UNLV Football
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

New FSM Feature: Who Is The Best Fit To Take Over UNLV Football

Franchise Sports Media


The search is on for Marcus Arroyo’s replacement to lead the UNLV Football program. Erick Harper, the UNLV Athletic Director, has already begun his search, and a few names stand out. Who is the best fit to lead the Rebels in the future? Let’s take a look.


Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

UNLV athletic director Erick Harper is in the middle of his coaching search for the next UNLV head football coach. No one, except Harper and his inner circle, knows who he is talking to or who is on his list of candidates, so all anyone can do is speculate.

But a few candidates have been rumored to be in the mix for the position, with some being better fits than others.

When Harper fired Marcus Arroyo after three seasons and had to pay Arroyo his $2.5 million buyout, Harper said he was doing so with private money. It led me to believe that Harper went into the season knowing he would let Arroyo go unless he had a highly successful season (i.e., competing for the Mountain West championship). So having a donor already willing to pay Arroyo’s buyout, Harper may already have someone in mind.

If he doesn’t, it is a bold move, and regardless, it puts him square in the middle of UNLV alumni, boosters, and donors if he doesn’t get the hire right.

Many believe that Harper has to make a splash hire. One that can reenergize the UNLV fan base that is a bit fractured and upset that the Rebels have constant turnover as their head coach. The hire doesn’t have to start over because the Rebels are close to being what many hope they can be, a winning program. Harper has to hire the person that can have the program take the next step in growth, evolution, and, most of all, win.

Tony Sanchez got the city to buy in. He got the Fertitta Football Complex built, as well as helped get Allegiant Stadium built. Marcus Arroyo created a winning culture and brought the UNLV football program into the new Allegiant Stadium era. He used the transfer portal exceptionally well and took player development to another level.

Whoever takes over has two key ingredients in place and should find success right away: the facilities and a positive culture. But the new head coach has to keep key Rebels from leaving the program and add depth to key positions to an already talented roster.

Who will that be? Well, talking to multiple sources, I have come up with a list of possible names that all make sense. I want to be clear, these are names sources have given me, and this is pure speculation.

Let’s take a look at the names that are being floated for the UNLV Rebels head football coaching position.


Harper wants an experienced coach who has been there and done that at a G-5 and P-5, the next coach makes sense.


Donte Williams – Current USC defensive backs coach and defensive passing game coordinator


UNLV Football
Photo Credit: USC Athletics

Donte Williams has long been one of the best recruiters, not just on the West Coast but in all of college football dating back to his days with San Jose State. Last season he got ten games of experience as USC’s interim head coach and impressed the USC administration enough to keep him on Lincoln Riley’s staff.

When Williams took over USC after Clay Helton was let go, he had to navigate the team through murky waters. He was keeping coaches and players engaged and in the program. He also had to save the Trojans recruiting class and keep players from hitting the transfer portal before they hired Lincoln Riley.

USC AD Mike Bohn didn’t want Williams to leave so much that he gave him a raise making him one of the highest-paid assistant coaches in the Pac-12. Williams is a well-respected coach who many believe will be an excellent head coach when he gets the opportunity. He values community and relationships and understands the landscape of today’s college football.

The Los Angeles native has also coached at Oregon, Arizona, NebraskaWashington, and the aforementioned San Jose State. When it comes to recruiting, there isn’t a coach in the country that has done it better than Donte Williams.

In 2010, Williams was hired as a defensive quality control coach at UNR before moving to Washington as a graduate assistant. In 2013, Williams was hired as the cornerbacks’ coach at San Jose State. In 2014, he was promoted to defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator.

Williams joined Arizona as their cornerbacks’ coach in 2016. The following season, Williams was hired to be the cornerbacks’ coach at Nebraska. In 2018, Williams joined Oregon as their cornerbacks’ coach under head coach Mario Cristobal and UNLV defensive coordinator Keith Heyward.

In 2020, Williams was hired as the defensive passing game coordinator and cornerbacks coach at USC under head coach Clay Helton. In 2021, he was promoted to assistant head coach. Later in 2021, Williams was named USC’s interim head coach following Helton’s dismissal. Lincoln Riley kept Williams on his staff as the defensive backs coach and defensive passing game coordinator.

Williams, overlooked by Division I recruiters because of his 6-foot, 150-pound frame, went to Pasadena City College to put on weight and accepted a scholarship offer from Syracuse. After Williams finished his college career at Idaho State, he played two seasons in the Arena Football League 2.

Around that time, even though Williams didn’t want to give up on his pro football dream, he told Greg Goodyear, the Culver City High School offensive coordinator, and a high-school mentor, that he was interested in possibly becoming a college coach.

While finishing up in the AFL 2, Williams started on the bottom rung at L.A. Harbor College, where he spent one year, parlaying that into one-year gigs at El Camino and Mt. San Antonio College, honing the craft of building connections.

People liked Williams and kept recommending him. Suddenly, he was a quality control coach at UNR, a graduate assistant at Washington under Steve Sarkisian, and a summer coaching intern with Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks. His first college assistant position came in 2013 at San Jose State, where he brought a fearless attitude on the recruiting trail. He was the lead recruiter and recruited 23 of the Spartans‘ 27 players in that recruiting class.

Stints at Arizona and Nebraska led to Oregon, where Williams promptly began plucking five-star recruits like defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and linebacker Justin Flowe straight out of Southern California, sounding the alarm at USC’s Heritage Hall that something had to be done to stop this man.


UNLV Football
Photo Credit: John McGillen/USC Athletics

If Harper wanted to land a proven recruiter and a person who has navigated through some challenging waters, Williams has a shot. After what he had to go through last year at USC and still be able to keep the team bought in and have one of the best recruiting classes in the country, Williams has the experience Harper wants and needs.

I don’t think Williams views UNLV as a stepping-stone job but rather a place he can build into a power. He is a West Coast guy, has family in LA, and has strong recruiting ties on the West Coast. He would most likely build a pipeline from Las Vegas to Southern California, making sure that local talent stays in Vegas and landing the abundance of talent that California has to offer.

If Williams were to be hired, there is a good possibility that a couple of coach Arroyo’s defensive staff members would survive. As far as money goes, Williams is making really good money at USC ($900k), so it would be a “slight” bump in pay, but the opportunity to run his own program would appeal to him.

You could also bet that Williams would likely add veteran coaches, some with Power-5 head coaching experience, to his staff to help with the growing pains of a head coach. The coaching staff would also put a premium on recruiting to go along with their experience. Williams would most likely be very active in the transfer portal with the excellent relationships he built while recruiting players to the likes of USC and Oregon (his last two stops coaching), something that could change UNLV into a winner quickly.

If Harper hired Williams, it wouldn’t be the “WOW” hire that is expected by the casual fan, but it would be the right one. It would be well received by football people, coaches, and players and, depending on the staff Williams would hire, could be one that ends up being the best fit for UNLV in the short and long term.


But Harper could go with a familiar face that has head coaching experience and one who has a personal relationship with him.


Mike Stoops – Former University of Arizona Head Football Coach and Current Kentucky Special Teams Coordinator


UNLV Football
Photo Credit: Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports

In 2003, Stoops became Arizona’s head football coach. Harper followed Stoops to Arizona to be his director of football operations from 2004 to 2011. They also worked together at Kansas State in the 90s when Stoops was an assistant and Harper was an administrator there.

Mike Stoops inherited a disheartened, motley crew of a team at Arizona when coach John Mackovic left and went 6–6 in his first year (2006). The Wildcats lost three of their first four games in 2007. Following the 2007 21–20 home loss to Stanford, dropping the team to 2–6, the local media began speculating whether Stoops would be fired. However, subsequent statements by the athletic director and the university’s president indicated that Stoops would return for an additional season.

He remained the Wildcats‘ head coach until 2011, compiling a career record of 41–50, including going 1-2 in Bowl games. He has since coached at Alabama (linebackers) in 2019-20, the defensive coordinator for Florida Atlantic in 2021, and now at Kentucky, where he serves as the inside linebackers coach and co-special teams coordinator for his brother, Mark.

Last season, Stoops was nearly hired by the University of Texas by Steve Sarkisian. Stoops to Texas was enough of a done deal that Stoops informed Alabama and head coach Nick Saban of his plans, said goodbyes to people around the Crimson Tide program, and was expected to fly to Texas to begin the process of finding a new place to live with his wife. But a Friday morning call from Sarkisian changed those plans.

Sarkisian, the former Alabama offensive coordinator, shared during that call that he could no longer make the hire. Multiple sources referenced that backlash regarding the potential hiring of Stoops may have played a role in eliminating the possibility.


UNLV Football
Photo Credit: Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports

If Harper was looking to “move the needle” or “compete for championships,” as he has stated, you have to ask if Stoops would be the right hire.

Some may say it is one friend looking out for another and not the type of hire you fire a coach for after just three seasons. Others will say it is a former head coach in the Pac-12 and has since coached with Nick Saban, so he deserves another chance.

Money shouldn’t be an issue with Stoops, and if Harper chooses to go that route.

Because of his time in Alabama and Kentucky, Stoops should have a good handle on how new-age college football is being played (off the field). Stoops must ensure he embraces Las Vegas and the power brokers around town. He has a deep Rolodex and is known as a good recruiter, so that wouldn’t be an issue.

Stoops would be a solid hire for Harper if Stoops can turn the program around quickly.


Harper said he wanted a man who has been a head coach before, but he also said he wouldn’t shy away from a first-time head coach. The next man up is well respected and knows Vegas and the Mountain West better than any candidate.


Tim Skipper – Current Associate Head Coach/Linebackers at Fresno State and Former UNLV Defensive Coordinator


UNLV Football
Photo Credit: FOX26-Fresno

Coach Skipper was the defensive coordinator under former UNLV head coach Tony Sanchez. A veteran in the Mountain West, “T-Skip” is well respected by his peers and finished runner-up to current Fresno State head coach Jeff Tedford for the Bulldogs head coaching job last year.

Skipper joined the Bulldog staff for his second stint as a Bulldogs’ coach, going to Fresno from Central Michigan, where he coached the linebackers for the 2020 & 2021 seasons. Before Central Michigan, Skipper was the UNLV defensive coordinator after coming over from the University of Florida as their linebackers coach. He has also had previous stints coaching at Colorado State, Sacramento State, and Western New Mexico.

While at UNLV, Skipper was well respected and well-liked by his fellow coaches, the players, and the administration alike. When coach Sanchez was let go, Skipper was asked to take the regions of the program until UNLV hired another coach. His relationship with Erick Harper, who at the time was the football administrator, was as good as any coach and has had Harper’s respect.

While Skipper may not have the resume as others, he comes from a family of coaches, including his father and brother, both of whom coached in the NFL. Skipper has the coaching pedigree and familiarity with UNLV, and Harper could give him an advantage over some of the others. He has also been an interim head coach (at Central Michigan).

Former UNLV starting linebacker and captain Javin White credited Skipper for his development and helped land him an opportunity in the NFL.


UNLV Football
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

White told me in an interview for FSM in 2019, “Coach Skip is great, man. I think he has a great game plan every week, and I think the way he’s come in and what he’s done with the defense is really, really good. I know last year we didn’t look like we did, but I feel like we’ve grown a lot last year. So this next year, I feel is going to be even better, and I think with Coach Skip, he just understands his players the best, and that’s why we are in for a good season.”

Coach [Tim Skipper] expects me to just be vocal and just be myself. He always says be yourself, but you know, always be about the team, and I just feel like I’m a great person that is just vocal all the time, and when I’m slacking, I like it when someone says, you aren’t loud today, White, and you know I got to get back up because they expect something from me.

When people expect something from you, you always make sure you live up to your hype. So I just make sure to live up to my hype and just being loud and just Coach [Tim Skipper] always feels like I’m a coach on the field, and I take that as pride that he trusts me on the field.”

Skipper is known as a tireless and well-respected recruiter and leader. With ties all around the country, Skipper has been able to go into California, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas to land recruits who have become NFL players and even superstars.

Some of the players Skipper has recruited and landed include former Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews, former Florida Gators running back Jordan Scarlett, and the RaidersDaVante Adams, who also played at Fresno State. Skipper also recruited and got former Rebel Jacoby Windmon to commit to UNLV and was heavily involved in recruiting current UNLV starting quarterback Doug Brumfield when he was being recruited out of high school to the Rebels.

He also has a lengthy Rolodex of coaches and recruiters that he can rely on to put together an excellent staff. Skipper is very good with boosters and alumni, and in his last stint in Las Vegas, he was outstanding in the community. He is another coach that understands how vital NIL is and how the college football landscape has evolved over the last few years.

Like Stoops, Skipper may not be the household name Rebels fans want after Harper’s comments. But Harper did say that “We’d love to have someone with Division I head coaching experience, but if that doesn’t happen, we’re going to hire the best possible coach for our institution.

Regarding money, Skipper wouldn’t be as much as Sanders, Herman, or Stoops, but like Sanders, Skipper would most likely want to ensure his staff is compensated well.

Skipper wouldn’t receive the fan fair Harper may be looking for, but it would go a long way inside the UNLV locker room and with former Rebels who would like to see T-Skip get a shot, just like when Harper got the AD job. This could be a very solid fit since Skipper would love to return to UNLV.


Lastly, could Harper bring in a head coach who has been there and done that, leading a team from a G-5 to a Power-5 conference?


Gary Patterson – Former TCU Head Football Coach/current Texas assistant coach


UNLV Football
Photo Credit: Tim Warner/Getty Images

Gary Patterson has spent the 2022 season as a special assistant to the head coach at Texas after 21 years running the TCU program. At 62, Patterson likely has a few years left on the sideline as long as he wants to keep coaching.

Patterson posted a 181-79 career record at TCU, winning six conference titles in three different leagues. The Horned Frogs won at least 11 games in a season six times between 2005-11. Additionally, Patterson’s teams finished ranked in the top 10 of the AP poll six times, including a No. 2 rating in 2010 and a No. 3 mark in 2014.

Bruce Feldman first reported that Patterson is an “interesting name to keep an eye on” for the UNLV job.

His biggest win came in the 2011 Rose Bowl when he led TCU to a tough win over Wisconsin. It was Gary Patterson officially letting the country know TCU was here to stay. Unfortunately, he failed to find the same level of success in his final years in Fort Worth.

While it’s an interesting discussion to have, fans should remember Patterson hasn’t exactly shown an eagerness to return to coaching. In fact, he’s done the exact opposite. When rumors were circulating about him potentially going to Nebraska, he quickly shot them down. If you’re not interested in Nebraska, why would you be interested in a program like UNLV? That doesn’t exactly add up.

If Harper were looking to make Patterson his hire, it would be received well nationally because of his name. But Patterson has shown a stubbornness to adapt to the new college football world, namely NIL and the transfer portal, two things UNLV needs to take advantage of. Unlike the rest of the candidates I have mentioned, Patterson didn’t want to utilize them in his final days at TCU, and the program suffered for it (going 3-5 in 2021 before being let go).

Patterson would command top dollar, arguably more than anyone mentioned on this list. He would also want that for his entire staff. He also recruits Texas well, but how would he recruit California and the rest of the West Coast? He didn’t like doing that while coaching TCU and was very public about that.

Would Harper want to hitch his wagon on a 62-year-old coach who didn’t recruit the West Coast hard, has zero ties to Las Vegas, and doesn’t want to use NIL or the transfer portal? That remains to be seen. As for fit, while Patterson brings a big name, I am unsure if he wants the UNLV job since he has made it clear that he wasn’t leaving Texas for an interview at Nebraska.


This will be the most significant hire UNLV AD Erick Harper has to make. Who will lead the Rebels football program going forward will also be one that could determine his legacy and how he is viewed in Rebels’ lore. He can’t make a make a mistake with this hire.

UNLV Football             UNLV Football           UNLV Football           UNLV Football           UNLV Football       UNLV Football       UNLV Football             UNLV Football           UNLV Football           UNLV Football           UNLV Football       UNLV Football       UNLV Football             UNLV Football           UNLV Football           UNLV Football           UNLV Football       UNLV Football       UNLV Football             UNLV Football           UNLV Football           UNLV Football           UNLV Football       UNLV Football       UNLV Football             UNLV Football           UNLV Football           UNLV Football           UNLV Football       UNLV Football       UNLV Football             UNLV Football           UNLV Football           UNLV Football           UNLV Football       UNLV Football           

-Joe Arrigo   Franchise Sports Media

Follow Joe on Twitter and Instagram: @JoeArrigoFSM

Follow The Franchise on social media






Photo Gallery

Photography by Terrance "TQ" Quaites and Alon Sowell