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The Back Story: UNLV License Plates

The Alumni Association is trying to drive up the number of UNLV license plates in Nevada. Here's how the state's very first speciality license plate came to be.

UNLV History  |  Mar 17, 2016  |  By Amy Bouchard

UNLV motorcycle and passenger vehicle plates. (R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Photo Services)

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 their 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 Relations at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Transportation on May 25, 1993. “Pennsylvania State has sold over 11,000 license plates, Alabama State has sold over 8,000 license plates, Arizona State has sold over 3,400 license plates, the University of Arizona has sold over 3,100 license plates, and the University of Iowa has sold over 1,300 license plates,” he said. 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.

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, led to some visual confusion considering UNR’s school colors)

Since its inception, the UNLV license plate program has raised more than $1.5 million for UNLV scholarships. Nevada DMV reports that 5,864 UNLV license plates are on the road today – that’s 34 percent higher than in 2012.

A Challenge Is Issued

The first Rebel to cross the stage at a UNLV's first commencement was Jon Cobain, '64 BS Business Administration, who built a successful career in mergers and acquisitions. He has committed to match the initial $25 donation collected by the Nevada DMV for each new UNLV license plate registered, up to 4,000 license plates over the next two years. Because of Cobain's gift, the license plate fund will grow significantly.

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