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Is UTEP vs. UTSA the Next Battle of I-10?

Graphic: Duke Keith

Rivalries are a wonderful thing, but it takes two of something to make one; whether you’re talking Leonard-Duran, Apple-Google or Army-Navy.

UTEP-New Mexico State? Well…it’s an old football rivalry. So old someone might be placing a call to 9-1-1 soon; which says one thing if the call goes to the police, but something completely different when it’s to the paramedics.

With interest and attendance in a ditch for the Aggies — a crowd of “18,366″ was there for NMSU’s second-biggest rivalry game, a 42-21 UTEP win — it makes you wonder how long the Maroon and White can stay Division 1-A.

I’m saying it doesn’t matter at which level the Ags play in coming years, the Miners should play them always. BUT…it is less and less a series that could be defined as “rivalry”. For one, a school’s pride has to be in danger. I just don’t see this in the Miners-Aggies games much anymore.

However, I have seen it for some four or five years with the Miners and another school along I-10, well before it even began playing football, much less joined C-USA.

When UTSA’s students voted to use a portion of their fees to create a Division 1-A football program a few years back, the rumblings in El Paso began almost immediately. Instinctively, it seemed Miners fans knew UTEP would be recruiting against whatever program appeared in San Antonio.

The rivalry between the Sun City and the Alamo City has been stewing for years, if only because so many San Antonians are former El Pasoans. Don’t be surprised to see a few Roadrunners’ jerseys at a Chico’s Tacos near you this weekend.

You might also see a few dirty looks, too. Many here regard San Antonio as the nouveau-riche, geographically-lucky, cheese-sauce-over-the-enchilada-slingin’ wanna-bes of Texas.

Many in San Antonio think of El Paso much like those in Dallas, Houston and Austin do. Which is to say: not much at all.

Being Texans at heart, though, giving these cities a football game to fight over is laying the kindling for what could be UTEP’s first real Conference USA rivalry.

Sure, Tom Penders’ Houston Cougars hoops teams made for some great headlines, but that rivalry disappeared with Penders. The undercurrents that run beneath UTEP and UTSA promise to keep the vitriol flowing a bit more consistently.

The Roadrunners even have similar team colors and thumb-and-pinky hand signs — the Miners “chop” it, the ‘Runners “flash” it — inciting UTEP fans to call UTSA out for copying.

As one San Antonian and UTEP alum who labors alongside a number of UTSA alumni put it, “the Miners have to win or I won’t be able to go back to work.”

It has been awhile, hasn’t it UTEP fans? I haven’t heard feelings like this — that something meaningful could be on the line — being expressed since the days of the old WAC.

As Rick says at the end of “Casablanca”…

UTEP VS. NMSU: PICTURES AND KUGLER POST-GAME AUDIO

 

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