Editor's note: I might be a younger member of the El Paso sports media, but this is already my fourth coaching carousel in my eight seasons covering UTEP football and men’s basketball.

I listened as a college sports reporter for The Prospector as then-AD Bob Stull announced Mike Price as the interim when Sean Kugler resigned amid an 0-5 start in 2017.

I remember writing on deadline at The Prospector when Tim Floyd abruptly retired after a home loss to Lamar, which was coincidently six days after Jim Senter was named Athletic Director.

Where were you when you found out Rodney Terry would leave his post as Miner head coach to be a part of the mega-coaching staff Longhorn coach Chris Beard formed in TexasIt’s hard to believe that happened two years and seven months ago.

Now, we get to talk about the end of the Dana Dimel era, which is much more complicated than fans will imagine.  

In the immediate, it’s easy to point out the 20-49 overall record at UTEP over six seasons for Dimel. They’re coming off a disappointing 3-9 season after a losing season (5-7) in 2022. They had only one recruit committed for the early signing period, which is rapidly approaching on Dec. 4.  

Yet, Dimel’s exit will come at a price for the university, with the assumption that 65% of his base salary ($552,500) is paid out to him, per the contract that Steve previously wrote about. Dimel brought UTEP above water and the rut the program was in following Kugler’s departure in 2017 from an academic standpoint. However,  Kugler’s winning percentage at UTEP—.33% for Kugler compared to .29% for Dimel—would suggest more of a lateral move for the program. Not to mention, Kugler recruited the four players from UTEP currently playing in the NFL—Aaron Jones, Nik Needham, Roy Robertson-Harris and Will Hernandez. Not sure if that means anything either.  

The point is, Senter has another tough task ahead of him. He not only needs to hire a head coach but also help provide essential resources that the team needs, like Steve wrote about.  

Time for the fourth time, Pick or Pass: UTEP football needs a new head coach. The way this works, we will talk about some of the names that could be candidates for the UTEP football team and give our assessment as to why we “pick” them as a potential fit for the head coaching job, or if we “pass” on them as a candidate.  


Head coaches  

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Getty Images

Jerry Kill, NM State  

Adrian: Pass; Despite his success with NM State in less than two seasons, the possibility of this happening is highly unlikely in my eyes. Jerry Kill’s name has been mentioned as a possible candidate for Power-5 jobs like Indiana already. Not to mention, the NM State buyout is something UTEP might not be able to afford.  

Steve: Pass. Not because Jerry Kill would not be able to turn around the Miners. Quite the opposite. In fact, he might be the most qualified coach to perform the resurrection of the UTEP football program. I am passing because there is zero chance that he would ever leave NMSU for their I-10 rivals. UTEP could throw a million dollars-plus at Kill, and he will not betray Las Cruces. If and when Jerry Kill decides to depart NMSU, it will be for a P5 job and not this one. 

Zay: Pass. Kill is an Aggie. He fits the school's culture, and I would never imagine him leaving NMSU unless it’s the perfect job, and UTEP is far from that. Maybe in another universe, where Jerry Kill isn’t the head coach of UTEP’s biggest rival, he’d be the perfect candidate. But this isn’t another universe. 

Texas v Oklahoma State
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Gary Patterson, former TCU head coach  

Adrian: Pick. What a hire this would be for UTEP. He has spent time in the region, having been the defensive coordinator at New Mexico from 1996-97, where he coached Brian Urlacher. However, that could be more of a reason for him to join the Lobos and fill their vacancy rather than UTEP. Patterson also knows Jerry Kill very well, as Kill was on the staff during Patterson’s tenure at TCU. For the money and for the possible success, I think it’s a great opportunity and a splash hire for the Miners.  

Steve: Pass. I went back and forth on this one. The interesting thing about Patterson is that he is a legend at TCU and knows Texas football. The 63-year-old is also extremely close with NMSU head coach Jerry Kill. His last 3+ seasons at TCU were rough by his standards (21 wins and 22 losses) and the growth of the transfer portal and NIL are two things he is not a fan of. In fact, two years ago he said regarding TCU recruiting and NIL that we “would have to live in the gray area if we want to keep up.” Since UTEP does not have an NIL at this point, Patterson would have his work cut out for him to turn UTEP around like Kill did at NMSU.  

Zay: Pick. To me, this is the homerun hire. Despite being on the older side, this hire would excite the entire UTEP fanbase. Patterson led TCU from CUSA to the MWC, and eventually into the Big 12. He can build a program up and sustain it. UTEP needs a guy like Patterson, but the question is, does Patterson want a job like UTEP? The resources here are limited, a rebuild awaits him, and he will have other job opportunities more lucrative than UTEP. 


Jason Eck, Idaho  

Adrian: Pick. Even though the Vandals are 8-3 and in the top 5 of the FCS standings, the UTEP job might require someone who can excite the community with the name value. In the immediate, the recruiting could be beneficial with Eck because of the FCS connection and how he can capitalize in the transfer portal. However, don't expect this to be a popular name for fans. 

Steve: Pass. I like Eck and his resume, plus he’s 46 years old which fits what UTEP needs. Although Eck began his first full-time assistant coaching position at Idaho, Jim Senter was already at Idaho State. The two never crossed paths while working together. My biggest issue with Eck is that he has no ties to Texas. I believe that some kind of Texas football experience is a must for UTEP’s next head coach.  

Zay: Pick. When I first heard the Jason Eck name, I was not a fan. No Texas ties were the first red flag for me, and only two years of head coaching experience at the FCS level added to that. But Eck is a young and exciting offensive-minded coach that has turned around an Idaho program that was sub-par in the Big Sky before he got there. His ties to Senter make him a guy who will be talked about a lot when it comes to this job, but his team being in the FCS playoffs could be something that could disrupt a lot of things on both sides.  


Kris McCullough, Texas Permian Basin 

Adrian: Pass. McCullough’s unproven track record is a bit of a reach for a UTEP job and is too much of a risk for the Miners, which needs to hit a home run for this upcoming hire. 

Steve: Pass. McCullough is only 28 and he had a terrific debut season at UTPB, guiding them to 10 wins and a spot in the NCAA Division 2 Playoffs. Prior to that, he worked at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma. I want to see more from McCullough before I am ready to entrust him with the UTEP job. 

Zay: Pick. McCullough is a winner, and despite not having a lot of experience as a head coach, he’s the type of risk UTEP needs to take. The offensive upside he brings to El Paso, along with his West Texas ties, makes him a pick for me. 

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Getty Images

Matt Wells, former Utah State head coach; current Oklahoma analyst  

Adrian: Pass. I wasn't particularly a fan of Matt Wells at Utah State. Still not a fan today. Wells is a 57-51 career head coach, most recently going 13-17 at Texas Tech from 2019-21. His best years at Utah State featured a 9-5 finish in 2013 and a 10-2 season in 2018. However, he struggled when it came to recruiting in the Lone Star State and the Miners need someone that has deeper ties to Texas for recruiting. 

Steve: Pass. Wells had three winning seasons in six years at Utah State and he never was able to duplicate his success at Texas Tech. He also has experience at New Mexico as a wide receivers coach on two occasions. The UTEP football program is a tough job and Wells would need time to get that done. Miners fans don’t have time to wait. 

Zay: Pass. Wells is a guy who struggled at Texas Tech after he won at Utah State. His recruiting classes at Tech were consistently at the bottom of the Big 12, and he just couldn’t recruit Texas while in Lubbock. If Wells can’t recruit high school football talent in one part of West Texas, why would he be able to do at another? 

Rising/proven coordinators  

UNLV Football Spring Showcase
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Brennan Marion, UNLV offensive coordinator  

Adrian: Pick. Marion is my No. 1 guy for the possible candidates for UTEP. The UNLV offense was as crisp as can be, flexing a run-first approach with the ability to spread out on offense and throw efficiently if needed. On day one, Marion would work to improve UTEP's offensive struggles over the years. This man is just 38 years old and could be a rising star in the making. 

Steve: Pick. Marion is a rising assistant coach who interviewed for the San Diego State vacancy. He also helped UNLV’s offense become one of the better units in the country during his first season as OC. The Rebels ranked No. 19 in the nation (No. 1 in the Mountain West) in scoring offense, 24th in rushing offense, and 40th in total offense. Prior to that, he spent two seasons at Texas with Steve Sarkisian coaching the Longhorns receivers. I expect Marion to get his first head coaching job this offseason, and the only question is whether or not UTEP can attract him and afford him.   

Zay: Pick. Marion is everything UTEP fans have described when it comes to a new head coach. He’s a young, innovative offensive mind that would come in and excite the fanbase. His fun go-go offense is an enjoyable one to watch, and we saw it tear up the Miners in the Sun Bowl this year. His name is being tossed around just about everywhere, but if he somehow falls through the cracks, this would be a great hire. 

Jeff Banks, Texas special teams coach  

Adrian: Pick. Banks is a proven recruiter. In fact, he might be on the shortlist of top recruiters in the state. The pros: he helped build Alabama and Texas into a contender through recruiting. The cons: he probably costs a pretty penny and hasn't had head coaching experience. Recruiting is the lifeblood of a program and I'll take a recruiting specialist to be the face of the program as the next head coach. 

Steve: Pass. Jeff Banks was part of Mike Price’s staff at UTEP and he quickly rose to prominence in college football working for Nick Saban, Kevin Sumlin, and Steve Sarkisian. He also was involved in a few memorable off-the-field incidents first at Texas A&M (women’s chalk talk gone bad) and later at Texas (Halloween 2021, his girlfriend, and a pet monkey). Banks is making well over a million dollars at Texas coaching special teams and I do not see him taking a significant pay cut to come back to El Paso and coach UTEP.   

Zay: Pass. Banks makes sense when it comes to a possible hire, but it just doesn’t excite me quite like the others. Don’t get me wrong, this wouldn’t be a bad hire at all, I just would like to see UTEP take a different route.  

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Getty Images

Tony White, Nebraska defensive coordinator  

Adrian: Pick. The local connection might excite some fans while turning others off from White. He has Nebraska as one of the top defenses in the Big 10. Prior to his time as the defensive coordinator with the Cornhuskers, White was on staff at San Diego State, Arizona State and Syracuse over the last decade. 

Steve: Pick. When I originally wrote this piece, I was ready to pass. However, the more I think about White, the more I like him for the UTEP job. He played his high school ball at Burges and college ball at UCLA upon a recommendation from Ed Stansbury. White is a terrific recruiter, a popular name in coaching circles, and someone who is destined for a college head coaching job. He has worked all over the country and is extremely connected. He could be in line for a bigger job than UTEP. 

Zay: Pick. White may not have the Texas ties UTEP is hoping for, but he can coach. At only 44, he’s a young, defensive-minded guy who is from El Paso. He would come in and instantly fire up the community. He built top 25 defenses at Syracuse as the DC, a notoriously hard place to win, which landed him a job at Nebraska under Matt Rhule. In only one year at Nebraska, he has the Cornhuskers as a top-15 defense. His name has been thrown around for the Syracuse and SDSU jobs, both schools he has ties to. Sure, White is a risky hire, but one I’d love.  

Will Stein, Oregon offensive coordinator  

Adrian: Pick. In fact, I'd consider this a home run hire based on the Oregon offense this season alone. Stein has ties to Texas, as he was a high school coach in the state and on staff in Austin for the Longhorns under Charlie Strong. Oregon currently has the No. 1 leader in passing yards (Bo Nix, 3,906 yards) across FBS and they have the second-best scoring offense (45 points per game) in college football. 

Steve: Pick. Stein is my favorite pick for the UTEP job. In his first year at Oregon at OC, the Ducks offense is among the best in college football. Prior to Oregon, Stein spent three years at UTSA. He played for Charlie Strong and then worked for him at Louisville and Texas. He also coached at Lake Travis High. To me, Stein checks off the boxes I am looking for. Texas ties in both high school and college coaching, Power 5 coordinator, and successful track record. He is also only 34 years old. Stein is currently making $800k at Oregon and UTEP will need a seven-figure offer to have a shot at him.    

Zay: Pick. Will Stein was one of the biggest reasons for UTSA’s recent success. A young offensive mind. Stein has helped Oregon QB Bo Nix become a Heisman candidate and has the Ducks in the race for a playoff spot. He has Texas high school football ties and can recruit. Stein would be a great hire, but he may be too good for UTEP. 


Robert Rodriguez, Arizona Cardinals LBs coach  

Adrian: Pass. Unlike White, who's had defensive coordinator experience for over three seasons, Rodriguez has only been a position coach during his coaching tenure. I think his UTEP connection and local ties would actually benefit him. As a linebackers coach for the Arizona Cardinals and a previous defensive line coach for Arizona State and the Minnesota Vikings, Rodriguez might need a bit more on his resume before taking a job like UTEP. 

Steve: Pick. Much like White, Coach Rod would be an extremely popular choice if UTEP was to hire him. Also like White, he has a defensive coaching background. Sean Kugler played at UTEP, was an assistant coach, and became head coach. That did not end well. However, Rodriguez is a native El Pasoan and his knowledge of the city, the university, and the game of football would all be huge positives. Plus, all of his former players love him. It would not be easy to leave the NFL for his alma mater, but Coach Rod is one of the few people who understands UTEP enough to turn the program around with the right resources.

Zay: Pass. As much as I’d love for a guy like Robert Rodriguez to be the next UTEP head coach, it just doesn’t make sense right now. Although he wasn’t involved with it, the Arizona State recruiting scandal while he was with the Sun Devils is an automatic red flag. His UTEP ties didn't scare me, but his lack of college coaching experience at a high level does raise some concerns. 

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Jeff Grimes, Baylor offensive coordinator  

Adrian: Pass. Sources tell me that Grimes has done his homework on the local landscape and might be a candidate for the job. However, Grimes is coming off an uninspiring season as offensive coordinator at Baylor, which he was recently fired from. He has ties to the 915, but I would take a different offensive mind rather than Grimes in this case. 

Steve: Pick. This was another name that I originally passed on. Grimes was just let go from Baylor as OC following a 3-9 season. Baylor’s offense averaged over 30 points per game in Grimes’ first two years as OC but dropped to 23.1 points per game in 2023. He was terrific with the Bears in 2021 and he also had great success at BYU. Grimes has coached in seven bowl games during his long career and he has also worked at LSU, Virginia Tech, Auburn, Arizona State, and Boise State. He was an offensive line coach until he came back to BYU for a second time in 2018. Grimes played at UTEP from 1987-1990 and he broke into coaching as an offensive coordinator for Tom Work. Grimes loves El Paso, has recruited this area for years, and just two seasons ago he was one of the hottest P5 coaching names in the business. As tough as it is hiring someone who was just let go, UTEP could be getting a steal with Grimes.

Zay: Pick. Hiring an offensive coordinator who just got fired may not be the best look, but just a few years ago, Grimes was one of the hottest names in college football. He had great offenses at BYU and Baylor before last year, and a change of scenery could be what Grimes needs. He has UTEP ties but also has coaching experience all around the region.  

Zach Kittley, Texas Tech offensive coordinator 

Adrian: Pass. Simply put, I like Kenny Perry more than the option for Kittley. I liked Kittley at Houston Christian when he worked with quarterback Bailey Zappe. He joined the Western Kentucky staff when Zappe transferred over and ran the offense and coached quarterbacks. Give Kittley some time, though, because he's a head coach in the making. 

Steve: Pass. I liked what Kittley had done at Houston Baptist and Western Kentucky, but I wonder how much of his success was a result of Bailey Zappe rather than the system. A case and point is Tech’s offense this season.

Zay: Pick. When I first heard the Kittley name, I was against it. But the more research I did, the more I liked him as a possible head coach at UTEP. A former basketball player from Abilene, where he almost walked onto the ACU basketball team in 2011, Kittley has West Texas ties and has built a high-powered offense in CUSA, while at WKU. He has found success everywhere he has gone, and he could be just the guy UTEP is looking for. 

Kenny Perry, Texas Tech associate head coach  

Adrian: Pick. Kenny Perry could instantly attract high-level recruits with his ties to Texas high school football. Forget the Jeff Traylor comparisons, I feel like Perry is long overdue to coach his own program. He's been a top-level assistant for programs like SMU, TCU and Kansas before landing on the Texas Tech staff. Give him a strong play caller and a defensive specialist coach and he could make the most of it. 

Steve: Pass. I have heard that Kenny Perry wants the UTEP job. He has an extensive background with Texas coaching including 14 years in high school. Is he the next Jeff Traylor? He could be, but UTEP cannot afford to miss on this next hire and there is too much uncertainty surrounding Perry’s college  

Zay: Pick. Kenny Perry fits the Jeff Traylor/Joey McGuire mold. A former Texas high school football coach who has found himself in the college football game. His Texas ties would not only help in recruiting, but I’m sure he could build an awesome staff. Perry has stops at TCU and SMU, and is a beloved figure in the DFW Metroplex.  

 Mack Leftwich, Texas State offensive coordinator  

Adrian: Pick. I remember how brilliant Mack Leftwich was when he led UTEP as a quarterback. Now, the nation is seeing what Texas State can do with G.J. Kinne leading things. One of Kinne's top assistants is Leftwich, who is only 29 years old. Sure, this might be a bit early for a head coaching position, but if Leftwich is able to hire an experienced staff, I like the risk. 

Steve: Pass. Mack is so young that it feels like just yesterday that he was playing quarterback for UTEP. Fast forward to 2023 and his Texas State Bobcats were one of the most electric offenses in college football. Prior to Texas State, Leftwich was at Incarnate Word from 2019-2022. He has spent three seasons at IWU as QB Coach and the last two as OC. He also spent one year in Kyle, Texas working as the OC and QB coach. I think it will not be long before Leftwich gets a chance to become a college head coach. If this was three years from now, I would vote pick. But 29 is so young for a job like this, I just want to see Mack get a little more seasoning.        

Zay: Pass. As much as I’d love to see Mack Leftwich at UTEP as the head coach, I just don’t see how UTEP would take that big of a risk. This hire could be a big one for AD Jim Senter, and taking a shot on a 29-year-old coach with no P5 coaching experience and 3 years of being a coordinator just isn’t likely. 


Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Eric Price, former UTEP offensive coordinator 

Adrian: Pass. Though I don't doubt his coaching abilities, Price doesn't have the same appeal to me as some of the other options. I could be talked into Eric, who is Mike Price's son, but only if he has the coaching pool to hire top-level assistants. A connection back into the NFL is what the university needs; but, in the immediate, the school needs a winner. 

Steve: Pick. This is a blast from the past and I know that most people will not want someone who has been out of the game for the last few years. However, he was the offensive coordinator at UTEP, Alabama, Memphis, and Tulane. He also spent seven seasons working in the NFL. Price was long considered a future college football head coach, but for whatever reason, things did not work out. He knows UTEP, El Paso, and runs a style of offense that fans would welcome. He also has a large Rolodex of coaches and recruiters who would be able to immediately get to work. If he had the right resources to work with, Eric Price would be able to come back to the Sun City and build UTEP back the right way. On the flip side, I don't know if Senter would hire someone who has been out of college for the last seven years. 

Zay: Pass. This just isn’t the name for me. Obviously, Price has the UTEP ties, but he doesn’t have the experience/success at the college level I’d be looking for. 

Ed Reed, Pro Football Hall of Famer 

Adrian: Pick. I don't think this actually happens, but if it does, I love it and I'm all for it. Is Ed Reed stepping foot in a home and talking to a recruit about coming to UTEP? Sign me up. 

Steve: Pick. I love this as a potential under-the-radar name. Reed is someone who wanted to get into the college coaching game but left Bethune Cookman due to their lack of resources. Does UTEP have enough resources to entice Reed? Maybe, maybe not. One thing is for certain. Recruiting would not be an issue as young prospects would love to play for the Hall of Famer. Jim Senter should reach out to Reed, who could have a similar impact at UTEP that Deion Sanders had when he debuted as a coach.  

Zay: Pass. Ed Reed's short-lived career as the Bethune-Cookman coach was filled with controversy. It would be a risky hire and just doesn't make sense for UTEP at the moment. 

UTEP beats Austin Peay, 71-63

Gallery Credit: UTEP Zay

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