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The Back Story: UNLV License Plates

The Alumni Association is driving spirit and fundraising through UNLV license plates. Here's how the association led the way with the state's first specialty license plate.

UNLV History  |  Mar 17, 2016  |  By Amy Bouchard
sample license plate

Show your spirit with a UNLV motorcycle or passenger vehicle plates. 

In true Rebel spirit, UNLV led the way to develop the first specialty license plate program in Nevada. The year was 1993 and UNLV was looking for a way to fund scholarships and encourage fans. They looked to their neighbors in the east in Arizona for inspiration. The Arizona legislature created its collegiate license plate program in 1990 and collected more than $268,000 in revenue with a 92 percent renewal rate.

Fred C. Albrecht, ’71 M.Ed, did his research before testifying as executive director of UNLV Alumni Association at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Transportation on May 25, 1993. He pointed to states around the country raising funds for their universities this way and asked legislators, Why shouldn’t UNLV?

Albrecht and UNLV athletics staff member Sheila Strike worked closely with legislators, the Nevada Highway Patrol, and staff at University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) to generate widespread support. Bob Miller, Nevada’s governor from 1989 to 1999, recently said, “It was a creative way to raise funds for both the state and the universities.”

With support from numerous legislators and former Lt. Gov. Sue Wagner offering testimony as well, the bill was approved in July 1993 and the Nevada DMV began issuing plates later that year.

Since its inception, the UNLV license plate program has raised more than $1.8 million for UNLV scholarships. Nevada DMV reports that 6,504 UNLV license plates are on the road today – that’s 50 percent higher than in 2012.

Today for each new license plate issued, $25 gets routed to UNLV scholarships while each renewal fetches of $20.

Redesign

From 1993 to 2010, the UNLV license plate featured the mountain man version of the mascot designed by Mike Miller. In 2010, the Alumni Association and UNLV Athletics worked closely with Nevada DMV and Nevada Highway Patrol to redesign the plate. Three key changes were made:

  • Update the mark to feature the UNLV logo and Hey Reb! head
  • Add a tagline, “Go Rebels!”
  • Change the color of the plate lettering from blue to black (that blue, although an official color for Nevada's plates, led to some visual confusion considering UNR’s school colors)

In 2018, the plate design was updated to follow new UNLV branding standards, match current colors and marks, and ensure the design is distinguishable from a distance.

A Challenge 

UNLV's first graduate is one reason the program grew so much in the past few years. Jon Cobain, '64 BS Business Administration, who built a successful career in mergers and acquisitions, was the first Rebel to cross the stage at a UNLV's first commencement. Between 2015-17, he sponosored a matching gift program for each new UNLV license plate registered. Because of Cobain's gift, the license plate fund grew — providing nine new scholarship awards for UNLV students.

If you live in Nevada and would like a UNLV license plate, learn more about it on the UNLV plate program website.