Nevada coach Ault looking for first bowl victory

Updated: December 22, 2005, 8:47 PM ET
Associated Press

HONOLULU -- Nevada football coach Chris Ault is trying to secure perhaps the only major accomplishment that has eluded him in his 21-year coaching career -- a bowl victory.

The only active member of the College Football Hall of Fame has complied a 176-73-1 record and taken Nevada from a Division II program to the heights of I-AA and into I-A.

But the winningest coach in school history is 0-2 in bowl games. He lost 35-34 to Bowling Green in the 1992 Las Vegas Bowl and fell 40-37 in overtime to Toledo in the 1995 Las Vegas Bowl.

"That means nothing," said Ault, who will coach in his third bowl game on Saturday when the Wolf Pack takes on Central Florida in the Hawaii Bowl.

"I don't play the games. I just coach them. That is all history. Yesterday's news doesn't count. That is a canceled check," he told the Reno Gazette-Journal in an interview this week.

Ault said that his induction into the hall of fame says enough about his coaching career.

"I have said this all along -- I am one of the fortunate guys in coaching," he said. "I have reached the highest achievement you can reach in this business. I don't need anything more. I want these kids to win. That is my focus. I am proud of these guys and where they were."

Ault's coaching counterpart in Saturday's game doesn't have a hall of fame induction but he does have more bowl-game experience. UCF's George O'Leary took Georgia Tech to five straight bowl games from 1997-2001 and has a 3-2 record in bowl games.

But UCF has never been to a bowl game.

Nevada's one bowl victory as a Division I-A member came the year after Ault stepped aside for the second time. It was 1996 and it was Jeff Tisdel who guided the Pack to an 18-15 win over Ball State in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Ault's stance that being 0-2 means nothing is partly an attempt to keep the focus on the players on this year's team.

"I have told them, 'You are Nevada's Christmas team,'" Ault said. "That is special right there. All of my teams have been special to me, but I can't recall a team that I wanted the players to win more than this team. These guys have been through so much and had to learn what attitude is about."

"We've had a great year, coming from no place to winning a championship. But it can be better."

Historically, Ault-coached teams have lost their final games of a season more than they have won them. That is partly due to the Pack's tenure in I-AA, where a playoff system existed so only one playoff team finished the season with a victory. In his 20 previous seasons, Ault's record in season finales is 7-13.

The coach said that while his 0-2 record is "old news" and that the players play the games, those comments shouldn't be taken as a lack of desire to win the game on Saturday.

"Don't get me wrong. I want to win, too," he said. "There is no question about that. That is the name of the game and this is a one-game season. It is all on one thing."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press