In Less Than Two Weeks, UTEP Football Kicks Off a 12-Game Schedule
During a global pandemic and nationwide postponements, UTEP managed to schedule a 12-game college football season.
Pretty wild, right?
As football programs started to announce they would forgo the fall season for a spring start, the season grew in doubt for the Miners on the outside. Texas Tech, Nevada and New Mexico State canceled games in the fall against UTEP, while the Texas road game was also in question. Group of 5 conferences like the Mountain West and Mid American decided to move football to the spring, resulting in speculation that Conference USA would follow in postponing all of fall sports.
The result went in favor of the UTEP football program in a resounding way. First, they managed to keep Texas—along with the $1.4 million payout—on their schedule (Sept. 12). They replaced non-conference opponents with a pair of FCS home games in Stephen F. Austin (Sept. 5) and Abilene Christian (Sept. 19). The program will close out non-conference play at Sun Belt affiliate Louisiana-Monore (Sept. 26) before they get ready to play an eight-game Conference USA schedule starting on Oct. 10 at LA Tech. The ULM addition will be a home-and-home series (date TBD).
Six home games.
Six road games.
Eighteen percent capacity for the Sun Bowl.
The completion of the schedule and plans for the start of the season appears as a pretty noteworthy preseason accomplishment for Director of Athletics Jim Senter to pull off. The plans are in place to play a full season and if you told me two weeks ago that UTEP would have a 12-game slate with fans allowed at the Sun Bowl, I would have called you crazy. Many different programs aren't able to play, let alone allow patrons at home games right now.
Comparing Texas Tech-Nevada-NMSU to SFA-ACU-ULM, the Miners also stand to compete better in this non-conference slate for a program that is 2-34 in their last three years.
"It seems like it's been a long time coming and I continue to keep my fingers crossed, hope and pray that we can get there without any hiccups and actually have a game," Senter told SportsTalk on Monday.
Still, as Senter has mentioned before, the peculiar situation is ever-changing for college athletics. There are still a lot of unanswered questions and details needed to hash out with all of the off-the-field happenings leading up to game day including single-game tickets, protocols for safety measures, television rights and more. On Friday, the volleyball and soccer seasons were just pushed to the spring. It's just another example of how rapidly things change.
However, the on-field portion is the most important part to monitor. The team started fall camp last Sunday, Aug. 16. That's a turnaround of fewer than three weeks to practice in anticipation for a Sept. 5. That's also hoping that there are no roadblocks in the way regarding any outbreaks of COVID-19 internally or with an opponent. We haven't even begun to talk about the on-field schematics either.
Either way, ready or not, and as long as there are no outbreaks, there will be football in the Sun Bowl on Sept. 5. At least that's the plan.