Kevin Cross Firing Puts Every UTEP Coach on Notice
For 20 years, Bob Stull ran the UTEP athletic department. The one constant during his tenure was that his coaches had job security during the good and the bad. I never asked the former Miners football leader why he had such a hard time making changes with his staffers, especially if a head coach in any of his athletic programs was struggling to win. I always thought it was because Stull was a head coach turned administrator who could empathize with the challenges of trying to succeed in El Paso at UTEP.
It has been nearly one year since Jim Senter took over the reigns of the UTEP Athletic Department from Stull. Today's decision to fire Kevin Cross after 21 years with the soccer program is a sign that the Miners' Director of Athletics will not tolerate losing seasons in any of his sports. Forget the fact that Cross won more than 200 games over his 18 seasons as UTEP's head coach or that he went 15 straight seasons with a winning record. UTEP soccer finished 8-11 in 2017 and 7-8-4 this season, including a 2-5-3 mark in C-USA play. That was enough for Senter and he decided to make a change. I have known Cross since he first arrived in El Paso and can tell you he built a terrific soccer program after he took over for Veronica O'Brien in 2001. He is a likable guy, someone who always gave UTEP everything he had, and his players excelled in the classroom. He went to one NCAA Tournament in 2005 and knocked off the Texas Longhorns in the first round that year. Cross has also taken the Miners to three C-USA championship games over the years. However, injuries hurt his program over the last two seasons and he was in the middle of a rebuild that he was hoping could return the Miners back to their winning ways in 2019. Unfortunately for Cross, Senter would not give him a third season to try and turn his program around.
The impact of the Cross firing is that every UTEP coach is now on blast regarding their job security. If a guy who had 15 straight winning seasons just lost his job, what will happen to volleyball head coach Holly Watts (47-125 in six seasons) who just finished 2018 with a 4-19 record including 1-10 in Conference USA? How about softball head coach Tobin Echo Hawk who has yet to have a winning season in her five years with the Miners? Echo Hawk has a record of 87-174, including a 47-73 mark in conference games. Other UTEP coaches who have struggled to turn their programs into a winner could also soon feel the heat. Dana Dimel, Rodney Terry, and rifle's Austin Litherland are the only head coaches that Senter has hired since he arrived last November. Soon he will hire a new women's soccer head coach. There could be many more job openings in the UTEP athletic department if Senter's programs do not start winning soon.