The good, the bad, and the mining: The first 100 years in sports


File photo

The first game at Sun Bowl Stadium, Sept. 21, 1963.

Juan Carlos Navarrete, Staff Reporter

It didn’t take long for the University of Texas at El Paso to start its quest toward athletic greatness. It was back in 1914, that the university adopted sports into its culture by holding its first football practice and soon after its first season. It was under the school’s first head coach, Tommy Dwyer, that the Miners got their start.

The football program has brought players to high places in NCAA history and they have gone on to professional levels as both players and coaches. It is this history that continues to help the coaches recruit athletes to the university today.

Adrian Hynson, a freshman safety for the UTEP football team, said that UTEP’s past players and coaches were a big part of his decision to become a Miner.

“I’m inspired by the head coach, actually Coach Kugler. He actually went to the NFL from here and he also coached there, as well as my other coaches,” Hynson said.

Other UTEP sports teams have been victorious several times at the national level with a total of 21 national championships—including seven championships in men’s cross country, seven in Men’s indoor track and field and six championships in men’s outdoors track and field. Among these championships, perhaps the one that the school is most recognized for is the 1966 NCAA basketball championship win
against Kentucky.

The game against Kentucky not only served as bragging rights for then Texas Western College, but also proved to be a major milestone in the fight for equal rights in collegiate sports. Hall of Fame head coach Don Haskins made the bold move to start five African-American players against an all-white Kentucky team. The Miners beat Kentucky, 72-65, to secure their place in history and lead the way to integration in college sports soon after.

The 1966 championship has led to the basketball team’s success decades after the game ended. It continues to be the main athletic accomplishment people think of when they think of UTEP. For student athletes, it continues to be the milestone they strive to reach for–hoping to one day bring a championship of their own home.

For Earvin Morris, a junior shooting guard for the basketball team, the 1966 championship is something he
hopes to replicate.

“Not many teams have a national championship and it’s cool to be part of a program that does,” Morris said. “But I think of the team we have now and the coaches and the players we have, and I feel we can have another ‘Glory Road.’ ”

It is this history that serves as a recruiting tool, and for many student athletes, continuing that winning attitude is a legacy they wish to leave behind.

“I want my legacy to be that I was known as a winner, that the coaches and players did something special, and that I have the winning mentality,” Morris said.

Women sports have expanded over the years to include basketball, cross country, golf, riffle, soccer, softball, tennis, track and field and volleyball.

According to UTEP Athletics, the women’s basketball program became the first team in Conference USA to go undefeated, with a perfect 16-0 record in conference play in the 2007-2008 season. The Miners earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, where they won the first round against Western Kentucky.

The 2013-2014 season also proved to be a memorable year for the Miners. The team sold out the Don Haskins Center twice in their pursuit of creating basketball history in the final and semifinal games of the Women’s National Invitation

According to UTEP Athletics, the six-game stint leading up to the WNIT final brought a total of 52,108 fans to the Don Haskins Center where the Lady Miners finished second
in the WNIT.

“When the community supports a program the way the community supported our program and you have the coaches and the school itself, as far as academics, it makes you want to come to a school like this,” said Camesha Turner, junior shooting guard.


Juan Carlos Navarrete may be reached at [email protected]