Chris Ault just couldn't stand to see the program he built flail in mediocrity anymore.
So Ault -- serving as the athletic director in 2003 -- fired then-coach Chris Tormey in late November, and four days later, Ault the athletic director became Ault the head coach again.
Plenty has changed in the eight years since Ault last roamed the sidelines. Once a strong mid-major program, Nevada has been an also-ran in the WAC since joining the league prior to the 2000 season. Longtime rivals Boise State and UNLV, schools Ault used to beat up on, are now feasting on the Wolf Pack.
"I got back into this thing because I believe I can make a difference," said Ault, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. "I know what is possible here. I know what it takes to win.
"But it starts with attitude and work ethic. And that is what we need to change first. You can talk about offensive systems and defensive schemes all you want. But it starts with attitude and how you work and how you go about things."
OffenseGone is the old system of using the run to establish the pass that Tormey employed with mixed results over the past four seasons. In its place is the aerial assault nicknamed "Air Wolf" that Ault developed during his two previous stints (1976-92 and 1994-95) as head coach of the Wolf Pack.
Now the question is, who will orchestrate the offense -- talented sophomore Jeff Rowe or gritty senior Andy Heiser? Ault won't decide on a starting quarterback until fall camp.
"Competition within the team is good, and that is what we are trying to develop," Ault said.
Whoever gets the job will have one of the most experienced backs in the country behind him in Chance Kretschmer. The senior led the nation in rushing as a freshman in '01, before a torn ACL sidelined him for the majority of the 2002 season. He came back last year to rush for 1,162 yards and 12 touchdowns, and will still force defenders to key on him despite Ault's pass-happy scheme.
A key will be the development of the receivers, a corps that lost over 40 percent of its production. Junior Nichiren Flowers is poised for a breakout year, but the Pack must get production from junior college transfers Caleb Spencer and Trevor Brackett, as well as from redshirt freshman Tony Strong and senior Talib Wise, who moved over from running back.
The offensive line is thin but has three starters returning, led by right tackle Harvey Dahl. Guard Chris Hines and center Kyle Gosselin round out the returnees, but the Pack will need to develop some depth to be effective throughout the 12-game schedule.
DefenseThe defense took a blow over the spring when two-year starter Logan Carter called it quits due to degenerative arthritis in his back and hips. That loss, combined with the graduation of Daryl Towns and Carl LaGrone, means the Pack have to replace their entire linebacking corps
Things look better on the defensive line, despite the loss of four-year starters Jorge Cordova (end) and Derek Kennard Jr. (tackle). Returning are tackle Chris Barry and end J.J. Milan, who will team with Craig Bailey to form what should be a strong pass rush off the edge.
Safeties Keone Kauo and Nick Hawthrone highlight the secondary.
"Those two really have a chance to be the backbone for us," Ault said.
The Pack desperately needs help at corner, however, to defend against the wildly offensive WAC.
SpecialistsThe Pack went without a punter in spring ball, as junior college import Justin Bergendahl won't arrive until the fall with his 39-yard average. Kicker Damon Fine packs a strong leg but he missed five extra points last year.
Nevada needs help in the return game, but highly touted junior college cornerback Kevin Stanley might be the answer there.
Final AnalysisThe Pack has had five straight non-winning seasons, but that should change with the return of Ault, who had only one losing season (5-6 in 1987) in 19 seasons at Nevada.
While Ault is installing new offensive and defensive schemes, the biggest change needs to be in the team's attitude and work ethic. "Nobody will work harder than we will," Ault said.
The Pack has some holes to fill and needs a quarterback to step up and seize the job. But it has a fairly soft schedule and gets two-time defending WAC champ Boise State in Reno this year. If Nevada can stay healthy, it can make a run at the school's first bowl bid since 1996.