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UNLV coach Tony Sanchez is shown during the Mountain West media day at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas Wednesday, July 25, 2018.

Less than a week after the 2018 football season ended, UNLV athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois announced that she would be retaining head coach Tony Sanchez for a fifth year. While it’s not standard operating procedure to declare that a coach isn’t being fired, a 4-8 record had put Sanchez’s job in jeopardy, necessitating the statement.

At the same time, Reed-Francois very publicly reiterated her stance on Sanchez’s job security going forward: Make a bowl game in 2019, or else.

“We are looking forward to a successful 2019 football season,” Reed-Francois’s statement read in part, “including bowl eligibility.” Reading between the lines wasn’t necessary.

The Rebels have been living with that reality for the past seven months, knowing that the future employment of their coach is entirely in their hands. And now those expectations are cresting as the team is set to open training camp on Aug. 1.

At Mountain West media day on Tuesday, junior quarterback Armani Rogers said the players are trying to avoid thinking about Sanchez’s job status.

“We just play football,” Rogers said. “That’s all we can do. We can’t worry about something that hasn’t happened yet or what they say will happen. You’ve just got to play and control what you can control.”

The Rebels went 3-2 in games started by Rogers last season and 1-5 in the games he missed due to a mid-season foot injury. UNLV also lost at Hawaii, when Rogers came off the bench and played spot snaps as he was eased back into game action following his injury.

Whether Sanchez is the coach when UNLV moves into the new Las Vegas Stadium in 2020 could come down to something as simple as Rogers staying healthy for an entire season. It’s a lot of pressure to lay on the shoulders of a 21-year-old.

Rogers said the pressure won’t affect him, largely because what’s good for the team will also be good for Sanchez.

“I think it’s a given that even if it wasn’t for his job or whatever the case may be, that the ultimate goal for us is that we want to go to a bowl game. We don’t like not going to a bowl game and going home early for Christmas break while you see your friends at bowl games. So that’s our ultimate goal, we want to go to a bowl game, and if that’s going to help him out we definitely want to get there and do it.”

Senior Javin White is more open about his role in Sanchez’s future at UNLV. White may have already done more than anyone to secure another year for Sanchez, as the linebacker intercepted two passes — including the game-clincher — in a stirring comeback win over UNR in the season finale.

Now, White is determined to keep his coach off the hot seat for the foreseeable future.

“Right now coach Sanchez is my dude,” White said, “so I’m going to go fight for him regardless of if he has a job or not.”

When asked if it was fair for the AD to publicly state the terms of Sanchez’s continued employment before the start of the season, White had no problem with it.

“I feel like she can do whatever she wants,” White said. “She felt like she needed to say that, and that’s OK, because in honest truth a lot of people feel like we need to make a bowl game. We need to make a bowl game. She has every right to do that, and we plan on making her look good. We plan on making coach Sanchez look good.”

For his part, Sanchez has not wavered during his tenure at UNLV, and his accomplishments off the field — lobbying for the new stadium, securing funding for the new Fertitta Football Complex, raising player GPAs to record heights — are a mark in his favor. It’s the 16-32 career record that is keeping his job status in the news.

Sanchez said he will coach this season like he has coached the four before it, paying no mind to his future and hoping his players can do the same.

“You know the job you’re getting into, and you know the pressure that comes with it,” Sanchez said. “You cannot let pressure paralyze you. You can’t worry about it. If you really care about that, how are you going to function and do your job? If you’re seized up by it, if you’re thinking about it, if you’re worried about outside influences then you’re just doing yourself and your whole team a disservice. So we don’t even talk about that stuff.”

Rogers echoed that sentiment and testified that Sanchez has shown no signs of letting the pressure get to him.

“He’s been the same guy since I got here,” Rogers said. “Nothing’s changed about him. He has the same demeanor. He just wants the best for us, and we’re going to go out there and we’re going to keep fighting for him how he fights for us.”

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at

Article written by #LasVegasSun