College Football: Exclusive Interview with Nevada Head Coach Chris Ault

Michael PatmasCorrespondent IIIFebruary 9, 2013

Ault: One of SI's 50 greatest Nevada sports figures of the 20th century
Ault: One of SI's 50 greatest Nevada sports figures of the 20th centuryKyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The meteoric rise of San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick to star status brought considerable media exposure to Nevada head coach Chris Ault and his pistol offense.

A member of the College Football Hall of Fame, Ault is best known for the innovative offensive scheme he invented and for grooming Kaepernick into an NFL quality QB. Kaepernick, said Ault, is the "fiercest competitor I have ever coached".

But there is much more to this man.

Ault recently retired after 41 remarkable years at Nevada. During his tenure, he restored the program to a measure of greatness. 

Ault came to the University of Nevada-Reno in 1965 as a quarterback. He became head coach in 1976 after a stint at UNLV as an assistant. Ault took Nevada from non-conference NCAA ll affiliation into the Big Sky Conference.

After dominating Division 1-AA with three undefeated seasons and playing for the national championship in 1990, Ault led the transition to Division 1-A (now FBS) in the Big West Conference, earning a bowl berth in his first year.

A decade in the Western Athletic Conference followed, and several championships later, the Wolf Pack had arguably its greatest season in 2010, going 13-1. With wins over Cal and Boise State and a bowl victory over Boston College, Nevada was ranked 11th by the AP.

Between stints as Nevada's coach and athletic director, Ault has accomplished much for the university.

As an AD, Ault said last week that he was most proud of Nevada's "unprecedented growth of Intercollegiate athletics from 1986-2004". As a coach, Ault said he was most proud of "being the link that had the opportunity to unite the past with the present and grow our football tradition."


When asked what his greatest achievements were, he said, "Having been at the university for such a long tenure, there is one thing that is clear. Any success that I enjoyed was because of the efforts of many around me. In my mind it was more of an our thing than an I thing."

When pressed, he cited three accomplishments.

First, during his time as AD, Nevada was recognized as the No. 1 university in the nation in the promotion and funding of gender equity. Second was his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, which was meaningful to him because it was "a direct reflection of the success of the first 19 teams I coached.''

And third was the invention of the pistol offense "and the eight teams that were involved in that process which gave our university, community and football program unimaginable national attention.''

Asked about the future of Nevada football, Ault said "that's hard to say. Probably the best way to answer is by saying a blueprint for success has been laid and is very sustainable. I remain optimistic."

Nevada has come a long way under Ault. His shoes will be hard to fill.