Catching up with a sports star

Re-energized Kunzer-Murphy shares her thoughts on the future of UNLV athletics

Tina Kunzer-Murphy has resigned as the executive director of the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas. She held the position since 2001, when ESPN Regional Television took over ownership and operation of the game.

Bruce Spotleson

Bruce Spotleson

Fall is in the desert air, meaning it’s that time of year when local football fans begin to speculate on possible pairings in the Dec. 22 Maaco Bowl Las Vegas, our very own holiday game. So it seemed like an appropriate time to catch up with Tina Kunzer-Murphy, who on Aug. 8 left as the bowl game’s executive director.

Kunzer-Murphy had held that job since 2001, one of only two women nationally in such a role. During her tenure, the bowl proved it could score with holiday viewers — helped out by some smart pairings and scheduling.

A Las Vegas native, Kunzer-Murphy built a high profile in sports here for four decades. She played tennis and volleyball at UNLV, coached its women’s tennis team, directed its cheerleading program and helped with football and basketball during some big years. She ran the Lady Rebel program, the Rebel Football Foundation, the Rebel Golf Foundation and helped create the Women’s Sports Foundation.

Later, there was a stint in sales and marketing for the Las Vegas 51s and Thunder pro franchises. She then managed championship events for the Western Athletic Conference until being hired to run the ESPN Regional office at UNLV. In 2000, she became executive director of the Las Vegas Bowl, which ESPN Regional Television had purchased. Recent bowl games have been sell-outs, and TV ratings and team payouts have soared.

When we met up for lunch, she seemed energized and refreshed — exactly what you might expect of someone who just returned from vacation and who doesn’t have an office to worry about.

Her travels had taken her to the UNLV football game at San Diego State, a loss. Still, she said she sees only good things ahead for the football program, particularly if there’s a new stadium.

“I’m a huge Bobby Hauck fan,” she said. “I love college football, been in college athletics all my life. He does things the right way, has a great way with kids. I don’t know if a lot of people are aware what a great football coach he is. He just needs time.

“And the stadium will make a huge difference. It’s a game-changer. When we were doing the bowl game, we always had to transform Sam Boyd Stadium, had to dress it up, put lipstick on it. A new stadium will dramatically change the landscape of UNLV athletics.”

It being a typical Monday at my office, I asked Tina whether she was eager to rejoin the rest of us in the working world. Surely she was missing all the fun we have?

“I’m taking my time,” she said. “I’m enjoying life a little bit. It’s weird, when you’ve worked since you were 15 like I have. But it’s an interesting change right now.”

After four decades in sports, she is open to new possibilities.

“I’d like to go in and help where I can make a difference,” she said. “Where that takes me, I don’t know.”