Rocky Mountain Low — UTEP Football Staying Home, Not Camping in Ruidoso (June 2020)

Vol. VI, No. 7                          Late-June 2020

For more than a decade, UTEP football has opened its preseason practices in solitude of an off-campus training camp. Miners coaches and players liked the facilities, while fans turned the sidelines into a cool-weather picnic.

Rocky Mountain Low — UTEP Football Staying Home, Not Camping in Ruidoso

By Mark S. McDonald Sr., snippy and dippy

Sign here if you wonder whether college football will launch on schedule. If UTEP does, in fact, go forward with its Sept. 5 Sun Bowl date vs. Texas Tech, as planned, will we be allowed to watch? Where do we sit, on the mountains? How do the Miners and Red Raiders practice social distancing — while ramming into each other?

Related: Only today, UT-Permian Basin in Odessa, citing the China virus and a coaching change, announced it has suspended its women’s basketball team for the 2020-2021 season. To control travel costs in the face of the pandemic, University of Arkansas baseball next spring will lower itself to play games vs. other colleges in the Natural State. Gasp. What next?

This much we know: UTEP football is not — repeat, not — training at Ruidoso, N.M. this August.

For the first time in more than a decade, the Miners will conduct preseason drills on campus. No point in asking why, just follow the money.

Athletic department leaders think it’s one place to cut, without requiring a tourniquet. Too bad. Players and coaches savored the 80-degree afternoons, while fans lounged in a picnic atmosphere to take an up-close look at the prospects for each upcoming season.

Never mind that Coach Dana Dimel liked the facilities and logistics of the mountain town, located just two hours from campus. Former coach Sean Kugler, with a deep background in the pro game, says Camp Ruidoso set-up ranks among the best camps he ever saw in the NFL. I liked it because regular thundershowers were heavenly for afternoon power-naps.

Irony Department: UTEP Jim Senter quietly plugged the plug, just a few weeks before Ruidoso village leaders banned all large public gatherings. Even if the Miners wanted to go back, they would not be welcome. This is like me breaking a date with Sandra Bullock … it was never going to happen anyway.  

Pass the Corn, Please

Seafood is Order of the Day

After months at sea, a young sailor hurried from his ship anchored in the Houston Ship Channel to catch a plane, to his hometown of El Paso. The sailor’s first desire was to go straight to his favorite seafood restaurant not far from the UTEP campus. There, he always ordered his favorite dish, the tender fillet of young cod called scrod. 

“Where do you want to go?” asked his cab driver. 

“I want to get scrod,” said the sailor.

Cabbie, nodding his approval: “First time I ever heard that used in the past pluperfect.”

{Editor’s note: Picks up to friend of MAF, Phil Shook. Submit jokes and wisecracks to}

Built to withstand a nuclear attack, Miners Hall was erected in 1950, to house male athletes at Texas Western and later UTEP. From the school yearbook, Flowsheet, this is believed the first published photo of the fortress. Today, it remains a monument to sturdy construction’s victory over time and testosterone.

Miners Hall: Ghosts Still Lurk in Shadows

By Don Smelser, UTEP athletic trainer in the early 1970s

Miners Hall has been remodeled and is now used for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) program. Classes are offered in a variety of subjects (music, film arts, sports, wine, cooking, exercise, history, etc) for people over 50. I was there 2-3 times a week, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, for classes.

As I’m sitting in class, I look at the others in class and the room, and wonder if they have any idea what (mayhem) went on in this room. Not sure many would come back to class if they did!

{Editor’s note: Uncanny timing on this note. So happens, MAF soon will launch a new series entitled “Ghosts of Miners Hall.” The old jock dorm was rough on thin-skinned athletes who took themselves, or the law, too seriously.)

Overseas, Miner forever Larry Davis coached championship basketball and volleyball teams, and trained 100 pastors. Davis’ son caught this massive Nile perch, which wound up feeding 40.

Amen! Miners Take Their Faith World-wide

{Editor’s note: Larry Davis played on the final Texas Western football team (1965) and the first UTEP team, in 1966. This is summary of his remarkable career that began when he was still playing ball at UTEP. He would teach Sunday school in Juarez on Sundays, and accompanied Miners basketball player Don Burgess as a missionary in northern Mexico.}

By Larry Davis, a Miner forever retired to Carrollton, Texas

I played on the 1965 Sun Bowl team that beat TCU 31-12. My teammates were Freddie Carr, Chuck Hughes, George Daney, Charlie West, Billy Stevens, Bill Tomberlin to name a few. After graduation in ’68, I went to West Africa as a journeyman missionary in Nigeria. For two years I taught physics and chemistry. I was also the games master (athletic director) and head coach. I thought this would be my mission’s call, and I would return to the U.S. to be a high school football coach. The Lord had other plans for my life. I spent 36 years as a Southern Baptist Missionary — 31 years in Nigeria and five in Cameroon.

Near-miss runners-up, these mighty Rockets finished just behind the hated Gophers in the 1957 Spring Branch Youth League for 9-10 year-olds at Schwartz Park. Four of these kids – including the editor, Miner forever Mark McDonald (top row second from right) – went on to play Division I football. None has won a Pulitzer Prize.

Our Readers Always Write

Can we book reservations for homecoming? — Dick Reisman, Washington state

MAF – This Miner forever played in the defensive line during the late 1960s. He was also the campus wrestling champ, a story for another day. Great question, Reesbo. My spies tell me the upcoming football season WILL be played, but how many games? How many fans to be admitted to the stadium? Where will we sit?

I visited Dartmouth (in the late 1960s) on a recruiting trip. They were going to give me a full-ride academic scholarship with my B- high school transcript. Dartmouth really wanted a 6-5, 245-pound tackle. I visited some of fraternities. The Kappa Sigmas at UTEP made the Dartmouth fraternities look like kindergarten. The real story I cannot share yet because the originator is a little shy and does not want to “spill the beans.” — Tom Harper, 1968-72, from Albuquerque, now in Las Vegas

MAF – What is the statute of limitations on fraternity mischief?

Here’s hoping UTEP students come back to campus this autumn, and the Miners sports teams open their 2020 seasons on schedule. I miss you so, so, so much. Staying indoors all this time has made me … well … restless. You know what that means. See you soon? — Katherine Heigl, a ranch in Utah

MAF – Always good to hear from a loyal Miners fan.

“Longer I’m gone, better I was.”

{Disclaimer: Research continues as scientists work to determine whether “Miners Are Forever” cures morning breath. MAF readers receive this publication at no charge. To add a name to the go-list, or to boost the editor’s compensation package, write}

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