I was listening in on my neighbor, Fred, as he was making a phone call in his back yard yesterday.

Not listening by choice, mind you. At least not at first. Fred's voice was drowning out my weed-whacker.

"Hallo, is this the Orange County Rehab Center? Yes, Steve Sarkisian's room, please."

This is why I said "not at first". Fred raises my eyebrows more than his voice.

"What? He's not there? You sure? Maybe under an alias like 'Tommy Trojan', or something? Wait a min...Hello? HELLO!"

Looking over the fence, I saw Fred furiously scrolling down on his tablet finding another number to dial.

"Ah, stupid f..."

"Easy, big man!" Unable to contain my curiosity, I asked, "What're you doing?"

"What's it look like I'm doing?" he scowled as he shot out of his lawn chair. "I'm trying to find Steve Sarkisian!"

I cringed internally, not only because I'd been caught being nosey but also because I knew I was about to be taken head-long down one of Fred's many rabbit holes.

"Umm, why would you be loo..."

And suddenly, I knew. But Fred cut me off, anyway.

"UTEP needs a new football coach, and Sark'll be lookin' for a job soon!"

"Fred, UTEP has a football coach. Sean Kugler's not going anywhere. I'm not sure Bob Stull is even intere..."


"Dude. It's a neighborhood. There are noise ordinances."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. But listen, man, I know Stull's not gonna go lookin' on his own. So, I figured I'd just...set the stage."

"You mean like the way you tried setting the stage for hiring Mike Leach after Price got fired by trying to build a pirate ship in the south end of the Sun Bowl?"

"It worked for the Buccaneers!" Fred's face was red now. "And it didn't take me three hours to pick up all the lumber!"

"The Buccaneers WANTED to build that ship, Fred. Plus, they weren't trying to hire...never mind. It's pointless arguing with you, man. You're just lucky your mug shot's off the UTEP Police Department's bulletin board so you can go back to games."

"Ah, man, you know I don't go to the games."

Mentally, I slapped my forehead. Maybe physically, too. I couldn't be sure.

"Fred, remind me why you even care about this?"


"And that winner is Steve Sarkisian?" I asked. "You don't think it might be a little much, calling all the rehab centers in Southern California?"

"Not all of 'em! Just the rich ones. Guy makin' that much money ain't showing up at a methadone clinic."

"Well, that narrows it down to about ten thousand. Fred, it's Hollywood! There's a rehab center for everything. It's a great way to duck jail and the paparazzi. Those people probably keep as many rehab centers on speed dial as they do dealers."

"You got a point, man," he said, starting to decompress.

"Sure, I do! Plus, you have to think Sarkisian's going to be off the radar for a few months if he's serious about it this time. Give the man a chance to figure things out."

But Fred had started to clench his jaw again. "Aw, c'mon, man. You know he'll be out before bowl season lookin' for a job. UTEP's gotta move fast!"

"I don't think so, Fred. That's what got him the second time. He came back to soon."

"But it's a great idea, right? We could re-name the Sun Bowl the "Sark Tank"! It'd be awesome!"

"Yeah, not sure UTEP would want that. Plus, you know wherever he ends up, some numb-nuts is blowing up a picture of the Cutty Sark logo to hold up at his games and it'll be all over SportsCenter."

"But the Miners suck, man! They gotta do something!"

"Fred, they're barely hanging on! Too many injuries! What can you do wh..."

"No llores, guey! Kugler's not dealing with anything he didn't see in the NFL. Dude gets paid half a mil to coach freakin' UTEP!"

He had me there.

"Hey, man, what about Spurrier? He's available now!" Right back down the rabbit hole.

"Fred, Steve Spurrier is 69 years old and just quit because he didn't want to butt his head against a wall with a losing team. And you think he'd come to UTEP? He'd concuss himself in a day and a half!"

"Hey, man, they'd all come if you gave 'em enough money..."

"WHAT money, Fred?"

"...Stull just needs to offer up a nice seven-figure salary to get a big name."

"Dude, I'm thinkin' YOU need rehab! Do you realize what they'd have to charge for tickets to offer that kind of money? You don't even go to games now!"

"Yeah, but that's because of the tailgate rules."

Now, I was turning red.

"Fred, you never went to the games! You can't just take up a parking spot, drink beer and grill."

"What do you mean? I did it at the mall while the family went Christmas shopping and nobody said crap to me."

"You did wha...? Never mind, I don't want to know. Just...be patient, Fred. Kugler's a good coach. I bet there'll be staff changes, but he won't be one. He's having a bad year but it's hard to have good years at UTEP. There's a lot of bad history to overcome."

"Ay-ay, you and the history. It's not like they're innocent bystanders, bro. UTEP's like my ex-wife!"

"How's that, Fred?"

"They both want my money but can't get over the past!"

I'd like to think I'll get the last word someday, but Fred always finds a way.

More From 600 ESPN El Paso