By Mark S. McDonald Sr.
Defunded, Undocumented, Fence-Jumping Alum
It does not happen often, but earlier this month we saw fans in Austin rush the court. Why? Texas 79, Kansas 76, as the Longhorns scored the final seven points. That same week Arkansas fans rallied at mid-court after their Razorbacks upset No. 1 Auburn. Court mobbing has a time-honored history at UTEP, too.
In February, 1970, at the drafty old Cow Palace Coliseum, downtown El Paso, Nate “Tiny” Archibald, under coach Don Haskins, beat Utah to win the Western Athletic Conference title. “We’re Number One! We’re Number One!”
That was the “old” WAC, back when I played in the pre-Cambrian era vs. Arizona, BYU, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona State, Colorado State and Wyoming. Celebration was deafening. Delirious. Delicious.
Expect to see this rare scene to visit El Paso again, at Don Haskins Center (capacity 11,619) on campus. The recipe requires certain ingredients: Defense … rebounding … unselfish ball-handling … accurate free throw shooting … a jazzed-up student body and a certain magic in the air.
UTEP has some of the ingredients in place. Coach Joe Golding and his Miners grow more stubborn with each passing month. In junior guard Jamal Bieniemy, the Miners have what many other teams lack — a scorer who can create his own shot. (unless he transfers out). With a couple more recruiting classes and alert management of the transfer portal, the Miners will hold a nationally ranked powerhouse to less than 65 points, just as UTEP under Coach Haskins used to do.
Anybody else amused by the $25,000 fine levied against Longhorns athletics by the Big 12 Conference? It’s a token wave of the index finger for “not providing safety measures” for the visiting team. Kansas coach Bill Self brushed it off with a simple quote. “It’s fine,” he said. Think the UT administration will be crippled? This is the same outfit that is about to benefit from a $20 million donation from a vodka distiller.
For a UTEP men’s program on the rise, the real trick will be luring a ranked opponent anywhere near The Don.