Of the three, the Pope, who is the first Pontiff from the Americas, surely is facing the most daunting challenge. It is up to Pope Francis to cure both the internal strife at the Vatican and the tarnished reputation of the Church in general. The fact that he comes from a primarily dominant country in South America should give him a good base from which to operate. Often called the “people’s prelate,” because of his Spartan lifestyle, which included living in a small apartment rather than a palatial mansion, using public transportation and carrying his own baggage, this Pope would seem to be more identified with the general population than many of his predecessors.
Doug Knuth, the new Athletic Director at the University, faces a less daunting challenge but one that is very important locally as he attempts to resurrect the previous school spirit at the U that has sadly been missing for the past decade. Reno, at one point in time was known as a college town. During the hey day of university athletics that occurred in the late ‘40’s and early ‘50’s, wearing a Block N sweater downtown assured you of many free meals and liquid refreshment. Your varsity logo also was good for a free pass to the top entertainment that prevailed in the Truckee Meadows.
That spirit of community involvement has since vanished and was most apparent in the lackluster fan turnout for this past year’s football and basketball seasons.
Knuth will have to be extremely active in the community in order to sell his athletic programs to the general public. Just as important will be his reaching out to the student body of the U to get them to be more supportive of the school’s athletic programs. Entering the Mountain West Conference is also a challenge that the new athletic director will have to take head-on. Although he stated in his interviews that he was more than a fundraiser, that aspect of the job will require a great deal of renewed effort. He also faces the challenge of a basketball team that finished in last place this year and a football program that will be under a new coach for the upcoming season in the MWC.
As to the new football coach at the university, Brian Polian has already assembled what looks to be a fine group of assistant coaches and is heavily involved in recruiting. From all accounts, the Wolf Pack should be a strong presence in the MWC since it is returning many of last year’s starters. It will be most interesting to see how Knuth and Polian interface in the coming months. Whatever course they pursue will depend heavily on how the community of Reno reacts to a new vision in the athletic department.
Harry Spencer is a long-time northern Nevada resident.