Photo Courtesy of John Byrne

Photo Courtesy of John Byrne

By Jack Rieger

The highly talented Nevada rifle team begins their season this Saturday, Sept. 26, at home against Ohio State University. To the surprise of many students, Nevada enters the 2015 season as the 12th-ranked team in the country and has finished in the top 20 every year since 2000. In 2004, Nevada finished the season as the second-ranked team in the NCAA.

Although you could make a strong case that the rifle team is the most talented and successful group at Nevada, both media and fan attention fail to represent their achievements. However, rifle coach Fred Harvey is just fine with the miniscule attention the rifle team receives and even has his own theory as to why.

“I don’t believe that it’s a very exciting thing to watch,” Harvey said. “I mean you can post the records, you can do all that stuff, but really in terms of watching it, I mean it’s great if you’re pulling the trigger. But if you’re just watching it, it’s not too exciting.”

Fred Harvey, a quiet man who chooses his words with the same careful precision as he fires his gun, had an important role in making Nevada rifle an NCAA sanctioned team in 1995. Harvey attended college at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. He has spent the past 21 years transforming an infant program into a national powerhouse, all while the team practices on the second floor of a desolate genomics building one mile away from campus.

Nevada is also the only NCAA rifle team in the Pacific time zone, with almost all other elite programs on the East Coast and in the southern United States. Yet Harvey is able to consistently recruit elite talent to come and shoot at Nevada.

“There are a lot of great shooters here in the West that don’t necessarily want to go to the East Coast to shoot,” Harvey said.

Coach Harvey is quite modest regarding his ability to recruit, but what he has done is nothing short of miraculous considering Nevada’s practice facilities, the school’s location and the athletic department’s lack of financial support. Once again, Harvey deflects the praise and instead credits the University and the team for their success.

“I don’t think it’s so much me, this is a great school,” says Harvey. “I mean an absolutely great school in a great location, and the team itself is very, very good. Anybody that we recruit comes out here, visits, meets the team and usually it’s the team that persuades them.”

Recent graduate Zachary Duncan credited coach Harvey for the program’s growth in an interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal two years ago.

“From a very black and white stand- point, this program would not have started without him,” Duncan said. “He started this program from the ground up and he has turned it into a very successful program. We wouldn’t be where we’re at without him. There’s no substitute for him. Quite frankly, I don’t think the team would be alive right now without him.”

Not only is the program alive, they are thriving. In April of this year, the Nevada Athletic Department announced they would build a state of the art, 33,000-square-foot facility a few miles north of campus. The facility includes a 20-position shooting range, an exterior 30-position handgun range and a 100- yard rifle range. That’s quite an upgrade for a team that’s been practicing in old shipping containers and a forgotten, makeshift shooting range.

Even with a brand new facility and a new class of talented recruits, the rifle team will continue to compete without an abundance of fans or media attention. When asked if the lack of attention ever frustrates him, Harvey responded appropriately:

“Not a bit. I love to pull the trigger.”

Jack Rieger can be reached at jrieger@sagebrush.unr.edu and on twitter @JackRieger.