UTEP Athletic Director Jim Senter said Thursday that the school is moving forward with plans to have fans at football games at the Sun Bowl this fall. He said the plan is for fans at the home opener on September 5, or sometime later on.

UTEP's plan was as a surprise for many of UTEP's thousands of Spring/Summer graduates, who have been waiting patiently to celebrate earning their diplomas. Just last Friday they had their scheduled in-person September 12 Sun Bowl commencement suddenly canceled. UTEP President Heather Wilson sent an email to graduates saying they were acting out of an understandable abundance of caution to move the commencement online.

One of the 2020 graduates who was affected by UTEP's decision to cancel commencement at the Sun Bowl in favor of a virtual ceremony is my husband, Darren Hunt. Darren worked in the media for 30 years here in El Paso, and a couple of years ago took a hiatus from his career to care for his 80 year-old parents. He decided to return to school this past year to complete his degrees.

I completely understand Wilson's decision to not hold an event for 9,000 at the 50,000 seat Sun Bowl (3,000 graduates and two family members each were going to be allowed at the Sept. 12 scheduled commencement) during the pandemic. What I don't understand is Wilson giving the go-ahead to Senter and the athletic department to open the gates for 12,000 to 15,000 at football games in the same month and possibly even a week earlier.

It begs the question - does UTEP put football first, or education first? Seems that Wilson and Senter's message is clear - football games are more important than the school's graduates. Wilson tweeted this over the weekend that she "was bummed" about in-person commencement but she had a blessed life because someone left her flowers and cinnamon buns on her porch. I'm glad she feels blessed but for graduates who have to pay a $35 "graduation fee" with no in-person ceremony to show for it after years of hard work, I wonder if they can say the same thing.


Maybe they can all go to a football game and wear their cap and gown?

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