Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024 | 2 a.m.
The UNLV football program didn’t expect to be front and center this week, as the biggest spectacle in American sports — the Super Bowl — descended on Las Vegas. But that was the situation on Monday, when negative reports about the on-campus facilities and practice fields had the Scarlet and Gray taking a beating from all angles.
By the middle of the week, the mini-controversy had dissipated, with rave reviews replacing the griping, but it was a bumpy couple of days for UNLV.
It began on Monday, when reports began to circulate that the San Francisco 49ers were unhappy with the two practice fields on campus. For the Super Bowl, the NFL alternates home-and-away accommodations between AFC and NFL participants, so the Kansas City Chiefs were placed at the Raiders’ headquarters in Henderson, while the 49ers are being housed at UNLV for the week.
Because the Super Bowl is being played on natural grass inside Allegiant Stadium, the NFL placed grass turf over the artificial surface that UNLV practices on. With consistent rain over the past week, the sod took on a lot of water, leading some within the 49ers organization to complain about the dampness of the practice field.
When those reports got out, social media began lobbing insults at UNLV.
Not exactly the kind of publicity UNLV was hoping for when the program invested approximately $35 million to build the Fertitta Football complex, which opened in 2019.
It was especially stinging because all disparaging remarks should have been directed at the NFL, which has completely taken over the Fertitta complex and the practice fields for the past two weeks. UNLV has had no involvement in field prep besides providing the space.
Either way, the tide began to turn once the players actually got a chance to check out the facilities for themselves. After a walk-through on Monday and a practice on Tuesday, the 49ers had nothing but good things to say about UNLV’s on-campus home.
“They’re great,” offensive lineman and UCLA alum Jake Brendel said of the facilities. “That’s the largest locker room I’ve ever seen in college. It’s been good.”
The two-story Fertitta Football complex took three years to build. It measures 73,000 square feet, with a 10,000-square-foot weight room and an expansive locker room that comfortably fits 112 lockers.
Defensive back Taushaun Gipson, a 12-year NFL veteran, said it wasn’t the UNLV he remembered from his college days at Wyoming.
“I’m shocked, because they’re in the Mountain West,” Gipson said with a smile. “I’m shocked the locker room is that nice. We’ve got to do better at Wyoming. The fields are the fields, but the weight room and everything is pretty decent, honestly.”
Third-year defensive back Deommodore Lenoir knows his way around elite facilities, as he spent his college career at Oregon, and he said UNLV stacked up nicely.
“UNLV, I love their locker room,” Lenoir said. “It reminds me of Oregon’s. The whole setup was exactly how ours was. The facilities are just like Oregon’s, too.”
The complex boasts coaches’ offices on the second floor, 2,500 square feet of kitchen space, three hydrotherapy tubs and a players’ lounge with multiple big-screen televisions and gaming systems.
Oh, and there’s a barbershop, too.
As the rainy weather subsides further throughout the week, UNLV’s reputation will rebound with it.
Defensive lineman Chase Young played at Ohio State, one of the best-funded football programs in the nation, and he had the final word on the situation.
“It’s real good,” Young said. “We’ve got the tubs for pre-practice, nice locker room. Definitely it’s a tip-top facility.”