UTEP Football Fires OC Mike Canales and DC Mike Cox
Following the 2020 campaign, UTEP football head coach Dana Dimel announced the firings of his two top assistants in offensive coordinator Mike Canales and defensive coordinator Mike Cox.
A national search will commence immediately to appoint the new coordinators, per the athletic department.
"While this was a difficult decision to make, I feel it is in the best interest of our football program moving forward," said Dimel in a statement, who wrapped up his third year as head coach. "These are good men and I would like to thank them for their service, and wish them well in the future."
The two firings come at a bit of a surprise for a squad that won more games this year (3-5) than through the first two seasons of Dimel's tenure. In 2018, the Miners won just one game against Rice and in year two, the team's only victory came versus Houston Baptist (FCS).
Canales will end his time at UTEP after three seasons as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He brought 35 years of coaching experience to the table, and prior to UTEP, he served as the University of Tennessee’s quarterbacks coach during the 2017 season.
The offense saw major improvements this season, working with a balanced attack led by redshirt sophomore quarterback Gavin Hardison (1,419 passing yards, five passing touchdowns) and redshirt freshman running back Deion Hankins (604 rushing yards, nine touchdowns). UTEP ranked 104 out of 127 FBS teams for total offense (348.1 yards per game). Yet, they improved in almost all offensive categories from last year, averaging 23.0 points per game, compared to last year's 19.6.
Cox also wrapped up three seasons at UTEP as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. Dimel brought Cox along with him to UTEP from Kansas State, where he served as the linebackers coach for five seasons.
Similar to the offense, the Miner defense made notable strides in 2020. In fact, they were ranked as the 47th FBS defense in the country, holding opponents to 381 yards per game. Last year's defense allowed opponents to score 35.9 points against them and opponents racked up an average of 430.8 total yards per game against them.
Prior to the final game against North Texas, four defensive backs entered the transfer portal. Since then, one more linebacker in Elijah Ruiz has entered the transfer portal from the defense. UTEP did announce the signing of Kansas State cornerback transfer Walter Neil Jr, who played in 11 games during 2019 for the Wildcats totaling 21 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, two pass breakups and an interception.
As a result of the two firings, it wouldn't be surprising to see more players enter the transfer portal. Now, Dimel will need to hire two new top assistants to his staff for spring ball.
Dimel has a record of 5-27 at UTEP over three seasons, including 1-19 in Conference USA play. Three of those five wins came against FCS opponents.