Former Governor and MGM Executive Brian Sandoval Named Finalist for University of Nevada President

Posted on: September 10, 2020, 01:21h. 

Last updated on: September 10, 2020, 01:56h.

Brain Sandoval, a former Nevada governor and MGM Resorts executive, is a finalist to serve as the 17th president of the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR).

Brian Sandoval
Brian Sandoval, a former Nevada governor and MGM executive, is one of four finalists for the University of Nevada, Reno, presidency. The next president is expected to be selected on Sept. 17. (Image: Reno Gazette-Journal)

Sandoval is one of four finalists for the post being vacated by Marc A. Johnson. Last October, Johnson announced his departure after eight years at the top to accept a faculty position in the department of economics at the university.

The 57-year-old Sandoval, Nevada’s first Hispanic governor, is a former president of global gaming development at MGM Resorts International.

Sandoval joined MGM Resorts in January 2019. With his public policy experience, he is credited with helping boost the company’s status in the Japanese gaming market. The company’s plans to construct a resort in Osaka, Japan, have been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Sandoval also was instrumental in expanding MGM’s sports-betting presence in the United States. The father of three children resigned from MGM Resorts in April to seek the UNR post, which he has called his “dream job.”

The next president will have to guide UNR through an unprecedented pandemic and state budget crisis,” Sandoval said in a formal application letter for the UNR post.

Sandoval even has a GOPAK personalized license plate, reflecting his affinity for UNR’s Wolf Pack athletic teams, according to the Associated Press.

Public Servant

The California-born Sandoval grew up in Reno, Nev., and received an English degree from UNR before earning a law degree at Ohio State University.

In addition to serving as a two-term Republican governor, he has been a state legislator and Nevada attorney general. Sandoval also was a federal judge and a member and chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission.

On the Gaming Commission, Sandoval sought to limit neighborhood gaming and to ban slot machines with themes attractive to children, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

In private practice as an attorney, he specialized in litigation and in administrative and adoption matters, according to the National Governors Association website.

Decision Expected Soon

The current UNR president had planned to end his tenure in June. However, the coronavirus pandemic delayed the Nevada System of Higher Education’s plans to have a replacement named by July. With that delay, Johnson’s contract was extended through December 2020.

In addition to Sandoval, the finalists for the post are Chaden Djalali, Jennifer Evans-Crowley, and Jonathan Koppell.

The other finalists have served in university administrative positions — Djalali at Ohio University, Evans-Crowley at the University of North Texas, and Koppell at Arizona State University.

The four candidates are scheduled to appear at public forums over two days from Sept. 14-15. The forums will be available to those who want to attend in person or on Zoom, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.

After a hiring committee on Sept. 16 evaluates comments and feedback from the forum sessions, the 13-member Board of Regents is expected to select a president on Sept. 17.