anything bad about the Giants for one Mailbag. Congrats on the .500 record through 10 games! The Giants do have the sixth-worst run differential in MLB, and that's a more telling stat long term than win-loss record. They've also allowed the second-most runs in MLB. But San Francisco did hand the 7-3 Dodgers (MLB-best plus-30 run differential) two of their three losses and did so on the road. More MLB teams will make the playoffs than miss them this season, so who knows. Maybe the Giants go 28-32 and make the playoffs. In terms of "Donny Barrels," no I don't think Donovan Solano will lead the NL in RBIs this season. But he has hit .350 in 246 at-bats for the Giants the last two seasons after posting batting averages of .227 and .189 in his previous two MLB seasons, so enjoy it while you can. I will not pooh-pooh the Giants' 5-5 start. I will wait until the team is 10-21 to do that.
The loss of non-conference schedules will simply make it more difficult to judge teams because you won't have cross-conference data samples to figure out conference strength. In the SEC, I imagine Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Florida and Auburn will remain good and the rest of the conference will be mediocre or worse (Texas A&M and Kentucky have the chance to be top-15 teams if everything clicks).
For Coach Ault, it was the offensive line and quarterback. He always had an all-conference-caliber quarterback whether it was Jeff Tisdel, Eric Beavers, Fred Gatlin, Chris Vargas, Mike Maxwell, John Dutton, Jeff Rowe, Colin Kaepernick or Cody Fajardo. And he was great at developing offensive lines, which has been shown even more so since he resigned in 2012 and Nevada has struggled to develop Union-caliber lines. He was good with tight ends, too. I don't think you can go "worst" with Coach Ault. While his secondaries often struggled, he did recruit future NFL defensive backs Brock Marion, Patrick Hunter, Forey Duckett, Jonathon Amaya, Isaiah Frey and Khalid Wooten. That's not bad.
For Coach Polian, I'd go defensive line as his strength, and it helped he hired Bill Teerlinck as his line coach. He's a good position coach who has spent time with the Buffalo Bills and now Virginia Tech since not being kept on staff by Coach Norvell. On the line, Polian signed Malik Reed, Ian Seau, Korey Rush, Patrick Choudja and Hausia Sekona, had Sam Hammond walk on and his teams helped develop Lenny Jones and Brock Hekking, although Polian generally recruited small defensive linemen, which hurt in the run game. In terms of weakness, I'll go offensive line. And of his quarterbacks, only one panned out (Ty Gangi). The other scholarship quarterbacks included Hunter Fralick, Christian Solano, Dante Mayes and Austin Kafentzis.
For Coach Norvell, it's been wide receivers as the high point. I see Elijah Cooks and Romeo Doubs as potential NFL players, and neither were highly recruited. He nabbed McLane Mannix and got a lot out of Kaleb Fossum. Melquan Stovall has a bright future. He sent a lot of Oklahoma receivers to the NFL and wrote a book about the position, so he knows what he's talking about at receiver. Defensive line has been a strength, too. The question marks are the offensive line and secondary. I could put quarterback in that group, too, although if Carson Strong turns into an All-MW quarterback, that's not an issue.
Are you basing this on the practice helmet Nevada has been wearing to start its fall camp practice? The Wolf Pack doesn't usually wear its game helmets during fall camp practices, so I'm not sure there will be a helmet change, although the silver is new. They're usually navy in practice. In May, I ranked my favorite Wolf Pack helmets, so you can see that here.
Yes. Kaepernick's list of off-field achievements now include Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights award laureate; GQ Magazine Citizen of the Year; Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award; American Civil Liberties Union Eason Monroe Courageous Advocate Award; Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship honoree; Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award; and Harvard University W. E. B. Du Bois Medal. It's hard to argue against Kaepernick as UNR's most famous and accomplished alum.
Best question is anything having to do with Home Alone. Question that required the most research? I don't have the time to research that, but a recent question on whether Nevada was the only Division I college with a former NFL player and NBA player as head coaches in football and basketball, respectively, took some time to look up. Here's the answer to that question.
These are two separate things. I don't think there would be a drop in enrollment if Nevada cut athletics. As is, UNR has tried to limit growth to lower its teacher-to-student ratio to 18:1 so it could be a Carnegie “R1” research university. Getting enough qualified student applicants has not been an issue for the school. In terms of the "front porch of the university," as former UNR president Milk Glick used to put it, I do believe athletics holds that role. It's the biggest thing that gets the community onto the campus and builds a connection between school pride and potential donations. Would any non-student/teacher/employee go to the campus if not for athletic events? It'd be rare. Having athletics is a huge bonding point for alums, so it's worth the $13 million to $15 million investment athletics get from the school/university/student fees every year. Athletics is more self-sustaining than most schools on campus, too. It actually creates revenue, which many schools on campus don't do.
I wrote a column this morning on the passing of former Nevada athlete, coach and athletic director Dick Trachok that summed up my feelings about his Wolf Pack legacy. Here is that story.
Nevada has not filled his scholarship for the 2020-21 season, but I don't see that happening. Today is the last day to withdraw from the draft, and Jalen Harris has not done so, and he just got a contingent invitation to the NBA draft combine. If the draft was earlier and he wasn't selected, he could have pulled what Arizona State punter Michael Turk did in requesting to return to college based on COVID-19 limiting his ability to go through workouts with teams. But with the draft in October, if Harris isn't drafted, school would have started two months earlier, so he wouldn't be eligible anyway. I'm afraid we've seen the last of Harris playing at Lawlor Events Center.
I figured Matt Mitchell was returning to school since he had no chance of getting drafted, so my rankings are unchanged from my last update, which I refreshed after Derrick Alston Jr. announced he was returning to Boise State for his senior season. My preseason MW basketball rankings are here.
I got a couple of responses via Twitter in this vein after I posted Nevada and UNLV were getting reductions in state money for athletics in 2020-21. But it's confusing to me because: (a) UNLV has beaten Nevada in seven of eight Silver State Series rivalry series; and (b) Nevada out-spends UNLV in more sports. I don't think Wolf Pack fans want to go down this path. UNLV has been the far better athletic department since both have been in the Mountain West. In the history of the Silver State Series, UNLV has 219 points to Nevada's 141. Nevada has been stronger than UNLV in football and men's basketball since joining the MW, though (by a little bit).
Nevada went 13-8 against UNLV in 21 games at Sam Boyd Stadium plus 1-2 in the Las Vegas Bowl, giving it a 14-10 record in the stadium, a winning percent of 58.3 percent. UNLV is 157-139-3 all-time at Sam Boyd Stadium, a winning percent of 52.5 percent. So the answer to your question is Nevada.
Guillermo Mota was a 6-foot-6 string bean. He was not physically intimidating. If you don't think Joe Kelly is intimidating, ask Tyler Austin. Dude throws an inaccurate 100 miles per hour and is a psycho on the mound. Fun Fact: My dad, Bill Murray, is nicknamed "Mota" after Guillermo Mota.
While the county lacks unity in any form or fashion, just about everybody hates the Astros, so Joe Kelly letting a couple of pitches get loose against the Astros last week was something we could all get behind. I still hate he blew the Dodgers' shot at last season's World Series. That might have been the best team in Dodgers history. Lost in the JOE KELLY?!?!?! phenomenon is the fact Dave Roberts completely mismanaged Game 5 of the NLDS against Washington by putting in Clayton Kershaw to face Juan Soto and Anthony Rendon instead of Adam Kolarek (who owned Soto that series; Soto was 0-of-3 with two Ks against him) and Kenta Maeda (who was fabulous as a postseason reliever the previous three years; 1.64 ERA in 22 innings). Every time I see Kolarek dominate lefties this year, I think about that idiotic decision Roberts made. If the Dodgers ever win a World Series, it will be in spite of Roberts.
Going outside when it is 100 degrees, although it's better than the 110-plus degrees in Las Vegas or Phoenix. I guess you could include "buy a house in Reno" now that the market is exceptionally high due to an influx of California transplants.
I've never paid attention to whether Food X is a part of Genre Y (like is a hot dog a sandwich or cheesecake a pie). Technically, I think cereal would be a soup. I definitely know cereal is one of the most unhealthy foods you can eat every day, which is weird because I was told when I was young that cereal in the morning was good for you. It is not.
All I care about is whether the hot dog comes with chili and cheese. If it does, I'm happy.
MLB's season opener between the Yankees and Nationals was ESPN's highest-rated regular-season game since 2011. The late-night contest between the Dodgers and Giants was ESPN's highest-rated late-night regular-season game ever. Nationally televised games that aired during opening weekend had more than twice as many viewers as the year prior. The NBA's ratings are in line with previous seasons and the numbers put up earlier this year. If you look at the actual facts, the ratings are not "in the tank."
As a 37-year-old man, I don't feel comfortable calling people ugly. I probably would have done that when I was 13, though.
I had not seen the Bad Boys franchise until watching the first two movies earlier this summer (still haven't seen this year's release). As for Rush Hour, it's been at least a decade since I've seen those movies, so my memory of them is a little foggy. But I'll take Bad Boys over Rush Hour on the strength of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.
I don't think anybody will begrudge Jonathan Isaac for standing during the national anthem, although he did tear his ACL during the Magic's game Sunday. Isaac explained why he stood for the anthem by saying, "I believe that Black Lives Matter. A lot went into my decision, and part of it is, I thought that kneeling or wearing the Black Lives Matter T-shirt doesn't go hand-in-hand with supporting Black lives." That is his right and his prerogative. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich also stood for the national anthem and has been as vocal in supporting Black rights and dismantling systemic racism as any sports figure in America. You can stand for the anthem and be pro-Black rights. You're just trying to create a division.
We almost got a Mailbag by a current Wolf Pack star who reached out wanting to write one, but it was shot down by his coach. For now, we'll just stick with Murray's Mailbags.
Ten horse-sized ducks? What is a horse that size going to do to me? I'm more scared of ducks than horses anyway.
I've never gone on an official visit with any Wolf Pack coach, so I can't answer that one, but coach Eric Musselman's incorporation of the 15th tee at Lakeridge Golf Course for visits was a smart move. Seems like half the players that committed to him posted a picture like the one below from the Martin twins.
Solid 9 out of 10. Finished through contact. Kudos to the young man who went up for the block, too. I'd rather get posterized than let somebody get a free dunk at the rim. Also, can we gets some masks on these players?
Bought the horse's jersey or Kershaw's jersey? Only one doesn't disappoint in the playoffs.
Kershaw was sitting 93 and 94 miles per hour with a good curve and slider and even mixed in a couple of changeups in blanking Arizona over 5.2 innings. He struck out six and only allowed three hits, all singles, so he was quite sharp. The increased velocity was nice to see. Can't wait until he blows it in the playoffs.
The video was taken as I tried to drive up to the "D" in Damonte Ranch. I nearly crashed my family off the side of a mountain after the sun sank, so if anybody has directions on how to actually get to the "D," email me. Kudos to my Rav4 for getting us up and down the mountain safe despite my best efforts to crash my car off a mountain. We got a good picture, though.
UNLV's presidency was to be filled first, and that was completed July 23 with the hiring of Dr. Keith Whitfield. UNR's presidency is up next, so I'd expect we would get four finalists in the near future and the process will follow that of UNLV's search thereafter. UNR president Marc Johnson was expected to retire in June, but his contract was extended to Dec. 31 due to COVID-19. The most recent timeline I've seen has the Board of Regents selecting a new UNR president in Sept. 17. Former Governor Brian Sandoval remains the most public candidate for the job. Provost Kevin Carman also could be in the finalist mix.
Duly noted. Buy a virtual duck for a good cause! See y'all next 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ByChrisMurray.