2020 UTEP Football Schedule Could Be Trimmed To 10 Games
It has been a wild last 48 hours in the college football world. With every Power 5 and Group of 5 announcing their schedules, we have a better idea as to how it will affect UTEP. As it currently stands, the Miners could be playing a reduced schedule of 10 games, including a pair of non-conference contests.
UTEP had planned to kick off its 2020 regular season at home on Saturday, September 5th against Texas Tech. That game was canceled when the Big 12 announced that their schools would each host one non-conference game and then play their nine game Big 12 schedule. Although not finalized, Tech appears to have an agreement in place with Houston Baptist to play at Jones Stadium in Lubbock on 9/12.
Today, we learned that the Mountain West Conference is expected to finalize an 8 + 2 format. The Miners are supposed to play at Nevada on 9/12 in their first road game of the season. However, the Wolfpack are currently scheduled to host regional rival UC Davis on 8/29. They also play at the University of South Florida on 9/19. Although it is possible that Nevada will want to push back the start date of their season by a few weeks due to the pandemic, UC Davis is a more logical opponent for them. Nevada will pay less of a guarantee for an FCS opponent that can make a 145-mile bus trip from Davis, California to Reno than the $400,000 that UTEP will get for their game against the Wolfpack.
If Nevada cancels their game with the Miners, Director of Athletics Jim Senter will have two options. One would be to work on scheduling a pair of FCS opponents to play UTEP at the Sun Bowl on 9/5 and 9/12. The problem is there is no word yet on seating capacity for home games and each FCS opponent would need a six figure guarantee to cover their travel expenses and make a little money for a trip to El Paso to play the Miners. Although the NCAA is allowing teams with two wins over FCS opponents to count towards a bowl game, UTEP is not expected to win six games or more in 2020 to qualify for the postseason.
The other option is to reduce the number of games in 2020 from 12 to 10 and leave the remainder of their schedule intact. In that scenario, UTEP opens their season on the road against Texas on 9/19 and the following week would host NMSU in the Battle of I-10. Then, the Miners would begin their C-USA schedule. I think this option makes the most sense for Senter and his athletic department. UTEP still gets their $1.4 million from Texas for their game against the Longhorns and hopefully the Sun Bowl can be at 25% capacity for their home opener against the Aggies. It also gives the school six weeks to properly plan their 2020 football season and not have to rush any decisions that could come back to haunt them during the current pandemic.