UTEP will open the 2019 football season at 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31 with high expectations of improvement. The opponent will be Houston Baptist.
Gosh, I’ve been covering the Miners since 1949. My first assignment was to cover what was then a freshman team. Yes, the university had a freshman team in 1949.
I was jittery because it was actually a test to see if I would be hired by the El Paso Herald-Post as a sportswriter. I was still attending what was then Texas Western College
The Miners’ freshmen team coach was Ross Moore. After the game, which the Miners won, I interviewed him and wrote a short story about the game.
It must have passed muster because I was hired as a part-time assistant to sports editor Bob Ingram. I worked as a part-timer until February 1950, when I was hired full time.
I’VE BEEN through great times and very bad times covering the Miners, but I don’t remember ever going through two seasons in which the Miners won only one game.
The Miners have had some great coaches. Mack Saxon, the Miners’ winningest coach ever with 66 victories, was an instant success.
They had only one winning season since 1915. Saxon took over the reins in 1929 and immediately went on to win six games, lose one and tie two.
He went on to have three seven-win seasons in a row plus a seven-win season in 1937.
Then came Jack Curtice. He needed a year where he went 2-4 to get organized but then went 5-3-1, 8-2-1 and 8-2-1 before leaving for greener pastures.
NEXT CAME Mike Brumbelow, the Miners’ winningest coach percentage-wise.
He inherited some outstanding players from Curtice in 1950 and won seven games but then it took him a year to recruit his own players. He went 3-7 in 1951 but then went 5-5-1, 8-2, 8-3, 6-2-2, and 9-2 before retiring.
Then cane Bobby Dobbs in 1965. The Miners had dropped out of the Border Conference in 1962 so unchained from conference rules he recruited some great players. He was an instant success, going 8-3 in his debut in 1965 and then 7-2-1 in 1967 and won two Sun Bowl games. But as the story goes, he began to get ill and had only one more winning season in 1970 where he went 6-4.
THE MINERS went into a tailspin until Bob Stull arrived on the scene in 1986. He needed a year to get organized (he started out 4-8) then won seven games and a UTEP record 10 games before University of Missouri lured him away.
The Miners haven’t had a coach with a winning record since, although Gary Nord went 8-4 in 2000 before having three 2-win seasons in a row and Mike Price had an 8-4 season in the Western Athletic Conference and an 8-4 season in Conference USA.
But Conference USA just proved too tough for the Miners and Price didn’t have a single winning season in the next eight years.
SO AS YOU can see, Dana Dimel, in his second season as head coach of the Miners, is on a hot seat.
The cupboard was bare when he took over last year. Will one year be enough to build a winning team?
Only time will tell.