The Bobby Hauck era at UNLV is officially underway. After a successful spring, buzz and excitement are beginning to build around Las Vegas.
The football-loving contingent of Rebel fans is a would-be-tortured bunch, but the majority have long since abandoned their perennially stinging disappointment in favor of soothing apathy.
It's been a decade since the UNLV football team finished with a winning record. Caleb Herring, currently competing for the starting QB job, was nine years old.
Despite an overwhelming track record of futility, Rebel fans should approach the coming season with cautious optimism.
Though it is difficult to alleviate skepticism that has been deeply entrenched by the long term emotional erosion of losing, there is at least one reason to keep an eye on this year's Rebels.
Mike Sanford has moved to Louisville.
Fair or not, UNLV fans hate Mike Sanford. The reaction to Sanford's firing was reminiscent of the outbreak of euphoria that accompanied Dorothy's arrival in Munchkinland.
Sanford was a good offensive coach, a solid recruiter, and a nice, respectable human being.
The vitriol oft directed toward Sanford stems from his maddening, ever-present, homework-eating dog.
Nothing was ever his fault.
The players didn't execute the game plan. Too many individuals weren't fulfilling their responsibilities to the team. Players weren't giving 100% effort.
Too many penalties were called. Not enough penalties were called. The weather was a factor.
The crowd was disinterested. The cheerleaders were a distraction. The opposition wore slippery uniforms.
The locker rooms are haunted. The pregame meal was poisoned. A rabid, over-sized Gila monster sneaked onto the team bus and stole the playbook on the way to the game.
Sanford's excuse making ability could induce an annoyed roll of the eyes from a four year old girl caught with her hand in a cookie jar.
Before moving on, for therapeutic purposes, let all Rebel fans take a moment to ponder the cathartic meaning of the phrase:
Mike Sanford is gone.
Like a jilted lover, the fanbase is looking to rebound with a young and exciting replacement.
Bobby Hauck won many fans over from day one with a straightforward approach and refreshing energy.
The honeymoon has been blissful, so far.
The real test begins September 4, 2010, with a visit from a stacked Wisconsin team. It will likely be an up-and-down journey for Hauck, especially through the first year and a challenging schedule.
Hauck preaches accountability, and seems to understand the importance of leading by example.
After all, accountability must start at the very top, a concept lost on the previous coaching regime.
There is a renewed sense of hope surrounding the program. Hauck is tirelessly recruiting local talent, patiently installing his system and instituting his approach.
The home schedule for the upcoming season is loaded with quality opponents, meaning good crowds and opportunities for big wins.
Early on, the community has embraced Hauck as the anti-Sanford.
Time will tell whether the proverbial "change in culture" will ultimately yield results on the field, but at the very least, Hauck seems to have learned from the mistakes of his predecessor.
UNLV football has always been a challenge, but excusemongering will not be tolerated.
With a little support and a little patience, Bobby Hauck just might be the man to turn this thing around.
If he does, Mike Sanford will be quick to let everyone know who laid the groundwork.