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Rich Ryerson quietly coaches his final soccer game at UNLV

UNLV has qualified for the NCAA men’s soccer tournament seven times in 47 years, and Rich Ryerson was part of five of those appearances as a player or coach.

So you would think that when it came to leaving the program after being such an integral part of it, he would have been allowed to do it on his terms.

Not the case.

As she did to so many of the coaches who were at the school before she was, UNLV athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois nudged Ryerson toward the door during a meeting this summer when it was agreed that this season should be his last.

Ryerson, 56, coached his final game last weekend — three months after Reed-Francois resigned to take the athletic director’s job at Missouri.

“I was hoping to maybe stay a little longer, even though we kind of went through that resignation process with Desiree,” Ryerson said.

As a player, Ryerson appeared in a school-record 84 games as a midfielder from 1983 to 1986. In 12 years as coach, he guided UNLV to a 96-108-16 record after inheriting a struggling program.

In 2014, he took the Rebels to the NCAA championship tournament for the first time in 26 seasons — the first of UNLV’s two NCAA trips under his stewardship.

He also helped save the program by raising money to keep it afloat by any means possible, including selling fireworks out of roadside stands and tickets to the musical “Hamilton.”

“In 2010, I was told you have 24 hours to find $2 million,” Ryerson said about teaming with fellow UNLV soccer alumnus Tim McGarry of the Engelstad Family Foundation and keeping men’s soccer off the chopping block.

Ryerson also recruited local players. During one successful season, all 11 UNLV starters were from Nevada. Ryerson was proud of his players’ performance in the classroom that produced dozens of first generation college graduates.

So many great stories, Ryerson said. Such as Ryan Harding, the former Rebels goalie who missed his junior season while being treated for cancer before returning the following year and making a key save in UNLV’s Western Athletic Conference championship run.

Ryerson said he would like to stay on as an athletics fundraiser, but if it doesn’t happen, “We’ve got to figure out what’s next.”

“Loved every minute of it, the highs and the lows,” he said of his long run on a soccer pitch that won’t seem the same without him. “If I look back on it, I couldn’t be any happier.”

Around the horn

■ A day after Las Vegas Motor Speedway hosted the NHRA’s 1,000th race meeting, more history was made on the local strip when Travis Shumake, drag racing’s first openly gay racer, fulfilled requirements to obtain his Funny Car license with a run of 3.963 seconds at 304.05 mph.

“As a completely unsponsored Funny Car driver, I need to find funding,” said Shumake, who began pursuit of the license in early October with a pass of 4.009 at 319.62 at the Texas Metroplex outside of Dallas.

The NHRA, which has produced female, African American and Hispanic champions, has a long history of diversity.

■ Nice touch by the UNLV sports information department in reserving seat No. 1 in the Allegiant Stadium press box at Saturday’s Hawaii-UNLV game for Robert Kekaula, the longtime and revered voice of Warriors sports who died at age 56 in June. A tribute to Kekaula was shown on the video boards before kickoff.


Agent Scott Boras, on his free agent client Kris Bryant of Las Vegas, during Boras’ annual “State of the Boras Corp” address:

“He’s tall, he’s statured, he’s kind of the Sean Connery of Major League Baseball. The image of Sean Connery, he has positional versatility that makes him untouchable. He has Bond-like abilities to create a great middle of the lineup.

“He’s always red-hot in the hunt for October. He’s an extraordinary gentleman, and he’s in a league of his own. Bryant has many roles, but they’re all his.”

Do you suppose that also makes Boras Dr. No?

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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