If you ask any UTEP football fan what the easiest way is to attract larger crowds to Sun Bowl Stadium, the answer is for the team to win more games.
The reality is that the Miners have been able to register just one victory over the last two seasons, the fewest among active FBS teams. UTEP is in its second year of a major rebuild under head coach Dana Dimel.
Although three or four wins in 2019 are a possibility, I do not expect a miraculous turnaround this upcoming season.
I will dive deeper into the Miners expectations in a few weeks as the college football season gets closer.
So, how does UTEP Director of Athletics Jim Senter improve attendance for football if the team is not expected to win enough games to go bowling?
One answer is to improve the tailgating experience at the Sun Bowl. This has been the top concern for Miner supporters over the years, and many El Pasoans have gone on record to say that they no longer attend football games after tailgate restrictions were put into place years ago.
When Senter arrived in El Paso, he hosted numerous town halls – and tailgating was the No. 1 topic in every meeting.
UTEP is changing its tailgating policies: Fans will not have to leave their tailgate at the end of the first quarter and enter the Sun Bowl.
“This idea of tailgating is one that has been very passionate with our fanbase,” Senter said. “It’s offensive to people to make them feel like they’ve got to (leave their tailgate) and they don’t want to.”
UTEP also has a re-entry policy where fans can leave the stadium at halftime and return during the second half.
Two other changes for the 2019 season involve the RV lots in SC1 at Schuster and Sun Bowl streets and student entry into games.
UTEP will now allow RVs to enter the SC1 lot beginning at 8 a.m. the day before home games (instead of 5 p.m. in previous years).
Gold Card entry
It also did away with the lottery system for student tickets, and now students will gain entry into the Sun Bowl with their Miner Gold Card.
These changes will make the football game day experience a better one for fans.
“At the end of the day, if we put a better product on the field, we’re more competitive and we win, people are going to be drawn to come inside the stadium,” Senter said. “You’re never going to be able to force people to do something that they don’t want to do.
“We have to inspire them to come and do something that they want to do so they don’t feel like they’re being left out.”
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.