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UTEP sports: Building on a legacy

SalmaPaola Baca
Beginning in 1963, the men’s basketball team went on a run of NCAA championship appearances.

For 55 years, UTEP has stood as the only Texas school to win a men’s basketball national championship. In 1966, legendary coach, Don Haskins, broke down basketball’s color barrier while simultaneously breaking down the University of Kentucky’s fellow legendary coach Adolph Rupp’s squad to win the NCAA Championship title. Haskins never flinched under pressure and was once quoted saying, “I played for the best coach who ever lived, Henry Iba, I wasn’t intimidated by Adolf Rupp.” 

The history of sports at UTEP is full of moments that have inspired future generations of athletes and coaches. From the legendary Texas Western 1966 men’s basketball national championship to the success of the UTEP football team and the accomplishments of Olympic track and field athletes. 

UTEP’s sports history continues to inspire and shape the world of college athletics. However, to several fans, basketball is UTEP’s calling card. UTEP has had many players who went on to play in the NBA and have long, winning and distinctive careers. Players like Tiny Archibald, Greg Foster, Antonio Davis, Stefon Jackson, Randy Culpepper, and Tim Hardaway, who’s iconic “UTEP two-step” crossover gave defenders fits.  

Apart from basketball, UTEP has also seen success in other sports, including football, who has had its share of ups and downs over the years.  Even still, some notable greats have been produced, like three time Super Bowl champion Andy Reid, coach of the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Reid spent two years in 1987 to 1988 as the offensive line coach at UTEP before moving on to the NFL. The Miners won 17 games and took seven losses during Reids’ time at the Sun Bowl.    

Another famous UTEP football alumnus is former NFL referee Ed Hochuli who played linebacker for four years, earning All-Western Athletic Conference academic honors in 1972 while pursuing his bachelor of arts degree. 

Lastly Aaron Jones, another UTEP star who set records during his three years at UTEP and now carves NFL defenses up regularly.  

UTEP has also had success in track and field, producing several Olympic athletes.  Athletes like Bob Beamon, Ria Stalman and Blessing Okagbare. Beamon set a world record in the long jump at the 1968 Olympics, Stalman won the gold medal in discus in the 1984 Olympics, and Okagbare became the most decorated student athlete in UTEP’s history.  

In 2010, during her senior year, she earned four NCAA titles. She was also a finalist for the renowned Bowerman Award, which is given to the country’s most outstanding track and field student-athlete.  

Looking towards the future, alumni like Ray Raya, says he has hope for more UTEP sports success stories.  

“I feel like the city needs a boost. I hope coach Walden and the football team can really ignite something here at UTEP and the community,” Raya said. “We have great talent already. We need to take that next step. It’s time the university grow athletically.”    

Coach Haskins once said, “It’s not about talent, it’s about heart. It’s about who can go out there and play the hardest. They’re not going to give us anything, so you’ve got to go out there, and you’ve got to take it.”  

Only time will tell what the future holds, but as long as UTEP holds to the bear’s word, the university may seize the glory it has sought.  

Jorge Guajardo is a staff reporter and may be reached at [email protected] 

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About the Contributors
Jorge Guajardo, Staff Reporter
Jorge Ian Guajardo, is 30 years old and born and raised in El Paso. He is majoring in multimedia journalism and minoring in English rhetoric. He is a contributor at The Prospector looking to lay the foundation for a long and successful career in journalism once he graduates.
SalmaPaola Baca, Photographer
SalmaPaola Baca is a senior at UTEP majoring in engineering innovation and leadership with a concentration and minor in civil engineering and an emphasis in computer science. Her passion for photography enables her to be photographer at The Prospector. While a full-time student, she freelances while planning to grow her platform through travel photography. After graduating, she wants to pursue a master’s degree in architecture while working on her photography simultaneously.
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