Over 34,000? Post-Game Traffic? What’s Going On Here UTEP?
Okay, yeah, Houston Baptist almost won. We saw a lot of the whites of Miners’ eyes as the Huskies’ Air Raid racked up 413 yards of offense.
Sure, absolutely, UTEP football is still your grandfather’s ’79 Pontiac Catalina, inspiring quizzical looks from people asking, “They made a Pontiac Catalina?”
By all means, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It was a 36-34 win over an FCS school.
Actually, never mind. It’s UTEP. No one’s getting ahead of themselves.
I can’t stop thinking that something just changed.
But also that the change has nothing to do with UTEP football.
Thirty-four-thousand in the Sun Bowl for a team that hadn’t won there in 1,008 days?
Traffic on Sun Bowl Drive at 10 p.m.? And Khalid wasn’t playing until Sunday?!
You come to a Miners game having slipped into your most comfortable jaundiced expectations and suddenly discover no one is wearing those anymore.
Credit UTEP Director of Athletics Jim Senter and his crew who have done a lot of polling and listening and responding to people all over El Paso.
Sure, $5 flash sales don’t hurt.
But neither do revamped tailgating policies that stopped treating fans like a TSA pat-down. Or rooftop parties for students with free food. Or an athletic department that takes your phone call and listens to suggestions.
Still, it’s disorienting.
Part of the discombobulation comes from not being able to quantify this feeling via traditional metrics, like money and winning.
The other part is that it is just a feeling. But it’s a feeling backed by the fact of 34,646 voices cheering for a UTEP football program that won a single game last season.
Yes, certainly, this team will lose games. It came close to losing Saturday.
But Dana Dimel knows his business and it seems like he’s being left alone to handle it.
Saved from scrutiny by sunny disposition, or sheer indifference?
A bit of both.
Truly, the program has been ignored by El Paso for so long, it’s as if winning as a driver of interest was erased from the equation.
Think about it: UTEP went to a bowl game with Sean Kugler as coach and had arguably El Paso’s biggest star athlete, Aaron Jones, racking up thousand-yard seasons for his hometown school.
And nobody came.