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Tony Sanchez Prepares For New UNLV Football Season

Tony Sanchez
Issac Brekken/Associated Press

Tony Sanchez, the former coach of the powerhouse Bishop Gorman High School football team, is set to take over at the long-struggling UNLV football team.

Tony Sanchez is no stranger to football in Las Vegas.

He was the head coach of Bishop Gorman's highly successful football team for six seasons, losing only five games over that span.

This past season, Sanchez led Bishop Gorman to its sixth straight state high school championship after a 15 and 0 season.

Now, his newest challenge: turning UNLV's football program around.

In December, he was appointed as the Rebels' new coach, and this summer, he's getting ready for the 2015 season.

"To me, it was a no brainer," Sanchez told KNPR's State of Nevada, "To have an opportunity to stay here, stay at home, a place that my family loves, and at the same time take that next step in your career. It was an exciting opportunity. I was excited to take advantage of."

Sanchez was also interested in taking over a team that has several lackluster seasons over the past few years. 

"I was curious to see, and roll up my sleeves, what is it that is holding UNLV back?" he said.

But he knows it take more than just one man to make the team a success. He believes the whole community needs to get behind UNLV football. 

"If we can get some community buy in, some university support, we do our end on the recruiting aspect, I know football wise, we'll do a great job," Sanchez said.

He says the team's first goal is a simple one:

"The goal is to win the Mountain West first and foremost," Sanchez said. He believes it can be done and points to success at Boise State and TCU as examples of programs that have turned around fast.

Besides winning, the coach wants to work on building a relationship with the community and helping the student-athletes in his program succeed after college sports.

"Helping to create better men for life after sports and then helping our university to be successful in winning championships -- those are the goals," Sanchez said.

Sanchez and his team face a tough start with a schedule that starts with a trip to Northern Illinois, a visit from UCLA and then a trip to Ann Arbor to face the University of Michigan. 

The coach said he was "excited about the competitiveness" of the schedule. 

"You don't take this job if you're not a climber," Sanchez said.

He thinks issues like a new football facility on campus, conference alignment, recruiting and improving community involvement are all part of that climb. 

But at the end of the day, Sanchez believes in the program's future and his.

"I think it's got a great history and I think it has a great future," he said. "I would love to hang my hat at UNLV and call it a day."

The UNLV Rebels' first game at home will be Sept. 9 against UCLA at 7:30 p.m.

Tony Sanchez, UNLV Rebels football coach

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Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)