I mixed things up on Saturday.
I didn’t go to the Nevada-Hawaii football game.
Instead, I hopped in the car with my brother and drove to Palo Alto to watch our hometown University of Washington football team play No. 10 Stanford. We don’t need to talk about the outcome (the Cardinal rolled).
We hit the road just as the game was kicking off at Mackay Stadium. I checked Twitter occasionally to see how it was going—and yes, to see how my prediction was shaping up.
As the Wolf Pack fell in a 17-0 first-half hole, I thought to myself ‘wow, this team is done.’
One week after an almost unforgivable road loss to a Wyoming team that had not won a game in six tries, the Pack was on the verge of getting its doors blown off. At home. Against a team that entered 2-5, 0-3 in the Mountain West.
At that point, Nevada was looking at a home loss to UNLV. A loss at Wyoming. And a home loss to Hawaii. The latter of which would have been the most grotesque.
My next thought? ‘People are going to start really going after Polian.’
Rumblings of fans calling for Coach Brian Polian’s job started after the UNLV loss. If his Wolf Pack had not mounted an impressive comeback to win 30-20 on Saturday, and had fallen to 3-5, 1-3, the rumblings would have become roars.
Polian is in the third year of a five-year deal and earning a base salary of nearly $600,000. That total will remain throughout the life of the contract.
Even if Nevada would’ve gone on to lose to Hawaii and proceeded to finish out of the Mountain West title chase, and out of bowl eligibility, it’s still unlikely Athletic Director Doug Knuth would’ve made a change.
Not only does a collegiate coaching change typically take a few years to overcome (Jim Harbaugh being the exception at Michigan) but Nevada would’ve owed Polian an almost $1.2 million buyout. You can dissect Nevada’s books all you want, and pull all you can from the boosters, but that money isn’t there.
Polian was brought in to recruit. He’s in the third year of his tenure at Nevada. He won’t really coach a team composed largely of ‘his guys’ until next year.
And this year isn’t finished. The Pack is 4-4, 2-2—two wins from bowl eligibility—and two games behind San Diego State for first place in the Mountain West—West with four to play.
If the Pack can find a way to win its next three against Fresno State (2-6, 1-4), San Jose State (4-4, 3-2) and Utah State (4-3, 3-1), it could potentially go to San Diego State in the season finale, playing for a berth in the Mountain West title game.
Nevada is yet to win back-to-back games this season, so it would take a special run, but it’s not unfathomable.
When I got home from Palo Alto at 2:30 a.m. early on Sunday—or late on Saturday depending on your perspective—I was beyond tired. Some fans are starting to feel the same way of Polian.
But I woke up on Sunday, rested. Fans will be revitalized, too, if the Pack can go on a run in the home stretch of the season.
After taking a bye this week, Nevada’s final quarter of the season starts next Thursday at Fresno State and will be aired nationally on ESPN2.
The lights will be bright. They should be.