As we wind down 2019 and the second decade of the millennium, I am already looking ahead to 2020 and what I would like the sports gods to deliver El Pasoans over the next 10 years.
1. UTEP football becomes a consistent winner. I know this a lot to ask for a program that has not won a bowl game in more than 50 years. However, Dana Dimel just finished year two of his five- year plan and his Miners are not close to delivering the kind of results that he is expecting from his team. I hope UTEP figures out how they can become the kind of football program that regularly wins six or more games and goes bowling.
2. UTEP basketball makes a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Once again, I know the Miners have not won a tournament game since their 1992 shocking upset of Kansas and Sweet Sixteen appearance.
However, head coach Rodney Terry seems poised to deliver a return to the Big Dance for the Miners in the next two seasons. I am hoping that his team can return the UTEP men’s basketball program to mid-major prominence.
3. UTEP finally gets out of Conference USA. The toughest thing about the last 13 years is that the Miners have not been able to dominate C-USA the way fans hoped when UTEP left the WAC. Travel is miserable, fans have not embraced new conference rivals, and C-USA gets no respect by the NCAA.
New UTEP President Heather Wilson can make a splash if she negotiates a departure out of C-USA and move into the Mountain West Conference.
4. A high school football team wins a state championship. I know this idea is probably the most far-fetched, given the abundance of El Paso high schools and their lack of progress in the postseason.
However, once or twice every decade, we see a talented team that is able to make it out of the area round of the UIL playoffs.
5. El Paso Locomotive FC get a soccer-specific stadium. I attended a few matches this past season and Southwest University Park was electric for their soccer club.
In the inaugural season, head coach Mark Lowry guided the Locomotive to the USL playoff semifinals. The only thing missing is a facility better suited for the club and professional soccer.
6. The Chihuahuas continue to deliver a successful baseball product. In their first six seasons, El Paso’s Triple-A team has hosted a National Championship game and All Star Game, while winning a Pacific Coast League title.
I hope they add more championship rings to their collection and continue to finish in the top three in PCL attendance at Southwest University Park.
7. The El Paso Rhinos move up to Tier One Junior A hockey. Head coach Cory Herman has built a powerhouse over the last 10-plus years, and plans were recently in the works for the Rhinos and a few other Western States Hockey League teams to form a new Tier One league.
The biggest difference between the two would be quality of talent on the ice, with National Hockey League scouts visiting often to watch future pro players.
8. The Don Haskins Center gets a facelift. If the Downtown arena is ever built, El Pasoans will have their shiny new toy to enjoy sporting events and concerts. Eventually, the $180 million multipurpose facility will get built and offer another Downtown destination for people to enjoy.
It would be great if the Haskins Center that opened in 1976 were renovated, even if it means losing seats and replacing them with suites and club levels.
Since 1997, Steve Kaplowitz has hosted “Sportstalk” from 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays on 600 ESPN El Paso. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.