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New UNLV stadium could be game-changer for football program

Sam Boyd Stadium

Never mind talk of the Oakland Raiders moving to town: a new billion-dollar UNLV stadium off the Strip could be a boon to the school’s football program and catapult it to the higher echelons of college football, according to Rebels supporters.

Major college football program require major college facilities, but the UNLV football team plays its home games at Sam Boyd Stadium, a smaller facility far off campus. The lack of revenue from the football program has kept UNLV in the Mountain West Conference — a conference where there are some major national powers (like Boise State), but a conference that doesn’t have any national television exposure. And while schools the size of UNLV have left the Mountain West for larger conferences, like the Big 12 or the Pac-12, UNLV has stayed behind.

And there’s the notion that a better facility would also improve UNLV recruiting. The combination of Sam Boyd Stadium with the lack of TV times certainly do not comprise a great recruiting pitch. But a shiny new stadium and a move to a major conference….now you’re talking. From the Las Vegas Sun:

With broadcasting rights, advertising, revenue from being in football bowl games and basketball’s NCAA Tournament, each school in the Big 12 received $25.6 million in 2015, according to the San Jose Mercury News. For the Pac-12, it was $25.1 million. In 2013-14, by contrast, the 12 schools in the Mountain West shared $29 million, according to the Idaho Statesman.

Imagine how an extra $20 million or so could transform academic programs at UNLV. A stadium would do more than give the Rebels or Raiders a new home, or bring cool events to town. It would transform UNLV from top to bottom.

It’s an easy equation: Get the stadium, get better players, build a better team, win games, get into a better league and make more money. Spend that money on making a better university.

The new stadium isn’t reliant on any Raiders move; Las Vegas Sands Corp. officials say they’re working on a funding plan no matter what. Which is smart: more and more sports events are centered on the huge experience, and a new Las Vegas stadium would certainly be the place for big events — including UNLV games, if things work out.

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