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Fan support grows with time not winning

The UTEP football team is doing well this season and if there is something the El Paso fan base likes is a winner. Yet, come game day there isn’t even a quarter of the stadium full and the student section is basically non-existent.

It’s been said plenty of times about our city–El Paso is a great sports town, if you’re winning. The women’s basketball success just a few months back is a prime example of how the town will get on board if you enjoy success. Then why exactly is a team that throughout the season was always on the right side of .500 struggling to get the kind of crowd that women’s team got at the Don. Although the issue is a bit loaded, the answer is quite simple–it’s natural.

It’s been 10 years since the Miners last had a winning season and just the third time in the past 14. At some point, all that losing is going to cost you. The UTEP football team has lost a significant part of its fan base, maybe even a whole generation.

Those two magical years of eight wins, top-25 rankings and a packed stadium are far in the rear view mirror. The quality of that team, with a handful of pros, is nowhere to be found now. The fans who filled up the Sun Bowl simply got tired of watching a losing team–a bad product on the field. They stopped going to the games and they stopped taking their kids too.

Those kids grew up with the idea that UTEP football is terrible, and unlike DJ Khaled, all they do is lose. Those kids are now attending UTEP, they’re the ones not in the student section. Younger kids don’t even know a time when the Miners were winners.

Now, UTEP is not the only one experiencing this problem. Schools all over the country, outside of the traditional powers of course, are struggling with attendance. There are just a lot of things people would rather do on a Saturday night. For example, stay home and watch those traditional powers on TV. You even hear this about the NFL. The television experience is so great that there is a concern that people may stop going to the stadium and just watch the games on the tube.

Forget the NFL though; let’s stick to Saturdays. When push comes to shove, El Pasoans would rather stay home and watch Auburn and Alabama put up historic numbers, than pay to watch UTEP and Middle Tennessee duke it out, and I can’t blame them.

Not all is lost though. There is no need to panic. There is no doubt this city loves UTEP and loves its sports. Again, just look at the basketball programs. We just can’t expect the average fan, tired of all the losses, to come running back with a little bit of success. It is going to take more than that to mend those fences—it’s going to take time.

It’s going to take time for the fan base to begin to trust the program again, to become emotionally invested in Miner football. It doesn’t help that this year’s winning record was at the hands of programs like UTSA, Old Dominion, North Texas and NMSU. People just don’t seem to give those wins much credit. If the Miners were winning against Texas Tech, Texas A&M, or even the almost undefeated Marshall, then I think the fan response would be a lot more significant. They just don’t trust the team yet, not enough to invest their time, money and emotions. And the truth is, they’re probably right.

This team and this program still need a lot of work. But, it is very important to realize that it is headed in the right direction. Maybe even a lot quicker than many of us expected. The product on the field may not be great, but it hasn’t been for a while, and this year they won. Instead of losing to programs like the unheralded UTSA and Middle Tennessee, this year the Miners won. Winning is winning, and it is not easy to do at any level, so there is a lot of merit in what coach Kugler and his team did this season, but it’s going to take a lot more before we get to see the Sun Bowl completely oranged-out. I believe in this coaching staff, I think it will happen.

Luis Gonzalez may be reached at [email protected]

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Fan support grows with time not winning