2020 UTEP Football Forecast: Frustrated Fan Base Needs Some Hope
Editor's note: Sports are constantly evolving on a daily basis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, making a lot of the 2020 season still uncertain. This story is part three of an offseason series preview for the Miners' upcoming season with the idea that the season takes place as scheduled.
Gauging the pulse of the UTEP football fan base, the excitement has hit a brick wall and frustrations continue to rise. Can you blame the disgruntled fans, though? This is the same program that has only seven winning seasons since their last bowl victory in 1967. And, under third-year head coach Dana Dimel, this Miner football team has won just two games in the past two seasons (2-22).
As we began the football forecast here on 600 ESPN El Paso, it was evident how dismissive fans' attitude is toward the upcoming season. Upon our summer preview and Dimel's message to fans to remain patient, Miner followers took to social media to voice their displeasure with the state of the program.
Here are some of the comments we received over the past few days.
Let's be honest here. There will always be the group of UTEP faithful that supports the team, win or lose, and remains positive. The loyal fans will be encouraging and make it out to as many games at the Sun Bowl as possible. Specifically with this group, the optimists could be excited about a fresh roster with a new starting quarterback, young talent across the depth chart and might have more faith in Dimel's five-year rebuild than others. These fans understand that Dimel took over an 0-12 program that was at rock bottom back in 2017 upon Sean Kugler's resignation.
However, it seems like a majority of supporters feel let down and hopeless. Some hammer the coaching staff's lack of success in the win column, while others want a complete coaching staff overhaul. Because Dimel's contract is guaranteed for five years, there's no chance he leaves after this season no matter the outcome. The negative comments have gotten as bad as some asking for UTEP to drop down from FBS to FCS, and others proclaim extreme measures should be taken, such as abolishing the program altogether. Football is the top money-making sports at the university and the money it makes off being a Divison I program is also substantial, so these ideas to abolish or step down a level are highly unlikely for the future.
Pancho Ruiz Del Hoyo probably brings up the best middle-ground fan perspective on Facebook: "hoping for progress" and "hope year three shows improvement." Last year, the Miners were outmatched in a lot of games, especially in C-USA. UTEP lost seven of its eight league games by two-scores or better last year and lost the competitive edge they showed in Dimel's first season back in 2018. If they are able to maintain a competitive spirit and develop young talent through year three, fans might be more encouraged and positive than before.
Sure, fans want more wins in the coming years. But above anything, I believe that fans merely want to see a competitive UTEP football team. If Dimel preaches a breakthrough year in 2021, this year must show signs of growth toward the five-year goal in order to re-energize the fanbase.