By Mark S. McDonald, Under-qualified but unrelenting UTEP correspondent
Once in a great while, a UTEP post strikes home, triggering unpredictable reader reaction. It recently happened, not once, but twice — with a flurry of comments on former Miners track coach Wayne Vandenburg and the late trainer, Ross Moore. Here are nuggets from the mine shaft:
(Editor’s note: In spite of his national championships and immense popularity with Miners fans, unconfirmed word on the street has it Vandy spent himself into trouble with UTEP administration. A rapid-fire talker, Wayne reportedly was prone to running up massive phone bills while jabbering to his talent scouts in Europe. Such irony. Today, Wayne could recruit the same great athletes, using email, not telephone, at minimal expense.)
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From pole vaulter Dennis Sledge:
“He was a complex guy as a coach, he was upbeat, made you feel important, like you were his best friend. But Wayne was very principled. There was a line you didn’t cross.
“I enjoyed competing for him, wish I could have been a better producer. He was generous with me. I was really disappointed when he was fired my junior year. I was working on the decathlon and hoped to concentrate on it my senior year. But two of our other pole vaulters left when he was fired and I had to concentrate on the pole vault, since they didn’t have decathlons in every meet.”
Sledge on UTEP’s world-class athletes recruited by Vandy:
“(The late) Paul Gibson (of Carlsbad, N.M.) was probably the best athlete I was ever around. His best friend, Fred DeBernardi was another great athlete. Often after they had completed their workouts for their events they would run 40-yard dashes against each other. It was always close and occasionally Fred, at 6-7, 265, would win. I really liked both of those guys. Fred was at the reunion and is still like a big ole kid.”
(Editor’s note: Fred DiBernardi was a freak of nature. Tried out for football one year, and suited out like Gorgo. Think Bob Lilly, only taller. When we reported in August, every team member had run the “Bobby Dobbs Mile” for time. Backs ran with backs and receivers, linemen ran with linemen. “DeeBo,” as we called him, cruising effortlessly with the backs and receivers, towering over the smaller guys while matching them stride for stride. Unfortunately, DeeBo’s unmatched size-speed package did not translate to the gridiron. His incredibly strong body, could not overcome weak football fundamentals.)
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Reader Marilyn Cromeans is a Miner forever and the daughter of our late trainer Ross Moore:
“Dad’s 108th birthday was (recently). I know he loved you guys. He had a name for everyone. I miss him and my mother so much.”
(Editor’s note: Your note got me to thinking about your father and why he meant so much to me and my UTEP teammates. It’s puzzling, really, because when it came to social graces, Mo treated us like crap. All of us. Mo called most athletes “peckerhead.” I was a two-year, senior starter, and Mo still referred to me as “freshman.” The note of disdain was so noticeable, he almost spit the words on the floor. As if I were a tropical disease. But I think that beneath his crusty exterior, there were two things Mo could not hide — without question, he knew what he was doing, and, deep down, he cared about us athletes. He was giving us what we needed to succeed. To me, that’s what made the old buzzard great.As his daughter, you miss your father. You know how I still feel about the guy. Just guessing, but I think plenty of Miners forever miss Ross Moore, too.”)
Mark McDonald is a UTEP journalism grad and two-year letterman in football. His new non-fiction historical narrative traces college football and American culture back to the 1960s. To order Beyond The Big Shootout – 50 Years of Football’s Life Lessons ($30 plus S&H), visit the website BeyondTheShootout.com.