Nevada going back to Stanford for practices; first trip cost $150,000

Nevada going back to Stanford for practices; first trip cost $150,000

After returning home from the Bay Area for two days, the Nevada football team will bus back to Palo Alto, Calif., for another week of practices due to poor air quality in Reno.

The Wolf Pack practiced at Stanford last week at a hefty price and has opted to double up on trips to “The Farm” in preparation for its season opener at Cal on Sept. 4. Nevada was planned on starting Cal week practices on campus Monday but prevailing wildfire smoke in the region led to the Wolf Pack scrapping that idea.

Nevada is scheduled to hold a walkthrough practice at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center on Monday morning (9:30-11 a.m.) before departing Reno for Stanford at 3 p.m. The team is scheduled to return to Reno on Saturday. It will be the second straight week Nevada spends Monday-Saturday at Stanford.

“There’s just so much uncertainty from day-to-day,” Wolf Pack athletic director Doug Knuth told Nevada Sports Net last Friday about the original move to Stanford. “Even the best weather forecasters in Northern Nevada are really accurate about two-three days out in terms of wind direction and smoke direction and air quality index. Coach (Jay) Norvell said, ‘We only have a few days left of training camp before classes start.’ For the next five or six days, we need some certainty. We need to be somewhere where the weather will be good, the air is going to be good. We looked all around the West and there weren’t a lot of options in terms of places we new for sure there wouldn’t be bad air quality from those huge fires. It was Stanford and Humboldt State as our two best options.”

The Wolf Pack staff and Stanford staff have a friendly relationship, which greased the path for Nevada to have a place to practice without worrying about poor air quality. The Wolf Pack is thankful Stanford coach David Shaw has given its team a refuge as air quality in Reno has largely sat in the unhealthy/hazardous zone the last two weeks.

“Stanford was good because Coach Norvell was friends with Coach Shaw and our staffs knew each other,” Knuth said. “It was really nice of them to provide this opportunity to go over there.”

The move to Stanford has been financially costly. Knuth said the first week of practices at Stanford cost around $150,000, or $30,000 per practice session, thanks to travel, hotel costs, food and other miscellaneous expenses. If that same rate holds for this week, the Wolf Pack will be doling out around $300,000 in exchange for the certainty of getting in 10 practices. With Nevada voted the preseason pick to win the Mountain West’s West Division, the Wolf Pack is doing whatever it can to ensure the team is prepared for the 2021 season.

“You can imagine when you fly a team to a single game and fly to play a road game how expensive it is,” Knuth said. “It’s pretty expensive to fly 130 people with hotel and food and buses and everything else for a one- to two-day trip, and now we’re talking about four to five days. Our team is doing its best to really, really keep our costs under control and manage everything we can when we’re down there and try to be as frugal as possible, but it is expensive to move 140 people out of Reno for four or five days.

Knuth said the expenses will come out of the Wolf Pack football budget, which is typically around $11 million per year, which would make this $300,000 expense less than 3 percent of that figure. Although for a school like Nevada, which has run a budget deficit eight of the last 12 fiscal years, it’s still a big figure.

“We’re going to cover it out of the football budget and we’ll do our best to manage the budget and reduce our expenses throughout the year and we’ve had some success already in fundraising from a few people to help us with this unexpected cost,” Knuth said of the initial $150,000 expense. “I think at the end of the year, the end of the budget year, we’ll be just fine and able to balance this into our regular operating budget.”

Complicating matters is the fact UNR starts classes Monday, meaning the Wolf Pack players will be in the Bay Area for the first week of school.

Nevada football isn’t the only program on campus to be impacted by the poor air quality. Women’s soccer and men’s and women’s cross country also are outdoor fall sports that have had to change their schedule due to wildfire smoke.

“Cross country is training indoor,” Knuth said. “There is some flexibility. They don’t need a field and they don’t need a lot of equipment. They can train indoor. They can train on the treadmills and do some work there and also drive up to Truckee or up into the Tahoe air to get out of the smoke sometimes. They have a little more flexibility. Soccer, we’re trying to figure out where they can go depending on wind direction and smoke direction. There are high school fields to the west, there are high school fields to the east and from day to day depending on the wind is blowing, we’ll reach out to out friends at local high schools or local colleges and ask to use their field.”

Nevada soccer, which lost its season opener at Pacific, 1-0, on Friday, is scheduled to host its home opener UTEP on Thursday before playing New Mexico State on Sunday at Mackay Stadium, although both games could be canceled unless air quality in the region improves.

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