FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Abandoned bus subject of Nevada tailgaters' urban legend

Friday, September 25, 2009 | 7:55 p.m. CDT; updated 9:44 p.m. CDT, Friday, September 25, 2009
An abandoned bus at University of Nevada-Reno brings more questions than answers.

RENO, Nev.--When a friend wants to visit Steve Cochran’s tailgate before a Nevada football game, he has a unique landmark to point them toward. Cochran’s is the tailgate next to an abandoned Santa Barbara (Cal.) Metropolitan Transit District bus in a parking lot just north of Mackay Stadium. The bus has been there as long as Cochran has been tailgating there.

Cochran hasn’t found a concrete explanation for how the bus made the approximately 550-mile journey from Santa Barbara to Reno. He has done some research and found a rumor. The story he’s heard involves the University of California Santa Barbara Gauchos.

“The folklore has it that they came up here for a volleyball tournament,” Cochran said. “And it broke down and they just left it.”

Cochran’s story has flaws. UCSB athletic department spokesman Bill Mahoney said the school has never used city buses in his time there. The school always uses private charters.

That doesn’t mean Cochran’s story hasn’t been influenced by facts. UCSB does have a story involving a team’s bus breaking down in Reno. Mahoney said the women’s basketball team’s bus once broke down in Reno. He said he remembered this happening some time in the late 1990’s, but he’s not sure of the year. UCSB played multiple women’s basketball games at Nevada in that time period.

Mahoney said he doesn’t remember how the team got home or what happened to that bus. But he does know it would have been a private charter, not a Metropolitan Transit District bus.

Steve Maas, manager of strategic planning and compliance for the Metropolitan Transit District, said the system sells its old buses when they will no longer be used. His best guess is that the bus has been left in the Reno parking lot by whoever bought it when the Metropolitan Transit District sold it.

The bus has accumulated some graffiti since it was last in service.

“There are no new additions this year,” Cochran said of the graffiti on the bus. “In fact, I suspect someone replaced one of the windows because it seemed like there were a couple windows busted out there, and now there’s only one like slid open. So, I don’t know, there’s some weird stuff going on with this bus.”

Cochran has been tailgating in the spot next to the bus since 2005, when he returned from going to law school at Marquette. He did his undergraduate studies at the University of Nevada, where he graduated in 2000. He now lives in Lovelock, Nev., about 90 miles east of Reno.

Cochran has twice found homeless people sleeping in the bus when he arrived for his tailgate.

“I think we gave them a beer,” Cochran said. “The university bums are usually pretty cool compared to your standard bum.”

  • Friday’s game was a perfect setting for Missouri fan Rita Nava. Nava lives in Reno. Nava said she was excited that the Tigers had scheduled a game near her current home.

“Oh yeah, yes we were(excited),” she said. “We ordered our tickets immediately.”


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