Ken Wilson adding traditional elements of Nevada football back into program

Ken Wilson may be a first-year football coach in Nevada, but he’s as knowledgeable about the history and traditions of the Wolfpack as you’ll find that side of Chris Olt.

And on Friday, Wilson officially announced a series of upcoming changes to football in Nevada this season that will bring back some traditional elements of the program. Among them:

* Move the team from the western side line to the eastern margin during matches

* Make blue the base color of the Wolfpack helmet

* And the return of the striker’s award, a silver bar down the middle of the helmet of the most prominent Wolfpack players.

Wilson originally mentioned these items during Monday’s Mailbag guest post last week, but provided more details during Friday’s NSN Daily as the season ticket renewal deadline for Nevada football fans approaches. He played from the Nevada side of the eastern side during Wilson’s entire tenure, which is where he feels best.

“This is where I feel most comfortable and where we have won a lot of championships,” Wilson said. “There are a lot of reasons for us to do this strategically and schematically. But the biggest one was when I got here a lot of people I met in the community, ex-players, and the two things they always asked were, ‘Are we going back to the East Sideline?’ And “Are we going back to the blue helmets?” We are working on those two things now.”

Wilson said a move to the eastern sidelines brings back the team’s historic stature, but should also provide a competitive advantage.

“When you play daytime games in the fall here, a shadow appears on the side of the press box very early in the game,” Wilson said. “So the team that’s in the shade on this side of the field, it’s much cooler. So you bring in teams from the south or from warm weather climates and you put them in that shade in November, December, the day goes on and that’s a huge advantage for the team that’s there warm in the rays of the sun. The Sun. And second, I’d say only 10 to 15 percent of college football teams have a touchline at their home in the side of the press box. Most teams put their team away from the press box, so the visiting coaches in the press box can’t watch you make adjustments. Watch your injury status, or watch things that happen with your sideline or your cue. So it’s a much bigger advantage for us to be away from our press box side.”

Wilson said the team’s entry into the stadium is easier if it’s anchored on the east side line, and communication is easier from that part of the stadium as well. Wilson, who worked in Nevada from 1989 to 2012, mostly as an assistant soccer coach, said there are many examples of the team on the West Side line freezing as the sun went down behind the press box.

“In a lot of those games by the middle of the first quarter, the whole team had gathered around little gas heaters and our guys were nice and warm in the sun playing soccer,” Wilson said. “It was something we were always proud of, it was seeing the visiting teams in the shadows across the field, especially in the playoffs and late in the season. And I think that was just another plus besides the south end area, the areas, the elevation, all the different things that made this such a difficult place. To play. We want these things back.”

Also returning is the Striker Award, a ribbon located in the middle of a player’s helmet to mark the Nevada stars. It was arguably the finest honor a Wolf Pack footballer could receive. In the 1980s, the ribbon was red, an odd choice given the hated rivalry with UNLV. It then turned to a silver bar before the program was phased out in recent years.

“To this day, it’s the best player award I’ve seen in college football and the players love it,” Wilson said. “There’s a lot of stickers and chains and things like that. The Striker was around long before I got here, but I’ve always been a big fan. Even in the late ’80s, there was a red ribbon that was put on the helmet, it’s crazy to think of it now. But It was very important at the time that the Strikers took that award and kept it so everyone knew who the attacker was, who the dominant players were, and who the people outdid the leadership and beyond.

“He wasn’t always the best players. It was the hardest workers, the best captains, the grinders, the guys who would fight one-on-one and win many of them during the game, a lot of their teammates and their coaches voted for them with that award. Then they put an award on their helmet, and it was getting this The prize is gold.”

Wilson said Nevada is working to update the tape that will contain the word “attacker.” Given his long history with the program, Wilson has tried to impress on the team’s current players the level of excellence they are expected to uphold. Wilson won nine Conference Championships (in three different leagues) as an assistant coach for the Wolf Pack. He wants his players to know how they won these titles.

“I only remember teams that weren’t always the most talented, but weren’t willing to lose and weren’t willing to worry about the weather, the snow, the wind, the night or day matches or who the opponent was on the other side,” Wilson said. “All they cared about was winning. It didn’t matter who was a star, and it didn’t matter which side of the ball won the game or whether it was special teams. It just mattered that the University of Nevada won that football game.

“And a lot of that came from coach Ault and the coaches and players who were here. They wanted us to win a lot of times when we weren’t supposed to win those games and we didn’t have the best team on the field. But we had the team that wouldn’t lose on the field, And that’s what we’re trying to influence in our team now to push this thing into the future.”

In addition to those future changes to the Game Day setting, Nevada facilities are also undergoing major changes this season (nearly $5 million in improvements). This includes a new playing area at Mackay Stadium (last changed prior to the 2010 season), a renovated locker room, and a strength and conditioning centre. These improvements are already in the works and should be completed soon. It includes two women’s teams and a Wolfpack that also get locker room space on campus.

“A big expansion and a lot of work is going on right now,” Wilson said. “The thing I love about it is that it’s not just talk. It’s being done now. You can see it, breathe it, feel it, look at it. And it’s happening now. We’re not just improving the football program, but athletics in general.” And with the basketball facility, all the improvements to football, new locker rooms for some of our women’s sports, and a new track surface, I hope we can continue to grow. I think there are big things waiting for the University of Nevada athletic department.”

You can watch NSN’s full daily interview with Ken Wilson below.