Every new school year produces interesting headlines that resonate around campus. Whether it is a new professor, campus construction, etc. In sports, the same applies; the standout freshman, negligent coaches, and player suspensions.
With all the changes that a new school year brings, it’s fair to ask questions. Will Aaron Jones improve off his stellar sophomore season? Will the women’s basketball team bounce back this year? This semester is not about telling you what athletes to watch or must-see games. Instead, this semester is about the five most intriguing story lines surrounding the athletes, coaches and teams.
5. Tim Floyd
The Question: Will Floyd catch a break this season?
To put it bluntly, coach Floyd’s tenure as the men’s basketball coach here at UTEP has been riddled with disappointment. The odd thing is that the disappointment has come in ways that cannot always be attributed to Floyd.
Sure, Floyd’s team has underperformed at times, but sometimes luck has not been on his side. Everything under the sun has happened to Floyd’s players, injuries, expulsions, poor grades, etc. Floyd could incur some of the blame, simply because he recruited these players.
But you have to wonder if Floyd will ever have the same team he starts the season with by the end of the season. Can this man catch a break?
The Answer: Apparently not
The start of the season is more than a month away and the Miners have already taken a big hit to their roster. Junior center Matt Willms’ health status for this season is still up in the air. The big man has a stress fracture in his right foot. Anyone who follows basketball knows that 7-footers with foot injuries do not end well.
Coupled with the Willms’ injury is the possible academic ineligibility of sophomore guard Omega Harris. The Oklahoma native has not been officially ruled out for the season, but considering Floyd’s luck, you never know.
4. Holly Watts
The Question: Third years a charm for coach Watts?
Entering her third year as head coach of the UTEP volleyball team, Holly Watts is due for a breakout season or some sort of upswing. After five years as an assistant coach at Florida State, Watts 2013-14 Miners finished two games under .500 at 14-16 and a 9-4 home record.
Last season the Miners lost key contributors to graduation and injury and won an infantile six games. The Miners won one game at home and despite their relentless effort, were rarely competitive in match play.
The Miners are coming off minimal losses and are returning plenty of players that started or were in rotation last season. Will that be enough for the Miners to post a winning record?
The Answer: On the cusp of decency
The Miners will have a large improvement this year in terms of wins and production, but they will still struggle. Don’t expect the Miners to be in contention for a conference title, let alone an NCAA tournament berth. The Miners will at least double their wins from last season and may even triple that.
Key returners; junior setter Lindsey Larson, sophomore outside hitter Colleen Coessens, and senior outside hitter Talia Jones will all play a big role in the Miners improvement. More importantly for entertainment purposes the Miners will be a better home team that invites a good home crowd, rather then the muted crowd from last season.
3. UTEP football
The Question: Was last year a fluke?
Last season, the Miners had their first winning season in nine years. The Miners squeaked out seven wins to finish the year one game over .500. For a program that does not have a history of winning, last season was a pleasant surprise.
At the end of the day though, a 7-6 record is nothing to brag about. The combined record of the seven teams that the Miners beat last season was 29-55. The Miners were a middle of the pack team last season; they lost to predominantly decent teams and beat predominantly bad teams. So will the Miners be good or bad this season?
The Answer: The same
The Miners’ loss of Jameill Showers, Wesley Miller and Eric Tomlinson could hurt the Miners this season. At the same time, the return of Autrey Golden, Roy Robertson-Harris and Aaron Jones bodes well for the Miners.
In short, the Miners will be deficient in the positions where they lost players and good in the positions where players are coming back. The mixed bag of talent should equal five to eight wins. Anything below or above that range would be a disappointment or a surprise.
2. Women’s Tennis
The Question: How many coaches will the team have this school year?
Coaching changes happen all the time in sports, but you would be hard pressed to find a coaching carousel such as the one found in UTEP women’s tennis. Since the 2009-10 season, the women’s program has gone through five coaches. Four of them have come in the last 20 months.
Not one coach since Victor Aguilar, who coached from 2010-2012, has been with the team for more than one season. The program desperately needs some stability at the head position. Will the revolving door of head coaches continue? If so, how long?
The Answer: To infinity and beyond
The newest coach of the women’s tennis team is Roberto Aspillaga. Who comes from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. Who knows if Aspillaga is any different? The odds are that Aspillaga will last a season or two, but a long-lasting tenure with the program seems far-fetched.
Going by recent history, the women’s tennis team will probably have a new coach by the start of the 2016-17 school year.
1. Track and Field
The Question: Who will replace Anthony Rotich?
UTEP track and field has a never-ending supply of great athletes that compete at Kidd Field, but it’s not every day that you come across a 10-time All American such as Anthony Rotich. He was the face of UTEP athletics for the last four years.
He basically won everything and anything you can imagine at the collegiate level. He won four national championships and broke dozens of conference and school records while he was at it. How can you replace someone like him?
The Answer: Take your pick
UTEP currently does not have anyone who boasts the same resume as Rotich, but give it time. The men’s and women’s program both have a long list of talent and a slew of incoming talent every year. Rotich was not the first collegiate great to wear orange and blue and he will certainty not be the last.
Javier Cortez may be reached at [email protected]