By ALAN SNEL
There’s about seven minutes left in tonight’s UNLV-Utah basketball games and the Runnin’ Rebels are blasting the big boys from Utah by 26 points.
If I’m UNLV Athletic Director Desiree Reed-Francois, I’m texting my best video person on campus and putting together a highlight reel video from tonight’s game and sending that vid to current and former season ticket holders in an email blast to show that this year’s team is the real deal and worthy of butts in the seats at Thomas & Mack Center.
The first three UNLV games at TMC drew dismal crowds. Granted, the team is coming off a putrid 11-win season and last week’s opponents were college brands such as Florida A&M University. But there could not be more than 4,000 or 5,000 fans at TMC for each game last week.
But now is the time for UNLV to crank up the marketing machine — whatever that infrastructure is.
UNLV went on to wipe out Utah, 85-58, on Thanksgiving Eve at T-Mobile Arena.
It was a stunning night for Las Vegas sports, as the Golden Knights surged into first place with a 4-2 in over Anaheim in southern California, while UNLV had a T-Mobile Arena crowd roaring on several occasions with Jovan Mooring three-point shots and Brandon McCoy powering his way inside against Utah’s big-boy interior defense.
Who saw this coming? A first-place Golden Knights team after 20 games and UNLV blasting Utah in the title game of the MGM Resorts International’s Main Event basketball tourney.
The Golden Knights are packing their arena to the tune of 103 percent of capacity — good for third in the NHL.
And now it looks as if the UNLV hoopsters are back — and Reed-Francois told LVSportsBiz.com that the e-mails were being fired out to fans last night asking them to return to Thomas & Mack to watch Runnin’ Rebels basketball.
“The ticket messages are going out as we speak,” Reed-Francois said a few minutes after the game ended. “Las Vegas loves a winner. And that’s what we showed tonight.”
Reed-Francois said the marketing push will be on to drive fans back to Thomas & Mack, which averaged about 10,000 fans a game last year when the team struggled to an 11-21 record.
LVSportsBiz.com caught up with basketball coach Marvin Menzies after he held his press conference and Menzies explained that the athletic department’s marketing manpower has been at a “skeleton” level and that Reed-Francois would be beefing the marketing efforts and there’s a plan.
“They are hiring new folks,” Menzies told LVSportsBiz.com after the big win.
The coach wouldn’t use the term, “bandwagon,” yet because Menzies observed the team is still “at the early stages and is just about leaving the station.”
The UNLV basketball team will play two games at the MGM Grand Garden Arena next month when the National Finals Rodeo comes to Thomas & Mack for their annual Super Bowl of rodeos. There’s a Dec. 5 game with Oral Roberts and a Dec. 9 game with Illinois.
Robbie Findlay, son of UNLV super booster Cliff Findlay, predicted the UNLV fans who stopped going to games will be returning to Thomas & Mack because of the team’s re-birth.
But Findlay said many UNLV season ticket holders did not realize that the UNLV games at T-Mobile Arena were covered by their season plan and did not attend the Monday and Wednesday games.
Menzies offered this quote for the media: “We need the fans to come out. That’s what the big boys have, they have phenomenal home court advantages. You go and play in places like that with sold out houses, there are waiting lists to get season tickets at some places.
“Those environments, there is nothing like that. Those places recruit themselves and we have to get back that feeling. This is a group to maybe be the foundation to do that and be the first team to launch back towards that direction. . . ”
Contact LVSportsBiz.com founder/writer Alan Snel at asnel@LVSportsBiz.com