If UTEP football schedules had you wincing and peering between your fingers, take heart. The 2019 slate just released late last week is the most equitable, even-handed slate in years.
The schedule features six home games, six road trips, with no meat grinder at Oklahoma for a quick payday. Look within the line items and you will find the following:
(*) No road trips on consecutive weeks. Given the sprawling geography of Conference USA in three time zones, this should be a relief for the players, coaches and us railbirds. Score: One + for UTEP.
(*) Of most importance, perhaps, is two open dates – Sept. 14 and four weeks later on Oct. 12. Nothing wears down a team, especially one in the rebuilding phase, more than eight or nine games in a row. This should give Dawn Hearn’s training staff something of a break. Maybe it will hold down on the budget for aspirin and wrapping tape.
From Oct. 19 through Nov. 16, the Miners play five straight weeks. This should be doable, notably for a team looking to put an emphatic stamp on the ’19 campaign.
The team closes out with a 40-mile roadie to Las Cruces to play the N.M. Aggies, then a home game vs. Rice on what will be senior day. With emotional families in the stands, outbound players such as Kai Locksley, Derron Gatewood and other Miners will want to max out with a positive curtain call. Score: Double ++ for UTEP.
(*)With or without a healthy Alan Bowman at QB, Texas Tech will likely be better in the fundamentals of blocking and tackling now that Kliff Kingsbury was fired and somehow landed the NFL Cardinals’ head job. Matt Wells is the new man in charge in Lubbock. You may recall 2014 when UTEP lost the New Mexico Bowl, 21-6, to a well-drilled Utah State team coached by the same Matt Wells. Score: 1 slight minus for UTEP.
Before you start heaping praise on first-year Athletic Director Jim Senter for his skillful scheduling, you might save those bouquets for other things he and his staff are doing well. Instead, look back and say thanks for departed A.D. Bob Stull and his capable lieutenant Chris Park, now at Washington State.
Save for the details within C-USA, these schedules are built years in advance. — By Mark S. McDonald, executive editor