To say I was lucky during my years as a sports writer, Assistant Sports Editor and Sports Editor for the Nevada Sagebrush would be an understatement. I got to cover Nevada’s 13-1 season, see future NFL players Colin Kaepernick, Dontay Moch, Rishard Matthews and more play. And I got to see, talk to and cover Chris Ault. Ault stepped down from the head coach position today. The timing makes sense. He is getting up there in age. He helped lead Nevada into the Mountain West Conference. He’s pioneered an offense that is being used in both college and professional football. He’s already part of the college football hall of fame. What more does he have to do?

Ault’s impact to Wolf Pack sports speaks for itself. A career record of 233-109-1. Nevada roots from when he played quarterback in the 60s to serving as Athletics Director and football coach. He helped pioneer the college football overtime system. He has more wins than the entire history of UNLV football. the Wolf Pack’s had just one losing conference record since 1982. He helped bring Nevada from Division II to Division I and moving up conferences. He helped promote school spirit, helped to hype up the Nevada-UNLV football game and frankly represented the university well. Oh and his salary compared to the rest of college football is far below what other coaches of his caliber are getting paid.

But perhaps more than that he was a great human being. There were no huge scandals while he was head coach. No cover ups, no major discipline scandals, no big NCAA violations, none of that. But he also took time to get to know people. There have been lots and lots of sports writers for the Sagebrush through the years. And yet, he knew my name. Also greeted me warmly whether or not I had written something positive about him. One of my favorite memories from Ault came during a practice. Waiting for the team to arrive, Ault came up behind me put his arm around my neck and said “I hope you’re staying out of trouble”. Contrast that with Charlie Weiss and the way he treats student-journalists.

Now Ault was not a perfect coach. The clock-management was suspect at times. And in recent years, he struggled to find a defensive staff to help bring the Wolf Pack from the bottom of the barrel, especially when it came to pass defense. And yet, 2010 showed just what Ault’s done for this program. Taking down Boise State. No. 11 in the nation. Bringing awareness to the football program and the university.

The hole Ault left will never be truly filled. He was and always will be Nevada football. He could have left, but stayed loyal to the university, something you just don’t see these days. He was a class act. He was smart, innovative, fiery, kind, intense and everything a good football coach should be. Nevada will never have another coach like Ault. And like all legends, his name will fade into nothing more than stories we can tell our children. But I consider myself lucky to have been around Ault. To have covered him and to have been there for arguably his most memorable season. And for that, I say thank you.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

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