Nevada and now-former football coach Brian Polian parted ways on Sunday afternoon after a four-year relationship.
The release from the school described the breakup as “mutual.”
But when someone paints their breakup as mutual, how often is it actually?
Polian had to win the last two games of the season to get his career record to 23-27. The fan base’s frustration swelled this year as the team slipped to 3-7, including particularly frustrating losses to Purdue, Hawaii and San Jose State.
Off the field, however, Polian led the team to successes never seen within the program. The team’s GPA was north of 3.0. We rarely heard of players making themselves known to the Reno Police Department.
The team did everything right, other than dominate on Saturday’s.
Many breathed a collective ‘finally’ when the decision was announced on Sunday, but Polian’s tenure was far more successful than most would like to admit.
The reality is: Nevada is a hard place to sustain success.
Nevada is one of the lowest-funded programs in the Mountain West during an era when recruits look for sexy uniforms, fancy facilities and a professional future.
Nevada can’t promise that.
Increased academic expectations at the school have also shallowed the pool of potential recruits.
Gone are the days when Nevada is a nationally-ranked program.
So now Nevada turns to a coach unknown, who will be asked to maintain off-the-field success while racking up wins and bowl berths – all with less funding than almost the entire conference.
Coaches with that skillset tend to find jobs that pay more than a $600,000 a year – Polian’s approximate salary.
The position likely won’t remain vacant long, but whoever succeeds Polian will be dealt an awfully difficult hand.
Polian demonstrates class at end of Nevada tenure
The decision for Nevada and Polian to “mutually” part ways was not made on Sunday.
If a two-game winning streak to end the season, including a rout at UNLV, wasn’t enough to save his job, Polian’s fate was sealed earlier – maybe following the loss to San Diego State.
Whether Polian was made aware of the decision or not, he could feel the temperature in the room. He answered countless questions over the second half of the season, especially the last couple weeks, about his future at Nevada.
Time and time again, he turned the spotlight to his players. He didn’t make it about him. He got his team to overcome a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit against Utah State then deliver the whooping of the season on Saturday in Vegas.
While he was aware of his departure by Sunday morning, and the public was not, Polian led a ceremony on campus to paint the Fremont Cannon blue.
— Block N (@NevadaBlockN) November 27, 2016
He didn’t need to be there. He was no longer on the school’s payroll.
Once again, he made it about his players.
The official announcement from the school came minutes after the ceremony ended.
Nathan can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His weekly column, ‘Shoup Shots,’ was named the best column in the state of Nevada (community division) by the Nevada Press Association. It runs in the hard copy of the Sparks Tribune every Tuesday morning.