With Cross and Watts Out, Who’s on the Hot Seat Next for UTEP Athletics?
Athletic Director Jim Senter and the new era of UTEP athletics have made their goals clear to the university’s athletic department: win and show your worth.
He’s stayed true to his word. Senter said since he stepped foot on campus almost a year ago that one of his ultimate goals as an athletic program is to create conference champions through all UTEP sports and put the university’s athletics on the map.
He recently fired long-time women’s soccer head coach Kevin Cross, who had a winning record at UTEP at 212-125-27 during 17 years as the coach.
Yesterday, he fired fifth-year women’s volleyball head coach Holly Watts after finishing with a subpar 48-127 record, including the worst winning percentage in program history (.274).
Now the question is, who’s next?
Many are quick to say that the hot seat for softball head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk is starting to boil as she enters her sixth season with the Miners.
Echo-Hawk has never produced a winning program for softball during her five seasons at UTEP, holding a 87-174 overall record and a .333 win percentage. Her best season was in 2016 when the Miners finished 23-32 overall.
But the reality is, no coach is safe at UTEP unless they produce a winning product.
From top to bottom, Senter and his staff will continue to evaluate each program and their progression. While a sport like track and field has remained consistent and will be left alone for a while, maybe the department emphasizes more of a win-now mentality in sports like basketball or football. Who knows how long the leashes will be for programs that undergo a rebuilding phase.
Let’s take football and head coach Dana Dimel, for example. During Dimel’s first season, the Miners failed to put a winning product on the field, which was pretty much expected under a rebuild year. They’ve underwent countless injuries, yet statistically improved since the start.
But if this is the same result in year two or three, the new department may not tolerate it. Dimel was asked yesterday what his timetable to turn the program around, to which he responded:
“Everything we’re doing is to build a long-term consistent program. Every week we don’t want to lose focus on the big picture. I have to keep all those decisions to keep the forefront and also plan to win each and every ball game. I love this team and these players are learning valuable life lessons.”
Dimel knows it. He’s here to win games, reach bowl games and contend for conference titles.
And isn’t this what El Paso wanted all along?
During the Bob Stull era, the athletic department was always known as a wait-and-see developer and Stull seemed to take the coaches sides on most issues. He allowed coaching staffs to ride out their years, grow as a program and trusted that they would develop a winner down the line. But winning across the board may have not been as important as development was to Stull.
Some El Paso fans thought of Stull as a reactive athletic director, not a proactive one, which could be good or bad, however you may look at it.
But the bottom line is it’s two separate regimes with two vastly different approaches.
The same people that are currently shocked at the recent firings are the same people that pled for an overhaul of the athletics department last year.
El Paso, you got your wish, now let Jim Senter do his thing.