Where Texas Western Led, Others Followed — Miner’s New Book Chronicles UTEP’s Historic Stake in American Culture

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By Mark S. McDonald Sr., Totally Self-Serving Miner Forever

Sixty years of living and football, plus two years of research and writing, just washed up on my doorstep today. A 5,213-pound package containing 1,500 copies of my baby. You may recognize it as my new release: Beyond The Big Shootout – 50 Years of Football’s Life Lessons, a historical account of the Arkansas – Texas game for football’s national title, and what happened afterwards. Answer: Plenty.

There was love, marriage, kids, car wrecks, cancer, busted businesses, all this amidst the Vietnam war, race riots, assassinations and the intersection of television with college sports. It’s a big, big story, told in 160,000 words, more than 100 photos, several cartoons by Bill DeOre, and captured in a large format. UTEP is part of the story, too.

Chapters on Julius Whitaker of the University of Texas and Jon Richardson of the University of Arkansas breaking the color line in 1970 would be incomplete without the back-stories of Texas Western’s earliest black athletes. Thanks to retired El Paso sportswriter Bill Knight and his institutional memory. And here’s a toast to the likes of Nolan Richardson, Charlie Brown, Fred Carr and Charlie West. You bold Miners, during the mid-1950s and early ’60s, led the way.

With support from coaches and staff at my alma mater, you nudged all-white athletic programs elsewhere toward racial integration. Good on you, fellas, and thanks, from all of us Miners forever. It could not have been easy, but it was your time and it was the right thing to do.

{McDonald is a UTEP grad and two-year letterman in football. To order his new book, visit <BeyondTheShootout.com>, or send $35 to: Dust Devil Publishing, 2206 Country Club, Midland, TX 79701. Allow three weeks for delivery.}

Tough But True — Don Haskins Treated All His Players the Same — Like Crap

By Rex Miller, Texas Western & UTEP Historian

My associations with Hall of Fame basketball coach Don Haskins consisted mostly of watching his practice sessions. At Memorial Gym on campus where the Miners practiced, I once sat with (Western Athletic Conference basketball official) Moose Stubing.

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Hall of Famer Don Haskins, meaner than an ex-wife, a Miner forever.

“There’s Stubing up there,” Haskins rumbled, pointing to the stands at the time-honored campus facility. “He’s the only one I know who combs his hair with a towel.”

Just then The Bear unleashed a tirade, yelling at his players that they were so messed up the looked like a “Chinese fire drill.”

(Editor’s note: It should be noted here that the better the player, the more likely to draw the wrath of Don Haskins. Those close to the program knew that only Haskins’ bark was larger than his bite. Not even the likes of Tim Hardaway and Nate “Tiny” Archibald, two UTEP legends on the way to NFL stardom, were immune. While privately hugging his players in love, The Bear would castigate them all as “playing like a sack of cats.”

The contributing writer is true orange, loyal to the University and to many friends in West Texas. Watch this space for Rex Miller’s original illustrations, found nowhere else by “Miners Are Forever.” Next: An insider’s view of UTEP legend James Forbes, who played on the U.S. Olympic basketball team and still coaches kids in El Paso today.

And while I have your attention, be sure and check out our brand-new Facebook page here.)

A Light Goes Out in Texas: Ed Puishes (RIP)

Ed Puishes
The late Ed Puishes was an outstanding receiver in his UTEP days.

We lost a good one when former wide receiver Ed Puishes died late this week in his Central Texas home after a long illness. He was 69.

A three-year letterman at UTEP and one of the conference leaders in pass receptions, Puishes (rhymes with “bushes”) still ranks No. 8 in school history for total receptions with 138. While the Miners competed in the old Western Athletic Conference vs. Arizona, Utah, BYU, Arizona State, Eddie caught 55 balls in 1969 and 57 in ’70.

Puishes came to UTEP a highly decorated but undersized high school running back from Devine Child in the Detroit suburban of Dearborn. First week in El Paso, coaches moved the 5-11, 170-pounder to WR. Our QB Bill Craigo was the most immediate beneficiary of Eddie’s sure hands and route-running ability.

To this day, teammates marvel at Eddie’s field awareness and his uncanny knack for make sharp cuts, hardly breaking stride. Puishes was a Chuck Hughes-type possession reciver who liked to watch Texas Western Hall of Famer with the NF Jets, Don Maynard, navigate rival defenses. With Eddie’s keen hand-eye coordination and agility, it is no surprise that in high school, he excelled in ice hockey and baseball.

Puishes El Paso competitive golfer at Coronad El Paso, Eddie developed into a tournament-level pickleball player
After moving to the Burnet area from El Paso, Eddie developed into a tournament-level pickleball player. Like most bass anglers, he fancied himself an all-star fisherman.

Off the record: As his roommate on team road trips, I most remember his quickness and will to win. He barely survived our freshman year when he took a daily beating from our varsity defensive backs – all bound for at least a cup of coffee in the NFL. Eddie wore a high-grade, now-illegal “clothesline” from Grady Cavness for a necktie.

Until Puishes showed up, Miners Hall never housed an athlete who could smoke unfiltered cigarettes, yet never seem to be short of breath during wind sprints. Eddie was probably the best pick-up basketball player on the football team, and certainly our unofficial off-season racquetball champ.

It will surprise no one that later, Puishes played flag football with El Paso has-beens and became a competitive golfer at Coronado Country Club. After moving to the Burnet area from El Paso, Eddie developed into a tournament-level pickleball player. Like most bass anglers, he fancied himself an all-star fisherman.

Popular with former teammates and El Pasoans, Puishes is survived by his wife Meloni, and three children.

Word of Eddie’s death was a prairie wildfire as it spread through the Orange Nation. We Miners forever miss him already. — By Mark S. McDonald, Undocumented UTEP Football Outsider

 

Looking for Love – UTEP’s 2019 Football Sked

UTEP football schedule 2019

If UTEP football schedules had you wincing and peering between your fingers, take heart. The 2019 slate just released late last week is the most equitable, even-handed slate in years.

The schedule features six home games, six road trips, with no meat grinder at Oklahoma for a quick payday. Look within the line items and you will find the following:

(*) No road trips on consecutive weeks. Given the sprawling geography of Conference USA in three time zones, this should be a relief for the players, coaches and us railbirds. Score: One + for UTEP.

(*) Of most importance, perhaps, is two open dates – Sept. 14 and four weeks later on Oct. 12. Nothing wears down a team, especially one in the rebuilding phase, more than eight or nine games in a row. This should give Dawn Hearn’s training staff something of a break. Maybe it will hold down on the budget for aspirin and wrapping tape.

From Oct. 19 through Nov. 16, the Miners play five straight weeks. This should be doable, notably for a team looking to put an emphatic stamp on the ’19 campaign.

The team closes out with a 40-mile roadie to Las Cruces to play the N.M. Aggies, then a home game vs. Rice on what will be senior day. With emotional families in the stands, outbound players such as Kai Locksley, Derron Gatewood and other Miners will want to max out with a positive curtain call. Score: Double ++ for UTEP.

(*)With or without a healthy Alan Bowman at QB, Texas Tech will likely be better in the fundamentals of blocking and tackling now that Kliff Kingsbury was fired and somehow landed the NFL Cardinals’ head job. Matt Wells is the new man in charge in Lubbock. You may recall 2014 when UTEP lost the New Mexico Bowl, 21-6, to a well-drilled Utah State team coached by the same Matt Wells. Score: 1 slight minus for UTEP.

Before you start heaping praise on first-year Athletic Director Jim Senter for his skillful scheduling, you might save those bouquets for other things he and his staff are doing well. Instead, look back and say thanks for departed A.D. Bob Stull and his capable lieutenant Chris Park, now at Washington State.

Save for the details within C-USA, these schedules are built years in advance. — By Mark S. McDonald, executive editor

UTEP at a Crossroads: It’s All on the Line

Sun Bowl.jpg

UTEP’s sports future hinges on one key player. Who will it be?

 

Tubby Smith has made the rounds in the upper reaches of men’s college basketball – Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, Texas Tech and Memphis. With all those stamps on his coaching passport, he is now the coach at High Point University, a small private, liberal arts outpost in North Carolina. He has a message for UTEP fans: 

“Coaches win games,” Smith says, “administrations win championships.”

If anyone should know, it is Orlando Henry “Tubby” Smith.

Tubby Smith
Tubby Smith

If anyone should be paying attention to the retirement of UTEP President Diana Natalicio, it is Miners fans. It’s the most important recruit UTEP athletics might ever sign.

Diana Natalicio
Diana Natalicio

Here’s why:

Coach Dana Dimel has recently finished his first painful season in football. Ditto for women’s basketball coach Kevin Baker. Men’s basketball coach Rodney Terry is less than a year on the job. 

Dana Dimel, football
Dana Dimel
Rodney Terry
Rodney Terry

That trio takes marching orders from Athletic Director Jim Senter. He’s new, too. In the trickle-down, Senter has a boss, too — Natalicio’s replacement. 

The future of UTEP big three sports … indeed, all sports, is directly linked to the next University president, and how much importance he or she places on intercollegiate athletics. With continued (or expanded) support, especially in fund-raising, I believe UTEP sports will not only survive, but prosper. 

Without the new president’s blessing, tangible and visible, the Miners could wither, in all three sports. So, who will shake the money tree and lead UTEP sports in 2019 and beyond? 

We here at Miners Are Forever can only tell you we have our ears to the ground, our snout to the wind. If you know, feel free to share with us in the comments section below.

Ironic, isn’t it? The most vital player in all of UTEP athletics is about to take his/her place in the lineup – but will never suit up for the Miners. —By Mark S. McDonald, Executive Editor

Talent Search — UTEP Staff Seeks Big-Play Recruits

If UTEP coaches could sprinkle poofy dust over the current roster, they would instantly add two ingredients, both related – explosive, big-play pass rushers, and difference-maker ball-carriers and receivers who can change a game with one long gain.

In recruiting, the staff will be looking for these rare animals. They will have company, as every other football talent sharks swim in the very same shallow talent pool.

In the early going, senior wide-out Warren Redix,, a senior from El Paso Montwood, appears to have taken the lead with leaping catches that sparked workouts. Running backs Quardraiz Wadley, a junior from Kennedale, and sophomore Josh Fields

Josh Fields Americas High
Local talent Josh Fields from Americas High looks to blossom in 2018 and beyond

from El Paso Americas, showed glimmers of D-1 talent last season, when they were healthy.

As for a pass rusher, coaches don’t say much but look to the horizon, as if seeking a long, tall, fast, strong defender to cross the Franklin Mountains and make his new home at UTEP.

NCAA regs prohibit coaches from commenting on specific athletes until the early signing day in December. Staffers whisper that the recruiting class of 2019 could have more of what Dr. Dana Dimel orders.

The class is likely to feature eight offensive linemen, which the Miners will need to restock the shelves as seniors play out their eligibility. UTEP sources say they have solid commitments from five blockers who were sought by schools in the so-called Power 5 conferences. It would be safe to assume some of those prospects had been pursued by Kansas State, the most recent coaching stops for Dimel and others on the new UTEP staff.

Indeed, it raises eyebrows when recruiting coordinator Matt Rahl says the Miners have almost filled their quota for class of 2019 high school kids.

“We wouldn’t say no to a great player,” Rahl said, “but we will be looking mostly at JuCo kids to fill a couple spots. Then we are beginning to look at 2020, right now.” — By Mark S. McDonald, executive editor