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Miner mascot Paydirt Pete past and present

Joel Molina
The first Paydirt Pete costume was created in 1980 with President of the Alumni Association Richard Pearson playing a vital role in the new ensemble being made.

The history of Paydirt Pete runs deep at UTEP, formerly known as Texas Western College (TWC). Pete has had a storied legacy with many incarnations and mediums being applied to him. In 1962, TWC faculty member Eddie Mullens asked civil engineering student Marshall Meece to create a few drawings for football program covers which is where a man walking with a pick was born, but unnamed.  

That would soon change, in 1973 when former Director of Athletics Jim Bowden asked Meece to rework his drawing. A year later, in 1974, a naming contest was held with over 500 entries, where “Paydirt Pete” was ultimately chosen by physics professor Michael Blue.  

Member of UTEP Heritage Commission and Chronicler William Franklin “Willie” Quinn comments how the birth of the idea of Pete had occurred at this point.  

“This is the first named ‘Paydirt Pete’,” Quinn said. “That would make it 50 years old this year, and not the costume Petes, because they didn’t start till 1980. They’ll eventually have their anniversary, too.”  

As the years continued so did different versions of Paydirt Pete. In 1983, UTEP graduate Bernie Lopez designed new and trademarked versions of the character. A man who is puff-chested, intimidating, and a similar image to the Pete we know today. After Lopez’s contributions and tweaks, the cartoon character switched to a prospector logo in 1999, a change from Athletic Director Bob Stull.  

The first Paydirt Pete costume was created in 1980, President of Alumni Association Richard Pearson played a vital role in the new ensemble being made. The first costume was worn by then Student Activities Coordinator Jimmy Legarreta and was dubbed “Sweet Pete.” Sweet Pete has a big, bushy gray beard and resembles a classic Disney cartoon character.  

From 1983 to 1986, El Pasoan Richard Glass created “Paydirt Pete – II with Cigar,” a more disgruntled-looking mascot with a squinted right eye and a cigar poking out the corner of his mouth. This version first appeared Sept. 3, 1983, when the Miners met the New Mexico State University (NMSU) Aggies at the Sun Bowl. Later, a third Paydirt Pete was made without a cigar after waves of anti-smoking campaigns, the blonde hair would also be changed to curly brown.  

In 1997, “Paydirt Pete – IV” was created, with the most notable change being to depict a classic prospector. Now, instead of attire like hard hats and coal mining shirts, he wore a big cowboy hat and a handlebar mustache. From 2000 to 2004, “Deranged Pete,” or fifth version of the character, was quickly discontinued due to its unsettling appearance.

2004 and time in 2010, was the creation of the “Paydirt Pete” students and faculty now know. However, the message Pete represents to the university has remained intact throughout these years.  

As an original student and alumni of Texas Western College, Quinn spoke to what the mascot means and has meant to the community.  

“I think it portrays the tradition of the school being a mining school,” Quinn said. “Every one of these (the mascots) just brings out the memories and traditions of the mining and engineering school.”  

H. Catching Marginot is a staff reporter and can be reached at [email protected] 

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About the Contributors
H. Catching Marginot
H. Catching Marginot, Contributor/Writer
Henry Catching Marginot is a junior at the University of Texas at El Paso majoring in multimedia journalism and minoring in English: rhetorical studies. He is a contributor at The Prospector and freelances. He plans to pursue writing in the future.
Joel Molina
Joel Molina, Contributor/Photographer
Joel is a graduate creative writing student at the University of Texas at El Paso. He is a photo contributor and began his career at The Prospector in 2022. He hopes to continue providing the world and its people with different forms of storytelling that will hopefully make their day to day lives better.
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