A new head-to-head challenge will celebrate the rivalry between UNLV and the University of Nevada, Reno in the field of athletic competition. But the Governor's Series, presented by NV Energy, is made all the more meaningful by its emphasis on academic performance and its recognition of sportsmanship and citizenship by student-athletes.
Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, NV Energy President and CEO Michael Yackira, University of Nevada, Reno President Marc Johnson and UNLV President Neal Smatresk were among those gathered yesterday at the Governor's Mansion in Carson City to announce the Governor's Series, which begins this academic year and includes all of the athletics programs' sports. The announcement coincides with rivalry week, as the Wolf Pack football team prepares to take on the Rebels in Las Vegas Saturday in the annual Battle for the Fremont Cannon.
"I'm proud and honored to announce this series," said Sandoval. "I look forward to presenting the Governor's Cup to the successful school."
"Personally, I'm thrilled to see this incorporate an academic component," he said.
Through the series, points will be awarded in each sport for victories against the in-state rival and through a sport-by-sport comparison of scores on the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate. Financial support by NV Energy and Barrick Gold, an associate sponsor of the series, will support affiliated scholarships for students-athletes.
In addition to the presentation of the Governor's Cup, the series includes the Bill Ireland Award, a new student-athlete honor to be awarded annually at both universities. The award recipient will have demonstrated outstanding athletic performance as well as sportsmanship, citizenship, community service and academic achievement.
The award is named for Bill Ireland, a native of McGill, Nev. and a 1952 graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno who died in 2007. Ireland was the Wolf Pack's baseball coach from 1961 to 1967 and also was an assistant football coach during this time. He went on to UNLV where he became the Rebels' first football coach from 1968 to 1972, and he later served as UNLV athletic director from 1973 to 1980.
A member of both the UNLV Athletics and Wolf Pack Athletics hall of fame, Ireland is credited with helping come up with the idea for the Fremont Cannon, the trophy initiated in 1970 and awarded to the winner of the annual Rebels versus Wolf Pack football game. The Fremont Cannon is the largest and most expensive trophy in college football, weighing in at 545 pounds and built at an expense of $10,000.
"He was a really generous and warm person," said John Trent, University senior editor and former sportswriter who interacted with "Coach I" many times. "He truly cared about both universities. He was probably the only person in the state's history whose obituary mentioned the fact that he was said to bleed both Rebel red and Wolf Pack blue."
That same spirit of civility and respect was woven throughout the presentations at yesterday's program.
"We will carry into this competition a sense of pride and respect in our fellow institution," said University President Marc Johnson. "We are competitors when it comes to sports. We are partners when it comes to research, economic development and contributing to the state and our future generations."
University of Nevada, Reno sports included in the Governor's Series include football, women's soccer, women's volleyball, women's cross country, women's swimming and diving, men's and women's basketball, women's indoor and outdoor track and field, baseball, softball, men's and women's golf and men's and women's tennis. In the event of a tie in the Governor's Series, the winner of the Battle for the Fremont Cannon football game will receive the Governor's Cup.