For Mike Sanford and UNLV, It's Now or Never

Chris GolightlyCorrespondent IOctober 6, 2009

To say Mike Sanford is on the hot seat would be a gross understatement. 

Mike Sanford's seat has gotten so hot, Sanford stood up, walked away, and now refuses to acknowledge that the seat, nor its unbearable heat, exists.

Sanford claims to be in a hot-seat-free vacuum, in which he is able to focus exclusively on the team's upcoming home contest against BYU.

However, whether or not Sanford is willing to admit it, for the foreseeable future he will be accompanied by an ever-present, 7,000-pound elephant of uncertainty.

If the season had ended Saturday, Sanford would no longer be the head coach. The Rebels' 63-28 defeat at the hands of their bitter rival, Nevada-Reno, was a complete and utter embarrassment. Fans and boosters are disgusted and have not been shy about offering Sanford advice, usually to resign, quit, or leave town. Other, less diplomatic suggestions have also been made.

The blame for the humiliation falls squarely on the shoulders of the coaching staff. The Rebels were not overwhelmed by the Wolfpack's size or strength, not outclassed by superior athletes.  Mike Sanford was outcoached.

Reno ran a few simple plays; the same formations and plays that gashed the Rebels' defense last year.  UNLV appeared unprepared, confused, undisciplined, and outsmarted. They were completely inept against the Wolfpack's offensive system, implemented by the coaches, executed by the players.

The Rebel defense brought knives to a gun fight. Plastic knives. They were helpless against the Wolfpack's pistol offense.

Interim Athletic Director Jerry Koloskie has made it clear that he has no intention to make a coaching change until after the season. It appears he means it. If the team's most recent performance didn't get Coach Sanford the immediate pink slip, it is difficult to envision a scenario that would.

For now, life goes on.

The Rebels sit at 2-3 and have seven games to play. After two painful road losses, the Rebels have enough egg on their face to offer a free omelet with each ticket to their next game.

Despite clamoring from the UNLV faithful to the slam the door on Sanford and hastily change the locks, Sanford still holds the keys, and the door remains ajar.

There is enough talent on the roster, enough senior leadership, and (hopefully) enough pride to salvage a season currently on the brink of a complete collapse. However unlikely it may seem to disgruntled fans, there is hope.

UNLV can beat BYU, perhaps in spite of the head coach and his new pet elephant. Miracles happen. Upsets occur. Grown men cry.

It will take a miracle, an upset, a tear-jerker, to save Sanford now. It might take two or three. This weekend is the Rebels' first opportunity to erase the stink of a historically awful performance; to rescue their leader from his coaching death bed.

If the Rebels don't show signs of life, it won't be long before the plug is pulled.

Another uninspiring performance, and Sanford can saddle up his elephant and ride it out of town.