RENO, Nev. -- Nevada athletic director Chris Ault, the
winningest football coach in school history, will return to the
head coaching job for a third time to try to snap a five-year
stretch without a winning record.
School president John Lilley announced the move at a news
conference Wednesday with Gov. Kenny Guinn and Reno Mayor Bob
Cashell. It came three days after the firing of Wolf Pack Coach
Chris Tormey, whose best record in four seasons was this year's
Ault, 57, won seven conference championships and posted a
163-63-1 record during 19 seasons from 1976-92 and 1994-95.
"His record and his reputation proceed him," Lilley said
"It's not very often you get a chance to appoint a guy coach
who already is in the College Football Hall of Fame," Lilley said.
"This is a time I think he can take us to the next level. He
can and he will."
A record-setting quarterback in his playing days at Nevada in
the 1960s, he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame last
Twice he was selected the national coach of the year in NCAA
Division I-AA. His teams were known for high-powered passing
offenses before he stepped down from the job a second time in 1995
and became just the athletic director in 1996 -- a job he'd held
"I'm not coming back because I feel I have anything to prove,"
Ault said Wednesday. "I'm coming back because I think I can make a
"It's what I think I do best. I am privileged to have the honor
and the opportunity to end my career where it began, here at the
University of Nevada," he said.
Ault intends to resign as athletic director but will serve as
interim AD until a replacement is hired. He said he'll retain three
coaches from Tormey's staff -- recruiting coordinator and running
backs coach Jim Mastro, tight ends coach Cameron Norcross and
defensive line coach Barry Sacks.
He vowed to return to a "wide-open, attack-style offense" and
try to recruit more "impact players."
"There will be no excuses," Ault said. "I know I can coach.
This isn't about Xs and Os, though that is the fun part. This is
"I'm optimistic we've got a nucleus here to build on," he
Lilley said Ault had started reviewing dozens of potential
candidates when Lilley approached him Monday evening about the job.
"I have to admit no one is more surprised about this than I,"
Lilley told reporters during the news conference at Legacy Hall.
He said he asked Ault if he might be interested in stepping down
as athletic director to become coach "fully expecting him to say,
"To my utter astonishment, he said, 'Could be.' ... I was
thrilled," Lilley said.
Ault said his lifestyle is in for a big change as he returns to
the long days of coaching, going from "that expensive wine and
cheese" world of athletic directors "back to beer and pizza.
"And I'm damn glad to be having beer and pizza again," he
Guinn said he's known Ault since the Wolf Pack coach tried more
than 20 years ago to recruit his son, Jeff Guinn, who went on to
play linebacker at Arizona State.
"I'm kind of happy to see him do this because he won't be over
at the Legislature next year" seeking more money for the
university, Guinn joked.
Reno Mayor Bob Cashell and state Senate Majority Leader Bill
Raggio also attended the news conference.
Ault announced Tormey's firing on Sunday after the Wolf Pack
closed the season with a 56-3 loss at No. 18 Boise State, going 1-4
down the stretch to finish 6-6 overall and 4-4 in the Western
Ault cited Tormey's overall record of 16-31 and failure to beat
in-state rival UNLV as factors in his decision. The loss to Boise
State was the deciding factor, he said.
"That was tough to sit through," Ault said. "We used to
handle Boise. The roles are reversed and I don't like it."
Tormey came to Nevada after posting a 33-23 record as head coach
at Idaho from 1995 to 1999.