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Jim Senter reflects on his first year as UTEP’s Athlethic Director

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When Jim Senter was announced as the new Director of Athletics at UTEP on Nov. 22, 2017, he knew what he was getting himself into, he had to rebuild a football program that had just gone winless and had a disappointing season with mid-season coaching changes.

But at his very first news conference the following week Senter introduced himself to the community and introduced his mantra every person makes a difference.

What Senter didn’t know was that by the end of the day, he would be tasked to fill another major coaching vacancy, this time in men’s basketball brought by the sudden postgame retirement of former UTEP basketball Coach Tim Floyd. 

Suddenly, Senter was tasked with filling two of the biggest coaching positions in athletics, men’s basketball and football. Senter hadn’t even officially started his position yet, still finishing his tenure at the Citadel, but he hired Dana Dimel as his football coach. Once basketball season ended he found someone to take over the program in Rodney Terry. He then went to make his third hire in women’s rifle coach Austin Litherland.

Senter knew it would be a tough task in his first year, due to poor attendance in athletic events.  His first year at the helm involved a lot of trial and error.

“I think I’m still trying to learn and find out about how things work here,” Senter said. “Whether that is the price of ticketing or its game times, or is it the value of premiums to get somebody to come to the game? Or does it even matter if there’s a premium to get somebody to come to a game right?”

“So now I’m starting my second year and I’m starting to have a little bit more comfort in terms of what do I think works,” Senter said. “What do I want to do? What kind of changes might we make? What have I learned from my first 12 months on the job? It’s a very, very fluid dynamic and a very educational experience.”

Senter’s goal is to have intercollegiate athletics win and compete for conference championships. He has made that point abundantly clear after soccer and volleyball wrapped up. Head soccer Coach Kevin Cross and volleyball Coach Holly Watts were let go after failing to have their team compete for conference championships.

“The mark on the wall is we’re going to compete for and win championships,” Senter said. “That’s the threshold. That’s a level we want to rise to. Now it’s my job as the athletic director and our administrative team is to give our coaches and student-athletes the tools it takes to do their job. I think in many instances, we’re giving many of our programs the tools and the resources to do their job, I expect them to maybe do it at a better level and a higher level than they’ve been getting it done.”

Senter did mention the coaching vacancies are still ongoing and will likely get rolling once the fall season of athletics officially wraps up because coaches he may have an interest in are still coaching their respective programs.

If competing for conference championships is not occurring he is looking into what ways he can improve athletic facilities. The improvement in facilities is evident with the start of the renovation of the Sun Bowl with lounge seating and an improved press box.

Senter acknowledges that due to lack of donor support in certain programs and flexibility with the athletic budget, Miner nation may not see those renovations they are yearning for just yet.

Senter has learned two things in his first year on the job. How passionate the fan base is and how the fans perspectives are on losing performances in football and basketball.

“I think our fan base has become somewhat apathetic because we haven’t been winning, Senter said. “It’s going to take a lot more energy and a lot more effort to try to get our folks invigorated to the point where they want to buy tickets, they want to be a donor and they want to come to games… There’s a certain level of apathy that is going to take them a gargantuan effort to get it  jump started again and get people to get back on board and help us.”

To him, “every person makes a difference” doesn’t necessarily have to be a purchase of season tickets, a donation or even a social media post. It’s about coming out and supporting the student-athletes who don the orange and blue and if you happen to buy concessions, Senter views that as making a difference as well.

“Every person makes a difference” is not only a mantra for Senter but it is a way of life. “Every day you choose if you want to make a positive or negative difference, so why not choose to be a positive difference maker,” Senter said.

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Daniel Mendez, Staff reporter
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Jim Senter reflects on his first year as UTEP’s Athlethic Director