Coaches have someone else to blame – the computer ©

By Ray Sanchez



Football coaches are quick to criticize their players but seldom criticize themselves. That’s especially true in the area of play calling. They call a play that’s difficult for players to perform in a pressure situation then blame the players for not executing it.

Now, I’ve learned, coaches have someone else to blame – the computer.

UTEP lost two home games this season with the help of bad calls. Against University of Buffalo, the Miners passed up a field goal on fourth down and instead tried a silly little pass that failed. Momentum shifted and the Miners lost by a touchdown.


AGAINST UNIVERSITY of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), the Miners took the opening kickoff then drove all the way close to the opponent’s goal line. On third down and just a few yards to touchdown land, instead of trying a running play that would produce either a touchdown or an almost certain field goal if the run failed, the Miners tried a tough, long pass toward the left sideline. It was intercepted and returned for a 99-yard UAB touchdown.  That resulted in a 10 or 14 point swing.

Then the Miners tried almost exactly the same thing later in the game with the same result, and another possible 10 or 14 point swing.  The Miners lost by five points, 38-33.


The coaches’ fault? Oh, no.  Poor Trevor Vittatoe, the Miners’ quarterback, was blamed both for the Buffalo mishap and the intercepted passes against UAB.

In the latter case, so was the computer.




UTEP head coach Mike Price explained that the whole series of downs on the opening kickoff against UAB was “scripted.”  That is, information had been fed into the computer on “tendencies” of the teams and when it came down to that third and goal for the Miners the computer-generated script said it was time for that ridiculous sideline pass.  That darn computer. That darn Vittatoe. Couldn’t be the coaches’ fault.

Yikes! There’s no law against overruling a computer.


ALL OF WHICH reminds me of David Lee, who coached the Miners back in the 1990s. He was a fine coach between the 10-yard lines but it seemed like every time he got his team near the opponent’s goal he would try some silly play – like a pitchout or double reverse or his favorite, a shovel pass. It usually failed.

He was an extremely likeable, good looking young man that I liked immensely. We talked often and he kept telling me he was going to cut out those fancy plays. But when the time came, he just couldn’t help himself and kept on doing it.

He was fired after five losing seasons.

Too bad. Computers were not in vogue then. He didn’t have them to blame.


TRIVIA question: Which was the first professional football team to put emblems on their helmets? Answer at end.


THERE’S A NEW look at the Don Haskins Center. Entering the entrance on the Southside of the building you’ll see a stunning 4 feet by 6 feet painting of The Bear himself.


The Haskins painting, encased in a handsome acrylic frame, was done by local artist Phil Behymer.  How did this come about? A well-known UTEP fan got the project going and several admirers of the legendary coach put up the money for the frame and the hanging expenses. The financial donors are Doug Anthony, Yohie Fournier, Beto Fournier, Omar Fournieir and Laura Beaman.


The man behind the project wishes to remain anonymous but if you’re curious you can find his name on the frame.  Take a look. You’ll get a thrill. I did.


ANSWER to trivia question: The Los Angeles Rams of 1948.


Veteran sports journalist and author Ray Sanchez welcomes suggestions for his column. Contact him at (915) 584-0626, by e-mail at or online at