UNLV fires Marcus Arroyo after 7-23 record

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
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LAS VEGAS — When UNLV began this season 4-1, coach Marcus Arroyo‘s job security wasn’t in question.

Then the Rebels lost six games in a row to seemingly fall out of bowl contention, and even a victory over their biggest rival wasn’t enough to save Arroyo’s job.

Just two days after UNLV defeated Nevada 27-22, athletic director Erick Harper announced his decision to move on from Arroyo, who went 7-23 over three seasons.

Arroyo had two years left on his $7.7 million contract. Harper said Arroyo would be paid a $2.3 million buyout over the remainder of that term. UNLV spokesman Andy Grossman said the money for the buyout would be privately raised.

“Anyone coaching Division I football, Division II, Division III, it does not matter, the ultimate goal is to win and win consistently,” Harper said.

Arroyo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Associate head coach and linebackers coach Kenwick Thompson will serve as the interim coach if UNLV, which is 5-7, is invited to a bowl. The Rebels could play in the postseason because there might not be enough six-win teams to fill all the bowl slots.

Harper said he would not use a firm to conduct the search, and that he prefers a candidate with head coaching experience.

“That is a big key to the learning curve,” Harper said.

Such a criteria could make Bryan Harsin an attractive candidate. Harsin was fired in just his second season at Auburn, but he went 69-19 over seven seasons at Mountain West rival Boise State and was ranked in the final AP poll four times.

No matter who follows Arroyo, that coach will be the latest to try to turn around a program that has made just four bowl appearances in its history, the last in the 2013 season at the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

UNLV has undergone consistent turnover because of the lack of success, though Arroyo’s three-year tenure ties for the program’s shortest since Ron Meyer in 1973-75. Meyer left to become the coach at SMU after going 27-8.

Arroyo was the 12th coach in the history of the program, which dates to 1968.

“There’s been turnover at the athletic director’s position,” Harper said. “There’s been turnover in the (university) presidential position. There has been turnover in other areas of this department. That revolving door has to stop, and to do that, we have to be in lockstep together at all times.”

Harper said UNLV now has something substantial to offer candidates with the $35 million Fertitta Football Complex where the team trains to the $2 billion Allegiant Stadium where it plays.

“There is a lot of interest across the board, and we’re going to pick the best person possible for our program,” Harper said.

No. 23 San Diego State holds off UNLV, 28-20

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
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LAS VEGAS – Lucas Johnson completed 18 of 24 pass attempts for 192 yards and threw three touchdowns, and No. 23 San Diego State survived a scare to beat UNLV 28-20 on Friday night.

The Aztecs led just 21-20 before Johnson found Jesse Matthews for a 7-yard strike with 3:33 left in the game.

San Diego State linebacker Seyddrick Lakalaka intercepted UNLV quarterback Justin Rogers with less than 2 minutes left in the game to thwart the Rebels’ last-ditch effort.

San Diego State, which finished with a 5-0 road mark, improved to 10-1 overall, matching its best 11-game start since starting 10-0 in 1969. The Aztecs are one of five teams in the country currently with 10 wins, joining Cincinnati, Georgia, Houston, and UTSA.

Matthews finished with nine receptions for 75 yards and had three touchdowns, becoming the first San Diego State player to score three TDs in one game since Colin Lockett‘s trio in the 2001 New Orleans Bowl.

Las Vegas product Elijah Kothe finished with five receptions for 84 yards for the Aztecs, while Greg Bell ran for 52 yards on 14 carries.

While San Diego State improved to 21-10 all-time against the Rebels (2-9), UNLV outgained the Aztecs, 394-290.

“I didn’t think we played Aztec football, especially on the defensive side,” San Diego State coach Brady Hoke. “We’ve got to do a better job. We can’t give up big plays thrown over our heads. We’ve got to coach better. We as a staff, we got to look at some things.”

UNLV lost starting quarterback Cam Friel midway through the first half and turned to Rogers, the original starter at the beginning of the season. Rogers looked nothing like the shaky quarterback who stepped in at times during the Rebels’ campaign.

Rogers finished 15 of 21 for 305 yards and two touchdown passes, while Steve Jenkins had five receptions for 176 yards.

Charles Williams, the Rebels’ career rushing leader, was held to 40 yards on 16 carries.

Instead, it was Rogers sparking the Rebels in the first half, going 6 for 7 for 126 yards and one touchdown, a 43-yard strike to a wide-open Zyell Griffin.

Griffin found his way behind San Diego State’s secondary and was alone when he caught the ball before waltzing in untouched.

The Aztecs would answer on their next drive, needing only 3:38 to travel 59 yards in 10 plays, culminating with a 4-yard TD pass from Johnson to Matthews to put San Diego State back on top, 14-10.

UNLV’s next drive started well but stalled when San Diego State stopped the Rebels on a 4th and 2 and got the ball back on its own 46-yard line with 49 seconds left in the half.

The Aztecs went right to work, fitting eight plays and 54 yards into a mere 44 seconds, as Johnson and Matthews hooked up a second time to push San Diego State’s lead to 21-10 at the half.

It marked the first time the Aztecs scored more than 23 points since Oct. 9.

“I feel like we still have a lot of work to do,” Matthews said. “We knew we had to points on the board for our defense. It was our time to step up.”

SACK MAN

UNLV’s Jacoby Windmon had a career-high three sacks, tying a program fourth-highest for a single game. Windmon now has 6 1/2 sacks on the year and 12 in his career.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

At the very least, San Diego State Will Likely hold in the Top 25 discussion in this week’s poll with a possibility of moving down a spot or two after having trouble with the two-win Rebels. The Aztecs rank 19th in the College Football Playoff rankings.

UP NEXT

San Diego State: Hosts Boise State in the season finale Friday

UNLV: Ends its season at Air Force on Friday

Coalition launches program to lift minority football coaches

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
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An organization started by Maryland’s Mike Locksley is trying to help advance the careers of minority football coaches by connecting them with the people who do the hiring in college sports.

The National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches launched its first Coalition Academy this week.

The program matches coaches and athletic directors for mentorship. Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, Nevada head coach Jay Norvell, UNLV head coach Marcus Arroyo and Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis are among the 12 coaches participating.

UNLV athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois spearheaded the program and is among 13 current and former ADs taking part. Reed-Francois is also a member of the coalition’s board.

She said coaches and administrators met for the first time Thursday and were paired up. The program will also include monthly meetings for the coaches where they will hear from expert speakers and receive interview preparation.

“We created the academy with the intent of developing authentic relationships between athletic administrators and future head coaches. One purpose is so we can create advocates. Not just mentors, but advocates,” Reed-Francois said. “And we wanted to provide insights into the administrative world for those future head coaches in a very nonjudgmental space.”

Other athletic directors involved include Jack Swarbrick of Notre Dame, Dan Radakovich from Clemson, Greg Byrne from Alabama and Wisconsin’s Barry Alvarez, who will be retiring this summer.

Locksley is one of 20 minority head coaches among 130 major college football schools. He founded the coalition last year to “prepare, promote and produce” minority coaches at all levels of football.

“In this field, there is great power in relationships and those relationships lead to opportunities,” Locksley said. “I think this program we have put together is a win-win for the mentors and mentees.”

The rest of the coaches taking part are Houston Texans quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton; Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson; Tennessee running backs coach Jerry Mack; Miami defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson; Florida A&M head coach Willie Simmons; Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters; and Florida International defensive coordinator Everett Withers.

“There are so many talented coaches of color out there that can be great head coaches. And we wanted to make sure that when they get that opportunity that they’re prepared so that they’re successful,” Reed-Francois said. “And then also when they get that opportunity, we want to be authentic advocates for them as well.”