Could COVID KO Miners? (June 2020)

Vol. VI, No. 4                          Mid-June 2020

Since UTEP Coach Dana Dimel announced the football recruiting class of 2020, a world-wide virus pandemic has changed the face of college athletics.

Could COVID KO Miners?

By Mark S. McDonald Sr., disconnected, disreputable and dismantled

My spies tell me that when the virus KOed the NCAA basketball tournament, each D-1 school lost a $1.3 million share in the revenue. This would include UTEP, whispers have it. Schools likely to make a deep-tournament run last March lost even more, millions more.

Like so many universities not named Notre Dame, UTEP is always hustling for funds for athletics. While numerous programs below the so-called Power Five conferences are reducing the length of post-season playoffs (Big South golf and baseball et. al.) — or cutting them entirely — I wince at the thought of cutbacks.

Reducing an operating budget is painful. In the case of cutting UTEP baseball, some found it excruciating. (cartoon by Bill DeOre)

I was a UTEP undergrad when a budding men’s wrestling team got the axe. Not long after Title IX opened doors for women’s sports, the school used a crowbar on baseball. This is what happens when administrations, especially federal government, make decisions. There will be winners, and there will be losers.

This week, every football coach in America is welcoming players back to campus for “voluntary” workouts. (Note the quotation marks.) Ditto for women’s soccer and basketball for both men and women.

After this strangest of summer calendars, Dimel’s Miners open with Texas Tech on Sept. 5. Two weeks later, UTEP flies to Austin to play the Texas Longhorns. If you see Dimel with a sweaty brow, hand him a dry hanky. These are not easy days to be a coach.

1956: A Year to Remember

Miners’ Bumpy Ride to a Football Title

“Poor Devil” Aaron Cranford

First game of 1956 was at Texas Tech. In El Paso, we got on an old DC3 and took off for Lubbock. It was the first time a lot of us had ever been on a plane. We got to Lubbock the same time as a big sand storm, so we had to circle the field many times for the pilot to get the landing gear down. The plane was bouncing all over the place. I do not remember who was sitting behind me, but he got sick, and sent his dinner right down my back. What a mess.

I had played ball with two of Tech’s running backs in high school, Charlie Dixon and Floyd Cole. We beat Tech, and I never let them forget it. We have been friends since 1944. We also beat Tech the next year in El Paso.

One of the worst sounds that I ever heard was right in front of our bench at Kidd Field. We tackled an Arizona player, and I heard a big pop and scream. The guy was on his stomach, with his foot pointing straight up in the air. The runner was the Border Conference 440-yard champion. He never ran again.

The big game of the year was with Arizona State at their place. Coach Mike Brumbelow, who was one of the best scouts in the world, had scouted them, and he had coached us so well that we knew what they were going to do on offense on every play, We beat them 28-0. That was the first time that they have ever been shutout at home. You talk about a party when we got home. It was great. We paid for it on Monday. What a workout.

When we played West Texas State in Canyon, they had a really good team. Trailing 15-14 in the last quarter, time was running out. Our field-goal kicker could not enter the game because of the rule he had already played in that quarter. The only other person who had not been in the game was Truman Hobbs, a freshman from Olney. He was called on to try the field goal. Would you believe he made it? Border Conference champs!

That year we beat Tech, West Texas State, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Hardin-Simmons, Arizona and Arizona State. Our regular-season record was 9-1. We lost only to North Texas. We got beat by George Washington in the Sun Bowl. We got a watch. I had to sing “The Eyes of Texas” in front of everybody at the pre-game party for both teams. I cannot carry a tune in a washtub.

{Editor’s note: Three things can never be taken from a former student athlete — his achievements and experiences shared with his teammates. Texas Western Miners … conference champs. Nice ring to it, yes?}

Mine Shaft Mail Bag

Thanks for all you do! I notice you are going to write about “Poor Devil” (Aaron Cranford) next time. I played football against him and his powerhouse McCamey High team in 1954. All we (Alpine Bucks) could do against that huge team was pass. Finally, Aaron got to our quarterback and gave him a bloody nose (no face guards back then) and they wore us down 42-14. 

I caught six passes and was hustled by a recruiter from Rice after the game. He lost interest when he discovered I only weighed 155 pounds. Anyway, I played basketball for the Miners 1955-59, and lived with Aaron in Miners Hall. I can’t recall how he got the nickname “Poor Devil.” He has been a good friend ever since and I applaud you for recognizing him.

Jack Burgess, Corrales, N.M.

{The letter writer played for two Texas Western basketball teams that won the Border Conference championship. Burgess is the former teammate of Charles Brown, the first Black athlete on scholarship at a state school in Texas. Burgess earned his degree in mining engineering and met his future wife, Kay. To this day, Jack has “lots of Miners Hall memories, adventures and life-long friendships.”}  

Coming soon: “The Ghosts of Miners Hall” … “Unsung Miners — Best Teammates You Never Heard Of” … “Panning for Nuggets.”

“Longer I’m gone, better I was.”

Disclaimer — Miners Are Forever is distributed free of charge (except to N.M. Aggies), and worth every penny of it. Add friends to the go-list by contacting MAF World Headquarters at

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