Strong Fan Turnout for Hoops Encouraging Sign For UTEP Athletics
The UTEP men's basketball team gave UAB everything they could handle on Saturday night. Despite losing the game 69-66, the second most encouraging thing about the contest (the first being the return of Keonte Kennedy) was the crowd. The announced attendance of 6,100 was the third largest for a home game this season, and most since 6,392 fans came out to watch the Battle of I-10. In case you are wondering, the largest turnout was for the season opener against Western New Mexico (6,751).
From a noise level, the Haskins Center felt alive and took some people back to the "old days". That term should not be used loosely, but 30+ years ago, the building shook on a regular basis. In the 1980s, Coach Haskins hung a new banner from the rafters every season while sold out crowds packed what was then the Special Events Center to watch the Miners against the WAC. The students were rabid, the noise level was deafening, and UTEP had a true home court advantage every night they took the floor.
Fast forward to 2022, and the Miners are averaging 4,730 fans per home game. That's a far cry from the glory days in the 80s, but head coach Joe Golding knows that he has to build a program that will have fans wanting to come back and watch them play. So far, his team has won 16 games this season, including a 9-7 mark in Conference USA. Everyone who has seen the Miners play is beginning to understand how this coaching staff is getting the most out of their players. At the same time, the UTEP Athletic Department realized the importance of lowering single game tickets for the remainder of the season and to their credit, they have created some terrific packages for fans.
While all of this has been happening, the students are starting to come back again for basketball games. This is vital to the future of the program, especially since their tickets are free. UTEP officials have tried for years to resurrect the student section and they have not been able to succeed despite offering them free t-shirts and other perks just for attending games. If the Miner Maniacs are reborn during the Golding era, the Don Haskins Center could once again become one of the toughest buildings in C-USA for any opponent.