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THE STORY BEHIND A COACHING SHUFFLE : UNLV Football: a New Deal : Player Incidents Cost Harvey Hyde Job After 4 1/2 Years

November 05, 1986|TRACY DODDS | Times Staff Writer

"The next few months will be important ones for the football program; we'll be looking very carefully for improvement both on and off the field. . . . Therefore, I suggest that you not roll Coach Hyde's contract for the next year, and I do not think you should consider a salary increase in light of the events of this past year.

"Brad, as I said to you and Coach Hyde on Friday, the University cannot continue having problems as we have had with football players without having damage done to our football program and athletic department. I think the breaking point is awfully close."

When it reached the breaking point and Hyde was fired, about 30 of his players went to Maxson's office and demanded to see Maxson. They settled for letting quarterback Steve Stallworth sit in on the press conference.

Junior linebacker Todd Cooks said: "It wasn't fair at all. He was a scapegoat. There isn't any coach who cares about his players like Coach Hyde did."

Tarkanian, who had known Hyde since their days together at Pasadena City College, said at the time: "I'm very disappointed. He did a great job under extremely difficult circumstances. He loved the university deeply and saved the program when it was about to crumble.

"He has done so many positive things, taken so many positive steps for the program. I'm just sick about it."

Hyde did not make a public statement at the time, and he still does not say much in his own defense. He has been determined to avoid any impression of bitterness, anything that would make him appear to be offering himself up as a scapegoat or martyr.

A week after he was fired, he sent a letter to some of his friends in the news media saying: "Although we have faced a number of incidents off the field that seemed to be publicized one after the other, a survey of the national sports news reveals that these problems are not unique to our school. I have never tolerated, sanctioned or excused this behavior. . . .

"I am proud of what has been accomplished during my tenure in terms of scheduling, facilities, an academic support system, travel and practice procedures, budgetary and financial difficulties that were faced and solved numerous times, and several other improvements. . . . Go Rebels!"

Now, when asked about his team's record at the police station, he shrugs. "We had a couple of incidents, like you have at other schools--like the stolen stereos," he said. "But we also had a guy who had a fight with his wife, another one had a scuffle in the parking lot of his apartment building with a guy who turned out to be an off-duty police officer, some former players got in a fight on St. Patrick's Day--I didn't even know they were still in town. We had trouble with former players and players who hadn't even reported to us yet.

"I'm not making excuses. These things shouldn't happen. I'm not saying it's the kind of thing that I want to put in my resume. But it was a rather unbelievable series of events."

Rothermel doesn't argue that at all, saying that there was an element of bad luck in the streak of incidents last April that gave Las Vegas football a real rebel image.

"It is very difficult to hold a coach responsible for the acts of that many 18- to 20-year-old quasi-adults," he said. "And yet, someone has to be held responsible. It's like they say in major league baseball--are you going to fire the manager or fire the team?

"We had to get control. We had to make a statement.

"You can't overlook the impact that Harvey Hyde had on our program. He made a lot of positive moves."

Nunnely, whose motto for the team now is "A New Attitude" isn't putting down his former boss, either.

"Harvey Hyde deserves a lot of credit for the progress Rebel football has made in the last few years," he said. "We now have first-class facilities, and you have to have that to compete for recruits. He spent a lot of money, but he also raised a lot of money. He knew how to go out and generate funds.

"He improved our academic programs. . . . He recruited some top-rate athletes. He's a high-powered recruiter. . . . He didn't go out and recruit bad kids. Some of the players who got into trouble were kids that were recruited by everybody.

"If you're really trying to figure out what he could have done differently to keep those things from happening, you might say he spent too much time on the other things and not enough time with the kids, disciplining the kids. But there's no way of knowing that.

"The fact is, he did a lot of good things for our football program. Harvey is a mover. He makes things happen."

It will be interesting to see whether Hyde ever gets back into coaching, now that his reputation has been so tarnished. He says that he would like to. For now, he's the host of a radio sports talk show that originates in Las Vegas and is distributed in seven states. He insists on keeping his show "positive and upbeat."

Hyde said: "I see nothing to gain in being negative. . . . It's like I told my players when I met with them the day after I was fired, I told them I want no negative things. I told them I'd be with them 100% and I didn't want them reacting negatively, in any way, to the coaching change."

He's proud that Nunnely was named to replace him. After all, he had hired Nunnely as an assistant. He considers it a credit that one of his choices is continuing the job.

"I think the program is on the right track," Hyde said. "When I went there I said I saw a tremendous potential, and I still do. I think UNLV has the same potential that Arizona and Arizona State had, and look what they've done in the Pac-10.

"When I was hired I was told to develop major college football at UNLV. I'm proud of the progress we made."

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