Published Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009 | 9:15 a.m.
Updated Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009 | 5:22 p.m.
- Livengood: ‘I could see working 7, 8, 10 years’ (12-15-2009)
- AD hopeful Moos talks potential football success (12-15-2009)
- UNLV AD candidate Johnson comes through clean at public forum (12-11-2009)
- Former chancellor backs Arizona athletic director Jim Livengood (12-8-2009)
- UNLV president denies reports of Livengood as new athletic director (12-4-2009)
- Franchione emerges as potential early candidate for UNLV football post (11-19-2008)
The time zone will change, but Linda Livengood will still expect to see her husband Jim waking up each day at 4 a.m. and heading off to the office about two hours later.
At his introductory press conference Thursday afternoon, new UNLV athletic director Jim Livengood, 64, answered numerous questions regarding his hunger for the new challenge after serving as the AD at Arizona for 16 years.
His wife, who knows him better than anyone else in attendance at the crowded Tam Alumni Center, provided the best insight.
"He still likes the challenge, he still feels like he has something to give," she said. "He plays golf, but he's not going to be a golfer.
"He is a person who spends a lot of time at the office, and I'm used to that. I don't think he's ready to retire. I always said 'Before you retire, Jim, you need to start going in a little later than 6 or 6:30 in the morning. Maybe 7 or 7:30. You need to slow down a little bit.' But he's never been able to do that."
That's exactly what UNLV needs at this point, and nothing less.
Livengood, whose contract was set to expire at U of A on June 30, accepted the job offer from UNLV President Neal Smatresk on Wednesday night, boarded a plane for Las Vegas on Thursday morning, then was full of energy as he was welcomed in front of department staff, coaches, selection committee members, media and others.
Terms of his deal at UNLV are still being ironed out, though he said at a public forum at the student union Tuesday that he could see himself working another 7-10 years before becoming, well, a golfer.
He wasted no time, either, in discussing the most pressing issue facing him from go — finding the football program's 10th head coach.
Not wanting to put an exact timeline to the hire, Livengood said he hopes to have one in place before the end of next week.
"The most important thing right now, just from an immediacy standpoint, is to have a head football coach hired yesterday," he said. "Not today, not tomorrow, not by Tuesday, but yesterday. That has to happen immediately, and we're working on it right now."
The hiring of a football coach won't follow the same blueprint used to hire Livengood — a process which stretched over months.
Instead, Livengood will rely on contacts he's made, contacts made by Smatresk and also the groundwork laid by interim athletic director Jerry Koloskie, who somewhat moved forward with the coaching search before the AD post was permanently filled.
"Any consensus you try to build right now in a short period of time just doesn't happen," Livengood said. "And you know what? What's amazing about coaching searches is that if they turn out great, everyone in the free world takes credit. When they don't work out, you can't find someone who was on that committee. The timing of this dictates that it needs to be done right now."
Consistent rumors recently have swirled involving the potential hiring of Arizona offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes for the opening at UNLV.
Of course, his name only came up after speculation of U of A defensive coordinator Mark Stoops — younger brother of Wildcats head coach Mike Stoops — ended with the younger Stoops taking the defensive coordinator position at Florida State last week.
Still, based on indications from Livengood, Dykes won't be his man at UNLV.
"Sonny is going to be a great head coach," Livengood said. "I think at this point, (prior head coaching experience) has to be (a prerequisite). I think in terms of where we are right now, I think that's probably better served by someone who's been in that seat, from a hiring standpoint, recruiting and so on.
"It's probably not the right place right now to try to learn about the job."
Some names which have floated around of late as serious candidates include former Texas A&M/Alabama/TCU/New Mexico head coach Dennis Franchione, Idaho coach Robb Akey, Montana coach Bobby Hauck and Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, who formerly held head-coaching posts at both Arizona State and Boise State.
The football job and program, however, wasn't the lone topic tossed around in Livengood's first meeting as athletic director with the local media and UNLV supporters.
One of many to get up on front of the room and welcome Livengood to the UNLV family was Rebels basketball coach Lon Kruger.
Livengood, who formerly was the chair of the NCAA Division I men's basketball Selection Committee, could use his weight and connections with those currently on the committee to help UNLV's hoops program come March.
"Jim's credibility nationally is of the highest level, so whatever opportunity he has to make contact with people, his voice is going to be heard, he's going to be listened to," Kruger said. "Obviously, people are always going to make decisions for the right reasons, but it's always nice to have someone with Jim's character and integrity and national credibility pushing the envelope for each of our programs, basketball being one of them."
Smatresk made sure to point out that Livengood is primed to help UNLV in another key area — raising funds.
It's been pointed out several times this week that Livengood kept Arizona's athletic department in the black during his entire tenure in Tucson, including nine consecutive years with a losing football program — Where most school's rely heavily for revenue. He did so without any state funds being needed, too.
"Certainly it's no secret we've had some recent challenges in football," Smatresk said. "We also are facing very tough economic conditions. Under these circumstances, what we want is a seasoned, tried and true athletic director. Someone who's been there, someone who's done that. Someone who can bring credibility, a network, connections and can also be a mentor and a positive influence within athletics to help us develop talent here locally, and to develop our athletic programs."
Amid all the speculation behind Livengood's emerging from out of the blue to get the job at UNLV, he came across as confident and genuine Thursday. He continued to state that former university system Chancellor — and close friend — Jim Rogers was not a driving force behind this hire.
And he knows that nothing short of pure results will prove that he was a better option than his two co-finalists — Washington State senior associate AD John Johnson and former Oregon AD Bill Moos.
After working deep into the night on Thursday to officially begin his coaching search, that mission to prove doubters wrong will resume bright and early on Friday.
Probably around 6 a.m., as it always has.
"I think anything I say verbally is only going to be words," Livengood said. "I have to prove that. I have to prove that this was about coming here, that I am making a difference. Anything else is just wordsmithing."