From Gus Malzahn at Auburn to Hugh Freeze at Ole Miss, former high school coaches are experiencing plenty of success running college football programs the past few years.
UNLV is about to find out if a local high school coaching legend can do the same and turn around its downtrodden football program.
According to reports from Sports Illustrated and the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the school is on the verge of hiring Bishop Gorman High School coach Tony Sanchez. The 40-year-old has guided the Nevada powerhouse to an 85-5 record, six consecutive state titles and has annually made the Gaels one of the top high school football teams in the country.
Although it's not typical, the trend of hiring successful high school coaches to become assistants at major college programs has picked up in recent years -- a number of them have even risen to the pinnacle of the coaching ladder in the sport like current Big 12 champion Art Briles at Baylor. Making the jump straight from coaching high school football to running a major FBS program is exceedingly rare, however.
The most notable examples of going from the varsity level straight to college include North Texas hiring former Southlake Carroll (Texas) High coach Todd Dodge and Notre Dame installing Gerry Faust out of Archbishop Moeller in the Cincinnati area back in the early 1980s. Neither found much success at the collegiate level and failed to make it even five years on the job.
Sports Illustrated notes that Sanchez's relationship with UNLV boosters, including UFC executive Lorenzo Fertitta, were key in him getting hired at the school. This will be Sanchez's first full-time experience coaching at the college level, but officials are likely hoping his youthful energy will help the team land recruits and guide the program through a number of facilities upgrades that are currently being planned.
"You've got to find the local homegrown kids and give them an opportunity and a reason to stay home," Sanchez told the magazine. "That is huge. You talk about putting more people in the stands, getting more community support and people rallying around the program, I think it always starts in your backyard. Home is always home, but you've got to give them a reason to want to stay home."
Ex-New York Giants coach Jim Fassel, former SMU and Hawaii coach June Jones and former USC assistant coach Ed Orgeron were among those that reportedly interviewed for the opening.
Sanchez will replace Bobby Hauck, who resigned as head coach prior to the Rebels' final game this season after going 15-49 in five seasons.