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Original Issue

The Graduate

UNLV coach Tony Sanchez is making the jump directly from high school

Tony Sanchez was at ease last week at the Arizona Biltmore, hobnobbing with fellow Mountain West, Pac-12 and Big 12 head coaches there for conference meetings. For Sanchez, who left the machine he built at Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas to try to resuscitate UNLV, the move hasn't been as daunting as it would seem on the surface.

"This was our team hotel when we played Chaparral," Sanchez said, referring to Gorman's game against the Scottsdale, Ariz., powerhouse. At Gorman, Sanchez assumed a role more like a college coach's than any college assistant could. "You're used to fund-raising," Sanchez says. "You're used to dealing with administrators, dealing with academics."

Other high-school-to-college coaches such as Gerry Faust (Cincinnati's Moeller High to Notre Dame in 1981) and Todd Dodge (Southlake [Texas] Carroll High to North Texas in 2007) had that experience but couldn't adjust. Sanchez believes times have changed. Baylor's Art Briles was a position coach at Texas Tech before he became the top man at Houston, but he still uses concepts he developed at Stephenville (Texas) High. Auburn's Gus Malzahn was a college offensive coordinator first, but he still uses a scheme crafted at Springdale (Ark.) High. "X-and-O-wise, there's not a big difference," Sanchez says. "That's been shown."

The Rebels have endured four 10-loss seasons since 2009, and they need talent and facilities upgrades. Sanchez, who sent 23 players to the FBS in five years, believes he can get talent. As for facilities, "We did a lot of building [at Gorman]," he says. Now he has to do it at a higher level.