There Is Only One Way UTEP’s Dana Dimel Is On the Hot Seat
We are less than six weeks away from the start of the 2021 college football season and CBS Sports college football writer Dennis Dodd recently released his annual list of coaches on the hot seat. The rankings go from 0 (untouchable) to 5 (win or be fired). When it comes to UTEP and Dana Dimel, Dodd actually downgraded his risk from a 5 in 2020 to a 4 (start improving now) this season.
It is easy to put Coach Dimel (or any UTEP football head coach in the last 50 years not named Price or Stull) on an annual hot list. The Miners won only three games last season, but two of them were against FCS opponents. The other win on the road came against a winless Louisiana Monroe squad. However, UTEP was hit harder in 2020 than any other team in college football by COVID.
Think about it. The Miners played only two home games in 2020, but they still stayed competitive in all but one game against Texas and a half of football against UTSA. They dealt all season long with opponents backing out of conference games because of positive COVID tests and then multiple C-USA schools afraid to come to El Paso because of the pandemic's effect on the city. Yet, UTEP somehow managed to keep the virus away from the team for nearly all of the football season.
Despite their progress on the field, the Coach Dimel let go of both of his coordinators, sending a conflicting message to Miners fans. They have been wondering how does a team who tripled their number of wins from the previous two seasons blow out both coordinators? Year four is a pivotal one for the Miners head coach and he only has six months to get his new coordinators acclimated with his team. After talking to Coach Dimel, it is obvious that he needed to make these changes at the top. There were plenty of internal cracks in the foundation with the previous coordinators and the only way to remedy that is by making a change. The only question now is whether the team will take a step forward or backward in 2021.
The schedule is set up for the Miners to have a strong non-conference start before they head into C-USA play. In fact, many prognosticators see UTEP winning three of their first four games and even their first two league games. However, the schedule gets much tougher over the final six games of the season and it will be interesting to see if the Miners can surprise people this fall. As long as the team wins at least five games, I think Dana Dimel's job security is safe for his final season.
You can never predict injuries, but that is the only way I see UTEP underperforming in 2021. If this team finishes 4-8, 3-9, or even worse, then it is possible that Coach Dimel will not have an opportunity to finish out his five year contract. The UTEP Athletic Department was hit hard by COVID, especially in football. They did not have an opportunity to have many fans at the Sun Bowl for both home games and they also had not completed the stadium renovations. Thus, they generated no money last season, which put a big financial burden on the athletic department. Some coaches took pay cuts while every athletic department employee was furloughed for at least a week and some much longer.
UTEP also eliminated the position of a few key athletic department employees as a result of the pandemic. That is why I do not believe that the university is in any financial position to make a change in football at head coach. It would take a colossal failure on the field this season for the Miners to buy out Dana Dimel of his final year and look for a new head coach. That is not something that Director of Athletics Jim Senter wants to pursue at this time. I hope for the sake of all UTEP fans that the football season is a good one and the long wait for a payoff finally becomes reality for Coach Dimel and his team.