It's not often that a nationally ranked football opponent comes to Mackay Stadium. And it's certainly not often that the University opens a building that will redefine the campus culture.
But this weekend, the University community will get to witness both: the No. 16 Hawaii Warriors come to Reno boasting an undefeated record and the Joe Crowley Student Union celebrates its grand opening.
When you throw in the mens basketball team's home opener versus Santa Clara, this weekend will be one to remember.
"I personally think that the Crowley Union will be viewed by future historians as a major transformative moment for the university," says Dick Davies, former academic vice president and current professor of history whose tenure at Nevada dates back more than 25 years. "I believe it can stimulate the emergence of a meaningful residential college atmosphere on campus, something that never seemed to occur at Jot Travis [the former student union]."
Davies - considered one of the country's foremost sports historians, having written extensively about America's obsession with sports and sports' impact on society - also notes that the game with Hawaii adds an interesting twist to the grand opening.
"Now we have the opening of the Joe juxtaposed with one of the nation's most heralded teams coming to campus," he says. "A combination unique in the history of the University, certainly."
An intriguing game
The football game features several interesting storylines. For starters, Hawaii has never won a game at Mackay Stadium since Nevada joined the Western Athletic Conference in 2000.
Then, there is Hawaii's quarterback, Colt Brennan, a Heisman Trophy candidate who is poised to break the NCAA record for career touchdown passes. He is currently tied with Ty Detmer, the 1990 Heisman winner from Brigham Young University, with 121.
The most interesting plot line though may be the bowl implications of the game. If Hawaii wins, the Warriors are one step closer to a possible BCS (Bowl Championship Series) berth. Should Hawaii earn such a berth, it would mean another bowl opportunity would be opened for Nevada.
But if Nevada wins, it is likely that the Warriors would take a bowl opportunity away from the Wolf Pack.
Celebrating a new era
Though he was not in his post when the project started, University President Milton Glick says the Joe Crowley Student Union will usher in a new era for the University.
"This is going to enhance campus culture," Glick says. "The Joe Crowley Student Union is going to help students live more of their lives on campus, a key to engagement and student success."
To begin the grand opening festivities, students will carry the "student union" part of the moniker that adorned the Jot Travis Student Union to the new Joe Crowley Student Union in a ceremonial parade. The drum corps, cheerleaders and Wolf Pack mascot, Alphie, will lead the parade, which starts at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at the old union - now the Jot Travis Building.
Following the parade, Sarah Ragsdale, president of the Associated Students of the University of Nevada, Rebecca Bevans, president of the Graduate Student Association, and Glick will speak at a welcome ceremony in the plaza outside the building.
Immediately following the welcome ceremony will be a concert by the local band Sol Jibe as well as refreshments and an open house. Additional events later that evening include movies in the new 220-seat movie theater and a wine-and-cheese social for graduate students.
Friday's events culminate with the Hawaii versus Nevada football game, which kicks off at 8 p.m. Prior to the game, the student union will host an open house from 4-7 p.m. that includes food samples and entertainment.