UNLV’s Battle for Nevada: the canon behind the Cannon

The Fremont Cannon on display at the Fertitta Football Complex. Photo by Anthony Paculan.

The UNLV football team is visiting Reno on Oct. 14 to take on the Wolf Pack in the annual Battle for Nevada, fighting to keep the Fremont Cannon Rebel scarlet and gray. The Fremont Cannon is the trophy awarded in the Battle for Nevada game, where the winner takes ownership of the cannon for the next year.

At the 2022 Battle for Nevada, UNLV beat UNR in a 27-22 comeback victory. The upcoming 2023 game will be the 49th meeting in a long tradition starting back in 1969. 

Before the 1970 game, UNLV’s first football coach (and former UNR coach) Bill Ireland had an idea to exchange a trophy commemorating the rivalry game. Ireland was said to be inspired by a prank committed by UNLV a few years prior, when the school was still called Nevada Southern University. 

In an interview with the UNLV News Center, 1966 Nevada Southern student body president and prankster Tom Hribar recalled trying to steal a cannon from UNR on a dark, early morning. He and his accomplices made it 25 feet before campus police caught them. Hribar recalled a few of them “spent a night in the cooler,” but UNR officials found humor in it all. 

In 1970, mining company Kennecott Copper donated a replica of the howitzer cannon used in John C. Fremont’s 1843 expedition. UNLV won the football game that year, becoming the first team to take the Fremont Cannon home.

UNLV has won 19 out of the 48 Battle for Nevada games, with the Fremont Cannon switching hands 18 times. It had become tradition for the team holding the cannon to fire it every time they scored a touchdown, until one unfortunate trophy exchange in 2000. 

That year, UNLV took back the cannon after five years in Reno. Excited players and fans rushed the field and tried picking the cannon up in celebration, dropping it in the process. The UNLV athletics department spent $1,500 refurbishing it; the cannon never fired again.

Today, the Fremont Cannon can be found at the Fertitta Football Complex (FFC). The cannon is proudly displayed at the front of the building, right next to the Golden Pineapple the Rebels earned in the Ninth Island Showdown against the University of Hawaii on Sept. 30. 

“I just hope we keep the cannon this year,” Dominic, an FFC faculty member said. “It looks best right here, doesn’t it?”


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