UNLV’s Smatresk drops hint of ‘very big donation’

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Sam Morris

UNLV President Neal Smatresk speaks Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009 at the announcement of a new scholarship endowed by the Engelstad Family Foundation.

The list of Dr. Neal Smatresk’s achievements in three months as UNLV’s president is impressive. In his office early Friday morning, he hinted at something major around the corner in athletics.

But he didn’t exactly say athletics.

“I’ll hint to you that there’s a very big donation in the offing, right now, that I’m not quite ready to announce,” he said. “We’ve got to hammer out some details, but it’s big.”

Regarding athletics or an athletic team?

“Maybe,” he said. “I’ve got to tease you a little.”

Smatresk elaborated.

“It’s something that will help put us on the map and raise our recruiting profile,” he said. “I’m excited about it. Those types of things don’t happen unless people feel good about the university, about athletics.”

Would it involve a sport with a round ball and a practice facility?

Sixth-year Rebels basketball coach Lon Kruger has been talking about such a facility for his team with private entities, on and off, for about three years.

A few weeks ago, the UNLV hoops squad was relegated to practicing for two days in a gym at Sunset and Las Vegas Boulevard South because every facility on campus was booked.

“Oh boy, I don’t know,” said Smatresk, smiling. “I hear that almost anything is possible.”

Would that be warm?

“Maybe warm,” Smatresk said. “I’ll just better leave it at that … I know a lot of the kinds of discussions, happenings, and hopes and dreams of coaches have been shared widely with many people.”

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  1. wow i dont care if details havent been drawn up, you dont need to tell public. Tell Cory Joseph ASAP though so that we can bring him where he belongs. We not only want you at UNLV, we need you for our Final Four run next season.

  2. okay sufferin,
    im sick of you talking about how he is golfing too much. Over the offseason, probably one of the 3 or 4 times he golfs it was a CHARITY EVENT. Coaches for Cancer. he was out in the community dude. get a gripp.
    this will help bring in Cory Joseph.
    "I think he might be leaning toward making it local," Findlay coach Mike Peck said, referring to UNLV. "That's a strong possibility.

    i believe the money for the stadium is being raised at this time, and until that is completely saved they are making this. This will be HUGE in recruiting. I STILL dont see why you say hes a terrible recruiter...Marshall, Hawkins, and Bellfield should all be a MWC first teamers before each graduates. Willis and Jasper should be first teamers this season. Chace will be second or third team.

    the recruits that have been signed the last 2 seasons are all exceptional compared to the REST OF THE MWC (not UNC and KENTUCKY)..Marshall, Hawkins, Oscar, Lopez, QThomas, Willis, Jasper, Chace, and hell even Chopper Jones the walkon!

    THAT IS ONE GOOD ASS GROUP OF PLAYERS COMPARED TO EVERYONE ELSE IN OUR CONFERENCE AND PROBABLY THE PAC10 ALSO.

  3. A big "donation" would be Peck and Findlay "donating" Corey Joseph to us for next season. A top 10 prospect always helps recruiting!
    I must I don't understand the need for a practice facility. That's the one thing that Suffering may be right on. What's wrong with the North and south Gym, Cox, and T & M? I don't see how ALL of those places would be booked that would send the one thing the built all of it, UNLV basketball, away to practice at a local HS. Especially the N/S gyms! That's just ludicrous!
    Use the money to Hire a big time football coach, A good one would create enough revenue to buy everything else you need.

  4. if we get a bigtime coach interested, money will not be a problem. plenty of private donors.

  5. One of the biggest changes in the college basketball world over the past decade is the practice facility. (They should be called "recruiting" facilities.) UNLV is far behind in this area. If I'm 17 or 18, this matters to me. Without a practice faciltiy and being in a non-BCS conference, there is no way we can continually recruit the Top 50 kids.

    If this is true, it could change a lot of things. If it is true, thank you to the donors. This will have a huge impact on the big picture future of this program.

  6. $75M, to build a competitive MWC football stadium??? Keep dreamin'.

  7. Many times large donations are made, they come with conditions on how they are to be spent. If Kruger did campaign for such a donation, and was successfull in getting a backer to step up, how is that "horrible" news? Maybe we should have an AD that takes raising funds for a football stadium on his shoulders as it should be. I wonder how much time Bobby Knight, Coach "K", John Calipari and other BB coaches spend trying to raise money for teams other than their own.

    And BTW, $75 million for a football stadium? What kind of structure would that be, folding chairs and a tent? Just like Rutgers and other schools did, UNLV has to show they can fill their existing Sam Boyd Stadium before the school invests in something bigger. The first step is spending money for a HC & staff. Looks like The Rebels will be sharing some good size BCS bowl money again this year. Use the bowl shares from this years 4 bowl participants to pay an established coach good money.

    One last thing. The Thomas & Mack Center and the Cox Pavillion make UNLV a ton of money. They are continually rented out.Its one of the reasons the Runnin' Rebels don't get to practice or play in them at all times. Without RR basketball they wouldn't exist. I love football as much as the next fan. Played, coached and watched the sport my whole life. But the building of a first class football stadium would probably cost a few hundred million rather than $75 million. Rebel football is a long way off from justifying such an investment.

  8. I've been to see them practice many of times. believe it or not, but the courts at Cox and the north and south gyms are often booked and the Mens basketball program is often left scrambling around looking for a court. Its pretty sad when a player wants to practice shooting after practice but he's kicked off the court and has to leave because the court is booked for Volleyball or Womens basketball or what ever. The men's program needs their own court accessable to them when ever they want it.

  9. Don't kill me everyone, God knows I don't agree with Sufferin often, but if we want to be an all around college athletic school, I would do something with football too.

    Your argument is valid man, but if it's a donation, a private donation, the money from that donor goes to where that donor wants it to go. If that donor coughed up $75 million and told him to build an on campus football field, it would happen (though it would need to come from Bill Gates, and add another $200 million). Most likely its someone that wants his donation to go to a b-ball practice facility. That's just where donors want to put their money right now.

    But EVEN so, I still have to poke at you a little bit. It's not horrible news per se if someone is willing to donate a lot of money the way things are now. We should be thankful that we have something else to boast about our b-ball program.

  10. Where would UNLV put a new football stadium on its campus? I'm not too familiar, but it doesn't seem that there would be room.

  11. ummmm....sufferin'-through-another-long-idiotic-post, isn't this a DONATION?!?!!? If you're stomach's sick, go take your meds...it appears your due.

    Fact of the matter is, if Lon Kruger raises the money for a basketball practice facility, A REAL ONE, we up the ante for not only the rest of our conference, but the rest of the country....we go from having top 25 college basketball facilities, to top 5....the recruits will be awed and its not coming out of the public cofers. This only enhances our school's reputation.

    BTW...75 million for a football stadium? I don't know if you really get it at that price now days. Last time we updated Sam Boyd, it cost 18-20 million, and that was only to update the stadium.....not to mention the field turf costing over a million alone (donation from the Maloufs).

  12. you guys are all right. the football team doesnt deserve a stadium at this point. once they earn one, im sure theyll get one. also, the practice facility with the new student building by the T&M, that will wow recruits. Now, we just need to get a couple local celebrities in those courtside seats. things are lookin up for these Runnin Rebels.

    oh, and its not that Sufferin doesnt want a bball facility, he just doesnt approve anything Kruger related b/c he was fired by Kruger b/c he sucks at his job

  13. shouldnt be an issue..practice facility should be finished by the time next season starts or atleast the one after that

  14. Good news!!

  15. Facilities are HUGE in the recruiting game. That cannot be understated. This one is simple.

  16. havent heard from you in awhile Rob. Update on the recruiting trail? CJ?

  17. last line about a coaches hopes, wishes, and dreams refers to Kruger wanting a practice facility. i hope thats what it is..i think a football stadium is needed but in the future when the team proves itself

  18. fan11, been waaaaay busy man. I'll have something shortly on CJ. Stay tuned ... I responded to your comment about Koloskie. I understand your view, but what happened shouldn't be dismissed. Thx man

  19. I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth here. A basketball practice facility would be huge. Sam Boyd stadium is fine for now, until the football team draws enough fans on a consistent basis to prove otherwise. Winning games is the best recruiter of athletic talent and bodies in the seats. Lon's doing that with the basketball program, so to the victor comes the spoils.

  20. very well said :)

  21. Right, southern. Plus, it's going to be private. If anyone came up to you and said, Hey, I'll build you a sweet practice facility to polish your profile, who would say no? thx
    11, we'll keep you informed on CJ the very second it happens. thx

  22. Was Sufferin really fired by Kruger? lol

    That would explain EVERYTHING!

  23. Same program that would not allow Ralph when he was alive to fund a College Hockey program at UNLV.

    Sure, build a practice facility with even a hoops court for UNLV. Somehow the school needs to understand that the facilities at Cox were build to help the hoops program and not to be booking local real estate meetings when they are in season.

    It would be great if this donation also involved bringing UNLV a mens and womens hockey program. That was his wish in the first place.

  24. i was told sufferin got fired by kruger..and hes known to stalk ppl so keep ur info private on here

  25. If we dont get a football stadium ( a real one) in place for when the BCS names the MWC as a full fledged member, we will be more than a day late and a dollar short. We have to be ready to roll to get the recruits a guaranteed BCS berth will give our school. It is also only a matter of time until Nevada Reno and Boise State make their way in our conference.

    We have the worst football facility in the conference..Period! Talk about embarrasing. I get inside the stadium and all you hear is heavy metal music. You wont ever have an atmosphere until you have a band that can play. For basketball they are pretty good. Our band is almost non existant and they get revved up to play Viva las vegas. uggghhh.. Gerneate an atmosphere please. Like at other REAL schools. When Utah came here it was the Utah band that took the field FIRST before the game. We should be embarrassed by that move. And please, get rid of Dick Calvert and his play by play annoucing antics during the game. His job is to use the PA to state downs and yards to go. Not annouce the play and use his own verbiage for a penalty (Dick, whats the difference between a Minor infraction and a major one)??

    I drove 38.5 miles to Sam Boyd Stadium for the CSU game last week. Crazy distance for a boring, no atmosphere game we actually won that nobody saw! I went to the Tennessee Volunteer-UCLA Bruin game earlier this year in front of 106,000 rabid fans who arrive 6 hours before kickoff ready to blow the roof off and they dont even have a roof. They get more fans in one and a half games as we get all year. Luckily BYU, Utah and Hawaii were here this year or our attendance would have been off the charts bad.

    I know the thought of a new stdium in our current economy is bad timing. But man it sure would be nice to have.

    Good luck to our new UNLV coach. And to whomever that is.... PASS, PASS, PASS the football!! Hire June Jones away from SMU. he is dying there. Throw the ball and you put fannies in the seats!!

  26. Sufferin!!!!! What is the matter with you????? Do you like anything about UNLV? Other than coaching, facilities are the most important part of recruiting. Do you think UCLA is practicing in South Central or Watts because their facilities are being occupied?? You are always saying that we need to compete with schools like UCLA, Kansas, UNC.... have you ever visited any top level college and seen their facilities??? You are the most negative person on here. This is a donation and should be put to use however the donor wants it to be. We are way closer at being relevant in basketball than in football, so no the football team shouldn't get anything over the basketball team. You said that if we got a stadium on campus, we would be the best team on the west coast?? Put the drink down.... If we signed the #2 or #3 recruit in the country, you would be mad because we didn't land #1. If we won the NCAA championship, you'd say we suck because we didn''t win back-to-back. You call yourself a fan???? Nobody agrees with you and nobody here sees you as a fan. Everyone here wishes you weren't a UNLV fan. You are a disgrace. I've agreed with you on certain topics in the past but for you to disagree with a possible practice facility that is being DONATED to UNLV shows me that you are a joke.

  27. With all of this on-campus talk, does anyone know if UNLV is contractually committed to Sam Boyd Stadium or does the university own and run it? If they are contracted to play there for the next 10 years there is no need to continue this conversation.

  28. I understand everything you are saying Sufferin... this article is not about football though. It's about a possible DONATION...DONATION...DONATION...read out loud...DONATION... that UNLV might get, possibly for a basketball facility. WHAT IS UNLV SUPPOSED TO DO? Turn it down? "No thanks, we don't have an on campus football stadium so we don't want a free practice facility". WHAT??? So just because you don't have a house, would you turn down a FREE brand new car?
    Also, we can be a successful basketball program without a good football program. Memphis, Gonzaga, Georgetown, Butler, St. Marys, etc, etc.. Be happy for once instead of criticizing everything. I know we need an on-campus football stadium, but this is FREE and it's a positvce thing. You claiming this is HORRIBLE is beyond ridiculous.

  29. Places to put a new practice facility:
    1. Paradise campus
    2. EPA kick EPA out of the center of campus and plop it there while it's still close to the Mack.
    3. Put it in between the library and the T&M where the parking lot is that about 5 people can afford because they are semester pay spots going for something like $700 or so (I'd check, but the unlv website is completely down)

    Places to put a stadium:
    1. Across the street from the Sahara
    2. Where the intramural field is currently so it can share parking with the T&M
    3. NE corner of paradise and trop

  30. Sufferin,
    you are intolerable. The fact that you want to "Tell" someone who is going to give the school millions of dollars of their own fortune how to spend their own money is ridiculous. You are speculating on amounts and scenarios. You state things like facts here, when it is just your own twisted logic. Until you know the exact dollar amount of the donation, and the exact price of construction of a new practice facility, then you have no idea if the school will be paying for any of it.

    Donating 8 to 12 million for a practice facility is much more reasonable than a 75 million dollar stadium you speak of. In an economy such as ours, you think there are tons of boosters throwing around tens of millions of dollars to support a football team that has won 15 games in 5 years? Get a life.

    We should be grateful and thankful that someone in the community wants to support our school and athletics program. Dont look a gift horse in the mouth you ungrateful, no class, intolerable "fan".

    Here is an idea. How about you do something with your life instead of tearing down those who you pretend to support, and make a few hundred million dollars to give tyo UNLV. I would take your every direction and idea and put it as law the day you make such a generous contribution to the University. Until then, how about just one post along the lines of, "hey, good game rebs. I know that the players bust their ass in practice and sacrifice so much to play college basketball, Im glad you won a game by 40 points."

  31. I think if someone wants to give millions to the school for a Basketball practice facility - that is a great thing. At least they care that much about one UNLV sport. As far as the new Football Stadium - a great idea. We need better facilities to help our recruiting effort in football. Personally, I don't buy into the "the football team needs to win first". Spending the money up front will help UNLV win in the long run. Go Rebels!

  32. mormonwithabrain,

    You're on the wrong site. The quasi-intellectual, spaghetti armed, outcasts (who try to make themselves feel better by gathering together to complain about everyone else wasting resources on recreational activities that they would have given their right arm to excel in), meet over on the RJ site. Their you can find the rest of your ilk trying to work out their issues with society by projecting a false air of superiority. BTW I doubt that either part of your username is true.

  33. remember that sufferin has a secret agenda..he doesnt want JUST what is best for the university and the ath. dept., he wants what will make the basketball team not be good.

  34. Sufferin you dont even listen. Im not talking about your grand scheme to build a football stadium. I just want to know why you think someone is stupid for donating money to the school with their own prerogative on how to utilize that money. And Im sure you have been around the Athletic Department long enough, thats why they let you go right? So being an outsider from the inner workings of current UNLV finances and donors, I dont take your low ball estimate of 2 million to be anywhere near accurate. Why dont you wait till you hear all the facts before you start all your conjecture and falsehoods. Be happy for once, this life is short in the grand scheme. Enjoy the ride. I have a way better time at games cheering the whole time. The heart wrenching endings last year (both wins and losses) make the game exciting and fun, which is the reason I like college sports.

    And Mormonwithabrain,
    too bad its not mormonwithaclue.......Read the article about 2 weeks ago by Emily Richardson.
    She writes, "And this week Smatresk announced a $12.6 million gift from the Engelstad Family Foundation to establish what will be the largest endowed scholarship program in the history of Nevada higher education. Students, who will be known as Engelstad Scholars, will participate in community service with local organizations, including Agassi College Preparatory Academy, Three Square Regional Food Bank and local Boys & Girls Clubs."

    And the rest of the story is about how UNLV reached its highly ambitious fundraising drive of 500 million dollars, which was only started a few years ago.

    Here is the link, maybe you can use that big brain of yours to do your own research next time.

    http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/nov...

  35. could we take the money and hire a Jon Gruden type coach?

  36. I still think all this talk of an on-campus stadium being the savior of the football program is comical. Plenty of fans show up to the games when they feel the team is playing well and has a shot to win; sure they are not the most "well versed" football fans in the world but they/we have had little to get excited about recently.

    As I have said in previous posts, the Thomas & Mack center was over half empty for most of the games during the Spoonhour era and it is on campus. Guess what filled it up again? A program that wins some games and has a chance to be something more! Hiring the right coaching staff and winning some football games will fill Sam Boyd up.....not putting a stadium on campus so the few thousand students who actually live there can watch a losing program.

    I would much rather drive out to Sam Boyd than have to play in the on-campus stadium our other state school has.....I think Gorman has a better field!

  37. yea the Engelstad Foundation is also who is giving the money for whatever is being talked about in this article.. it sounds like me, if the Foundation builds something for that specific team then they will turn into Engelstad Scholars and will begin to do more community service in return for the facility..

    sounds like a good thing to me.

    everyone donate money to www.lj3.com for the Rebel Girl that was killed by a drunk driver

  38. If the donation goes through, thank you to whomever is investing into the program.

    About an on campus stadium, does anyone know what the restrictions are on building something like that due to the airport being next door and in the middle of the flight path? I would love a stadium there, but don't see it being feasible because of the airport. I hope I'm wrong, but I've seen too many planes come in low over the intramural field and over the T&M parking lot to feel comfortable putting a stadium in there.

  39. The airport and the FAA, as in the Federal Government, choose which runways and flight paths they will use based on the direction of the wind....not on UNLV football! It is not as easy as getting the "airport to agree to move planes"! But I guess if we can just close our eyes and wish for top 25 recruits we can control the government as well....

  40. So, a football stadium built on UNLV campus cures a football program that has never truly flourished in the desert. The internet boy solves all of UNLV's problems with a few quick post to an article on a Las Vegas Sun website. If only we had this guy running the country... Good Work!

  41. he isnt a boy, he is a 40 year old mommas boy!

  42. $75M for a serious football stadium is ridiculous, but I agree that UNLV and Las Vegas need to seriously look at partnering to build an attractive football/soccer stadium closer to UNLV and closer to the Strip.

    In addition to hosting UNLV football, a stadium could vie to hose World Cup events, an MLS soccer team, a BCS or other major NCAA bowl game, the Super Bowl, pre-season NFL games, the NFL Pro Bowl, ESPN's X-Games, world-class outdoor concerts (like U2's recent concert at Sam Boyd), and other events like motocross and monster truck championships (if needed).

    Sam Boyd stadium will never fill up for UNLV football because it's so far off the beaten path. If you put a stadium closer to campus, you'd double or triple your student attendance at games, you'd get more locals to attend, and you'd even provide a venue where tourists could catch a college football game.

    Even if UNLV football couldn't fill the stadium at the onset, imagine the revenue opportunities and the tourism multipliers that would result from hosting several major events like a pre-season NFL game, the NFL Pro Bowl, a BCS bowl game, ESPN's X Games, and a World Cup qualifying event in the first few years. Events like that would make the PBR Finals and the National Finals Rodeo look like small draws to Vegas in comparison.

    For those who argue against having a professional team and stadium because the locals foot the bill should recognize that a world-class NFL-style stadium wouldn't have to be supported by locals if the annual events were large tourist attractions. If enough tourists travel to Vegas for these events, then the locals wouldn't have to pay to support the stadium (in the long run), and the tourism multiplier of hotels, gaming, dining, and shows would benefit as well.

    I'm OK with building new facilities for UNLV basketball; it's a core competency product of the university and should be a point of emphasis. For Las Vegas and UNLV football; however, I think an attractive football/soccer stadium would lead to major revenue options that are currently missing.

  43. "I don't have time to go out and make a real living"

    Damn Robert, that was some funny ish! I wonder why, bud. Probably because you're playing in a pirate hat within a tree house with your stepbrothers Dale and Brennan.

  44. Grayback, where did Robert say that?? thats hilarious!

  45. He said that in response to one of my posts. I asked that he go make his own damn money and donate millions to the University. Then he can tell people how to spend it. I guess he loves being unemployed and disgruntled with his previous coworkers and job.

  46. hahaha well i bet he makes more on his unemployment checks now than he did when he was cleaning up the stands in the Mack after the games..

    btw, have you ever seen when they bring homeless people in and have them clean up the stands? thats kinda funny

  47. Good points everyone. I don't care about driving to Sam Boyd personally, it only takes me 20 minutes even from Summerlin. An on campus stadium would be nice but maybe the football team should try winning at least 8 games a season for a while before we talk about that. Winning cures everything it always has and always will.

    There is no way the B-ball team should have to scramble to find a place to practice on any day of the week. If a new facility makes it possible to lure in the country's top prep players how can you say "NO" to that?

  48. (BTW) for those of you who know who is this sufferin guy anyways? What exactly did he do at unlv (what was his job title) and was he really fired by Kruger?