Looking Back At The Tony Sanchez Era At UNLV
How will we remember the Tony Sanchez era at UNLV?
The Tony Sanchez era at UNLV is coming to a close.
This week UNLV athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois announced that Saturday’s game against arch-rival Nevada would be Tony Sanchez’s last. The Rebels head coach for the last five seasons has two years remaining on his contract with a buyout of $600,000.
For his part, Sanchez handled the news with class.
“I’m disappointed that I’m not going to get a chance to continue on. This is not something I wanted, but in competitive Division I athletics, it’s part of the life.
“So my legacy here? I don’t know. That’s not for me to say. All I know is I showed up to work every day, worked as hard as I could. We made a difference.”
It’s not for him to say, but it is for us to say. What legacy does Sanchez leave after five years in Sin City?
The Rebels lost a lot under Tony Sanchez, which can be said for most coaches, in what has been a mostly forgettable fifty years of UNLV football.
Win or lose against the Wolf Pack on Saturday, Sanchez will depart UNLV as the school’s most successful coach of the last fifteen years. He was preceded by Bobby Hauck who went 15-49 in five seasons, though did lead his team to the Heart of Dallas Bowl at the end of the 2013 season. Before Hauck, Mike Sanford cobbled together a 16-43 record.
Still, for reasons fair and not, the expectations were different for Sanchez. He was in the spotlight from day one, being one of the few coaches in Division 1 history to make the leap straight from high school.
Sanchez won three games in year one. Four in year two. Five in year three. That’s no small accomplishment. Since John Robinson left as head coach in 2004, UNLV’s only had four seasons of five wins.
So, then the expectation is a bowl game. And that’s fair. The Rebs won four games last season, and that number will be the same if they knock off Reno this week.
Sanchez had a lot of talent in his tenure. Running back Charles Williams has put together a fine career, rushing for over 2300 yards placing him sixth on the all-time list at UNLV. Lexington Thomas is arguably the greatest ball carrier in school history. Thomas is second on that list, carrying the ball for over 3500 yards.
But you don’t have to look hard to figure out why Sanchez is on the way out. His prized recruit was quarterback Armani Rogers. Rogers didn’t produce, UNLV lost games, and now they’re looking for a new head football coach.
After a redshirt freshman year, Rogers played in 10 games in 2017. UNLV won five of those games. Rogers won MWC Freshman of the Year.
The next year, due to injury, Rogers only saw the field for six games. So, a down year can be forgiven.
This season Rogers played, played poorly and got hurt. Bowl game aspirations disappeared and Sanchez will be replaced. It’s that simple.
Kenyon Oblad played admirably filling in for Rogers. But not well enough for Sanchez to be retained. Still, you cannot help but feel like UNLV would be moving forward with its head coach were it not for a handful of dropped passes in 2019. The Rebels have been notorious for this in 2019. A couple catches, maybe Tony’s still around.
Few first-time head coaches have had an impact on a program the same way Tony Sa
nchez did at UNLV. The Rebels may very soon become a more high-profile destination based on the impact he has had in Las Vegas.
It’s no secret that Sanchez played in important role in getting the Fertitta Football Complex built. The $34 million facility features barbershop, a larger locker room, a 10,000-square-foot weight-room, underwater treadmills, a player’s lounge, a dining hall, and an academic center. It is a benchmark for UNLV athletics and the ribbon-cutting ceremony was held just last month.
Due to Sanchez’s work with the Fretittas top recruits are already expressing interest in playing for the Rebels. Recruits that he’ll not have the opportunity to lead.
That’s a tangible mark that he has had on the program and the community. Often times when head coaches are jettisoned, many like to reference a “change in culture.” I can’t tell you that the culture of UNLV football has changed. What I can tell you is that there is a big, bright, brand new, sparkling facility associated with UNLV football, and he played a critical role in bringing that into existence.
Being able to bring in a player like Armani Rogers, on the field performance aside, made some noise in Las Vegas. He was a highly sought-after recruit. He picked UNLV. That was a big deal.
When Bobby Hauck left UNLV was a middling Mountain West Conference team nobody was talking about. When Sanchez departs UNLV will be a middling Mountain West Conference team that some people are talking about.
His time with the Rebels was a good thing.