Old Glory vs. New Disrespect: Where Do the Miners Stand? (July 2020)

Vol. VI, No. 8                         Independence Day Special

Illustration by Bill DeOre, special to MAF

Old Glory vs. New Disrespect: Where Do the Miners Stand? Or Do We Stand at All?

By Mark S. McDonald Sr.

Former Head Football Coach Sean Kugler had two hard-and-fast team rules: (1.) No striking a woman; (2.) No stealing from a teammate. Violation of either was the nearest trap door to losing your scholarship.

In my first interview with then-new Coach Dana Dimel, I asked him the fast track to his doghouse. “Disrespect,” Dimel said. “It will not be tolerated.”

So now here we are, on the threshold of a new season (we hope), and I wonder whether this UTEP coaching staff, this university administration, will tolerate disrespect? Specifically, will school leaders, in a military town, look the other way if UTEP athletes kneel during the national anthem? To avoid the public embarrassment, in a military town, Dimel might hedge his bets, by holding the players in the locker room, until kickoff. 

Never thought standing for the national anthem would ever be a controversial gesture. In this emotionally charged atmosphere, we approach Independence Day with emotions that appear to divide. I submit there is less bitter division among these United States than speech writers and the media will have us believe. Media credo: Discord drives up ratings. “If it bleeds, it leads.”

On this special day that marks the birth of our nation — imperfect as it may be — please know “Miners Are Forever” was not meant to be a political tool. Never a lightning rod. Rather, you receive it free of charge, as a gathering place for those who support UTEP’s public outreach, and the core mission of its athletic department. 

But on this is Independence Day weekend … during an election year … when every cell phone is a news camera, what does this day mean to you? To your neighbors?  

Even as those of you who hate America, riot in the streets, violate civil rights, destroy property and burn Old Glory, you don’t have to ask what it means to my parents. While you behave as you choose, consider these images: This is my flag, our flag, in my front yard. These are my folks, Marge and Bill, standing for the national anthem five years ago prior to a Colorado Rockies baseball game. 

During WWII, Mom, who is now 92, worked as a teenager in a munitions plant in north-central Kansas. Now almost 94 and confined to a wheelchair, Dad served in the U.S. Navy during WWII. Long ago, he stood for your liberty and freedom. And mine. 

Dad would stand for your rights today — if only he could.

Picks Up and Viva Miners.

Miners in Masks

An idea whose time has come: Here’s my old buddy John Denton of the TCU athletic department, using a customized mask to improve his looks. UTEP leaders … I know you read these posts, so take heed. Maybe you are considering selling masks as a fundraiser for the Miners, yes? Just tell me where to order. I’ll buy five. — The Editor

UTEP upsets 25th-ranked BYU, 14-3 in 1993. UTEP ended BYU’s 128-game win streak with a touchdown. Unlikely team went 4-7 under Charlie Bailey, TE Brian Natkin Perez was not hero of game as TV coverage indicated. This was a team that threw 13 interceptions, to 7 TDs. 

Our Customers Always Write:

Before All Else – There Was Basketball

Dear MAF:

My wife and I grew up in Albuquerque. We married in 1965, honeymooned in a Socorro, N.M. motel, and were in El Paso for only a few hours before I had to attend basketball practice at Memorial Gym. Take note: This was at least a week before classes began. 

In 1962 (above), then much later in his UTEP career (below), here’s the late Hall of Fame Coach Don Haskins, a Miner forever.

My wife was a little taken aback, but I was used to this kind of calendar. When my parents drove me to TW in the fall of ‘62, their instructions were to first stop at the gym. First words I heard from Coach (Don Haskins) was a request to the trainer that I be given “some gear.” 
That moment, there was a full-blown scrimmage already underway, which I joined while my parents sat in the bleachers (along with my suitcase) and waited. — Louis Baudoin, Corrales, N.M.
{Editor: And so the legend of Hall of Famer Don Haskins grows …The dry-witted Miner Forever adds that he started building his home 43 years ago. “Why hire someone when you can screw it up yourself? It’s nearly finished, but then so am I.”}  

Camp Western Life, a tourist destination for some — not us Miners (photo by an unknown photographer, courtesy of Scott DeSha)

Mountain Air — No Tourist Destination for UTEP Football of Yesteryear

Pointing to a money squeeze and the China virus, the UTEP athletic department this year is keeping the Miners on campus for training camp. UTEP football has trained outside of El Paso every August since 1998. Coaches like to use training camps to build team unity and insulate players from distractions. Coaches will never say as much in the press, but they like social distancing the players from their girlfriends. 

Maybe you remember these:

         1999-2012 – Socorro, N.M. (N.M. Tech)
         2013-14 – Alpine, Texas (Sul Ross Univ.)
         2015-19 – Ruidoso, N.M. (cool, cool pines)

Training off-campus is nothing new. In the early 1970s, UTEP Coach Bobby Dobbs got wind that rival coach Frank Kush was torturing his Arizona State teams in the mountains of northern Arizona. Naturally, we Miners needed similar punishment. 

Ahhh … Camp Western Life, above, in Las Vegas, N.M. Dobbs didn’t just smoke a pipe, he smoked us. Three practices a day with lots of heavy contact made for a tight schedule, so Coach Dobbs, an old military man from Army-West Point, got us started early. 

At first light, coaches would line up the linemen together in one group, the backs and receivers in another. The task: Four timed quarter-mile runs, on a gravel road with blistered feet, at altitude, with 60 seconds of rest in between. “Interval training,” track guys called it. We footballers had other names for it.

A couple days of this routine had a way of separating contenders from pretenders. Some guys left the bunkhouse in the middle of the night, walking a gravel road into town to catch a bus back home. Hasta la bye-bye. 

Getting off the bus, I think I saw guys kiss the sidewalk. El Paso and campus never looked so good.

Next issue, July 18 — How recent grads have put their UTEP degrees and football to work.

“Longer I’m gone, better I was.”

Former UTEP teammates “Dynamite” David Atkins and The Editor gather for homecoming. One of these Miners played running back for two seasons with the NFL 49ers and a year with the Chargers. He later coached at UTEP, and coached in the pro ranks for seven different teams. Guess which guy?

{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 mark@DustDevilPublishing.com.}

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