Give Price credit for making UTEP pick popular
by Ray Sanchez©
The pick has become a symbol at UTEP. Itís become so popular that even giant statues of a pick now adorn the school, are included in posters and magazines and little magnetic picks are attached to automobiles.
And the school owes it all to former football coach Mike Price. He almost single-handedly made the pick popular. One of my favorite memories is of Price coming out of one of the tunnels at the Sun Bowl and walking down the stairs waving a pick before a football game.
It was a simple gesture but it caught on so fast that it spread throughout the city.
MIKE PRICE is one of the nicest, friendliest, most cordial coaches the school ever had. He considered football a game and fun and passed that sentiment on to his players.
He started out at UTEP with a bang. Here was a former national Coach of the Year all of a sudden coaching the Miners.
In his first year in 2004, he won eight games, finished second in the Western Athletic Conference and took the Miners to the Houston Bowl.
THE MINERS moved to Conference USA in 2005. Price won another eight games in 2005 and took the Miners to the GMAC Bowl.
But Conference USA proved too tough for UTEP. The Miners went 5-7, 4-8, 5-7, 5-7, 4-8, 6-7, 5-7 and 3-9 before Price was replaced by Sean Kugler. Price took the Miners to the New Mexico Bowl after winning six games in 2010.
Kugler had only one winning season in four years. The winning season was in 2014 when he went 7-6 and took the Miners also to the New Mexico Bowl. Then when he started 0-5 in his fifth year he was fired.
MIKE PRICE was called on again at that point to take over the coaching reins and stop the losing. But it was too late. The Miners, demoralized, with little talent and with all the remaining games in Conference USA, lost the next seven games.
Price paid the biggest price. It added seven losing games to his overall coaching record. But he took it in stride.
He was a gentleman to the end.
TRIVIA QUESTION: There was a municipal golf course in El Paso before the one at Ascarate Park. What was its name and who was it named after? Answer at end of column.
THEREíS ONE good thing about getting older. Iíve been a witness to the tremendous growth El Paso has undergone.
Like the El Paso Baseball Hall of Fame. I was sports editor of the El Paso Herald-Post in the 1980s when I got a call from Bufe Morrison. He said he wanted to start an El Paso Baseball Hall of Fame and asked if I was interested in helping him.
Of course, I said yes. We got some important baseball people together and we were off and running.
But Iím surprised at how big the Hall has grown. This year, for example, some 400 tickets were printed for the induction banquet last Sunday at the Wyndham Hotel and they sold out quickly.
Not only that, but a reception was held at the same hotel on the previous Friday and that was well attended, too.
The El Paso Baseball Hall of Fame is in good hands with president Leo Caraveo and past president Larry Hernandez.
TRIVIA ANSWER: After El Paso Country Club moved from central El Paso to the west side in 1918, Valdespino Municipal Golf Course was built at the same site. It was named after, A. S. Valdespino, a fine golfer who obviously loved the sport. He rolled up his sleeves and became the driving force that resulted in the creation of El Pasoís first municipal golf course. He helped build it, managed it for many years and, fittingly, it was named in his honor.
Veteran sports journalist and author Ray Sanchez welcomes suggestions for his column. Contact him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or online at www.raysanchezbooks.com
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