Wolf Pack feature double trouble
NEVADA FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Sept. 2 @ Northwestern
Sept. 9 Toledo
Sept. 16 Idaho State
Sept. 23 @ Washington State
Sept. 30 @ Fresno State*
Oct. 7 Hawaii*
Oct. 14 @ Colorado State*
Oct. 20 Air Force*
Nov. 4 @ Boise State*
Nov. 11 San Jose State*
Nov. 18 @ San Diego State*
Nov. 25 UNLV*
Bold denotes home game
* Denotes Mountain West game
University of Nevada Athletic Director Doug Knuth spoke about the state of Wolf Pack athletics and fielded questions Tuesday when he addressed the Rotary Club of Minden during its weekly luncheon at the Carson Valley Inn.
And that includes some thoughts on a men’s basketball team that could be even better than the Mountain West Conference champion Wolf Pack of 2016-17.
“Last year’s team went to the NCAA tournament, first time in 10 years, we won the conference regular season, won the conference tournament, had a great year,” Knuth said during his 50-minute address in the Sierra Room … “and coach (Eric) Musselman is like, ‘Next year is our good year.’ So, yeah, we’re excited about this team coming back.”
Knuth (pronounced Nuth) went onto tell a story about a recent conversation with Musselman — “a ball of energy” — as he watched the Wolf Pack players work out in the gym.
“There was something funny happening and I couldn’t quite put my thumb on it, and then I realized, ‘Coach Muss is really quiet. What’s going on here?’,” Knuth said. “When he came over to say hi to me, we talked for a second, and I said, ‘Coach, you’re so quiet. I’m used to you running up and down and getting after the kids.’ And he said, ‘I don’t have to.’”
Why? Knuth explained the reason is 6-foot-7 twin brothers Cody and Caleb Martin, who transferred to Nevada after playing one season at North Carolina State in 2015-16. Caleb averaged 11.5 points and started 19 games, while Cody started the final 16 games and was a defensive standout, according to the News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C.
“They sat out last year and now they’re eligible to play, and they’re like coaches on the court,” Knuth said. “When you have a really good team, it’s a player-led team, meaning, at practice if you do something wrong, if you’re out of position or miss a step, Cody and Caleb are yelling at you.
“It’s not Musselman anymore,” Knuth added, drawing a round of laughter from the audience. “It’s the players holding each other accountable. That’s the way a team really works great together, and that’s what we have coming back.”
Despite losing 6-foot-8 sophomore Cam Oliver to the NBA Houston Rockets, Knuth said the Wolf Pack expects to put a potent team on the count this coming winter.
“We’re going to have five players on the court at all times who can shoot — five starters and there are four or five backups — they can shoot the 3. I mean every one of them have the green light to shoot. They’re playing tough defense and getting after it … they’re going to be exciting to watch.”
Knuth was equally enthusiastic when he spoke about Wolf Pack football, which will make its debut under coach Jay Norvell on Sept. 2 at Northwestern.
“There’s a different culture, different energy and a different attitude with the football program,” Knuth said. “He’s (Norvell) saying, ‘We’re going to play really hard, we’re going to play together and we’re going to be fun to watch. I don’t know how many games we’re going to win, but we’re going to be fun to watch.”
Armed with its newly implemented Air Raid offense, the Wolf Pack expect to play “edge-of-your-seat football,” Knuth went on.
It all starts with transfer quarterback David Cornwell, who spent three seasons at Alabama, though he never played for the Crimson Tide.
“You’ve got to have a great quarterback to run this system, so when Jay Norvell was hired in December, the very first recruit and commitment was a young man who’s 6-5, 230 pounds,” Knuth said of Cornwell. “He graduated from Alabama in three years and he transferred to Nevada because he wanted to run this offense. He has two years of eligibility left and he’s going to be fun to watch … worth the price of admission, right there.”
Air Raid is a pass-first offense that’s appropriately named.
“We’re going to spread the ball out and throw it around more,” Knuth said. “The concept is, you make the defense play sideline to sideline. It’s a dynamic offense that keeps the defense guessing.”
Other sports were discussed as well, including the women’s basketball team under first-year head coach Amanda Levens (hired on March 31 after five seasons as associate head coach at Arizona State) and volleyball under Lee Nelson, who’s headed into his third season as head coach and coming off a 19-11 season in 2016.
During the question and answer time, Robin Kaylor asked, “Is there a chance we’re going to get a men’s soccer team?” Financial considerations and Title IX legislation figured into Knuth’s response.
“I get that question a lot about men’s soccer, or men’s lacrosse, and the answer is, probably not,” he said. “We’re in a small budget right now. There are 12 schools in our conference and I would say we’re the 12th largest budget. So, to consider bringing on another sport would mean you have to take your current money and split it 17 ways rather than 16, it just wouldn’t make a lot of sense for us.”
He indicated the annual cost to operate a men’s soccer team to be around $500,000, including the cost of travel, coaches, a facility to play and practice on and maintenance of the facility.
“Frankly, when you add up gender equity, we’re exactly balanced right now,” Knuth added in reference to Title IX. “If you add, and I don’t know how many scholarships it is, you have to offer the same number of opportunities for female athletes, so you’d have to add another female sport.”
When asked about skiing, Knuth said the cost to field a Division I team at the NCAA level would be closer to $1.5 million.
“Just the travel expense for a ski team, the nearest competition would be Salt Lake City (University of Utah),” he said. “We would be the farthest west of any NCAA Division I ski program, so it would be in the million-and-a-half range, considering travel expenses, equipment, scholarships and everything else.”
Academics and community
Winning is obviously important at the Division I level, however, Knuth began his talk by pointing to Wolf Pack successes off the field.
“The thing I like to talk about first is academics,” he said. “We’re on a college campus and for us, that means education has to be first. And we’re really proud of that.”
Nearly 400 athletes from around the nation and world participate on 16 different teams, he pointed out.
“They’re a very diverse group of people, but if you take all of those people and put them all together and you take their grade point average … we’re over a 3.0 GPA,” Knuth said. “The second measurement is APR … Academic Progress Rate … which is one way we measure eligibility and retention.
That’s measured on a 1,000-point scale, and our university was right around 980, which is remarkably strong. That’s like an elite private school … like a Stanford, Northwestern or Duke. I mean, they’re in the 985 range and we’re right there with them.”
In March, women’s basketball player T Moe was named to the all-Mountain West SAAC community service team and Nevada was announced as the runner-up school overall in community service with a total of 7,957 hours, according to the conference website.
And then there’s the university’s ultimate measure of success, which is graduation of its students.
“We want to win, but we’re graduating about 81 percent of our student athletes, so we’re doing a great job,” Knuth said. “We want to make sure we do sports well, but we want to make sure we do it right.”