Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau
Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019 | 2 a.m.
Shortly after the 2018 UNLV football season ended —Tony Sanchez’s fourth as the Rebels’ coach and the fourth without a winning record or postseason appearance — athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois announced that Sanchez would be brought back for another year.
But it came with a very clear caveat: Bowl game or bust.
“We are looking forward to a successful 2019 football season including bowl eligibility,” read Reed-Francois’ statement.
After UNLV’s 37-17 loss to Colorado State on Saturday, the Rebels were eliminated from postseason eligibility in falling to 2-7 overall with three games to play. That likely also seals Sanchez’s fate.
“It hurts that we have no chance for [a bowl game] now,” Sanchez said. “I’ve got a great group of guys in there that have worked really hard. It’s tough. But as far as I’m concerned, all I’ve got is the day right there in front of me. So I’ve got to go ahead, keep my head down and keep on working. Obviously the decision is not in my hands, but I will work through this as long as we can.”
Reed-Francois, who traveled to Fort Collins with the team for Saturday’s game, gave a measured response when asked whether Sanchez will be allowed to finish the season.
“It was a tough loss and we have games left to play,” Reed-Francois said, “and that’s what we’re going to focus on.”
Sanchez has gone 18-39 in his four-plus seasons. His contract, which was extended in 2017 shortly before Reed-Francois came on board, runs through the 2021 season. He makes $600,000 per year, but would only be owed his base salary of $300,000 if UNLV were to fire him.
If Sanchez were to resign before the end of the contract, UNLV would be off the hook entirely. Sanchez said he does not plan to step down and will continue working until someone tells him otherwise.
“Absolutely not. No way,” Sanchez said. “We’ve got a cannon game in front of us and still a lot of good things to do, so absolutely not. It’s just not in my character. Win, lose or draw I’m going to keep my knuckles up until the end.”
Sanchez was instrumental in the fundraising effort to build the team’s new Fertitta Football Complex, a 73,000-square foot facility adjacent to the Rebels’ practice fields. The construction was funded privately and cost $34.8 million.