Letís give UTEP coach Price another year ©

by Ray Sanchez



Question: What do Charlie Weis, Wade Phillips and Mike Price have in common?  Answer: All three are, uh, ďchubby.Ē All three are head coaches of teams popular in El Paso. All three are on the hot seat.


Weis has yet to produce a serious national championship contender at Notre Dame. Nothing less than a national title will do at the most prestigious football college in the land.

Phillips hasnít even won a playoff game and that wonít do for Dallas Cowboys followers. Like Notre Dame is in the college ranks, the Dallas Cowboys are the most prestigious team in professional football.


AND THEN thereís Mike Price, Okay, so UTEP doesnít rank up there with Notre Dame and the Dallas Cowboys nationally, but they do locally. El Pasoans love the Miners more than any other team.


El Pasoans donít ask for national honors. Heck, they would settle for a winning season and a little bowl somewhere. Price, however, will finish this year with his fourth losing season in a row.


GETTTING RID of a head football coach isnít all that easy. Weis had been so outstanding as an assistant that Notre Dame signed him to a long contract. Firing him would cost the school as much as $40 million. The Irish would have to pay Weis $!8 million and then sign a new coach and a new staff at a cost of $22 million or more.


As for Phillips, he seems to be owner Jerry Jonesí pet. Itís said that Phillips is little more than an extension of Jonesí football philosophy and does as heís told. You donít get rid of a friendly little puppy, do you?


MIKE PRICE showed a lot of potential his first two years at UTEP with the players he inherited. The players he himself recruited havenít done so well but will be going into their final year next season. That includes quarterback Trevor Vittatoe and running sensation Donald Buckram.


Surely, UTEP athletic director Bob Stull says, Price should be allowed to come back next year to see what he can do with those two and others he recruited. Besides, Stull says, Price has been such a good community communicator that El Pasoans have come to like him personally.


I AGREE ON both counts. Iíve always said that Price is as likeable as your familyís favorite uncle.

But hey, goodwill can take one only so far. If he doesnít produce a winner next year that hot seat is going to get a lot hotter. Some El Pasoans are so used to having losing football teams that they think being ďcompetitiveĒ or winning three, four or five games is sufficient.

But have we come so far down that weíre willing to settle for mediocrity? Gosh, I hope not.


WHAT ARE the prospects for next year? This season is over for the Miners so far as post season play is concerned so itís not too early to look at 2010.


In addition to the experienced stars coming back Price will have the benefit of a softer pre-conference schedule. There wonít be any Texas and Kansas at the start, just one big time opponent, Arkansas, later in the season.  So the Miners will have an excellent chance to start out 3-0. Theyíll open with a patsy (Arkansas at Pine Bluff) then play New Mexico and New Mexico State. Such a start would build the Minersí confidence.


SO, THEN, give Price another year. He and his coaches made some awful calls on the field this year. And for some reason, Price seems to have something against field goals. Heís turned them down in some crucial situations and itís cost the Miners dearly.  But hope springs eternal and with Vittatoe and Buckram coming back, an easier pre-conference schedule and hopefully some better play calling the Miners may finally get to the promised land Ė a bowl.


Veteran sports journalist and author Ray Sanchez welcomes suggestions for his column. Contact him at (915) 584-0626, by e-mail at rayf358@yahoo.com or online at www.raysanchezbooks.com