UTEP Inducts Five of its Greatest Sports Stars ©

by Ray Sanchez

 

The words ďgreatĒ and ďgreatestĒ are used much too often but I think you can excuse me for using them here. You see, this yearís inductees into the UTEP Athletic Hall of Fame certainly deserve those designations. In alphabetical order, theyíre Andy Cohen, Bobby Dobbs, Pug Gabrel, John Wedell and Charley West.  They were inducted in ceremonies last week. 

 

Let me tell you something about each one:

 

ANDY COHEN was so outstanding in so many athletic areas I named him El Pasoís Sportsman of the 20th Century. He led El Paso High School to the first two state basketball championships in 1921 and 1922. Then he became a starting running back for the University of Alabama football team. Then he played second base for the New York Giants in the Major Leagues. After that, he became one of the best managers in the history of minor league baseball at Denver. When he retired, he coached the UTEP baseball team Ė for free. Unbelievable!

 

BOBBY DOBBS coached UTEP to its greatest football victories ever. Dobbs learned his trade from two of the best minds in the sport. He played for coach Red Blaik at Army and later became his assistant. Another of Blaikís assistants was Vince Lombardi of Green Bay Packers fame. In 1965 Dobbs coached the Miners to a 13-12 victory over TCU, which was then a power in the Southwest Conference, in the Sun Bowl. In 1967 he beat Mississippi, 14-7, again in the Sun Bowl. The Miners had never before beaten two teams of that caliber.

 

PUG GABREL is one of the greatest backs in UTEP history. Amazingly, 60 years after he joined the Miners he still ranks second at UTEP in touchdowns (27), third in rushing average (6.45) and is in the top 10 in other categories. But heís also remembered for one of the greatest acts of sportsmanship in college history. He was leading Whizzer White of Arizona State by 40 yards going into the final game of 1949 against New Mexico State. In the first half, Gabrel gained 99 yards. The Miners were way ahead and coach Jack Curtice said he was going to feed him the ball often in the second half. Gabrel said he didnít want that, didnít want to pile up the score. Curtice was furious and didnít give him the ball again. White won the national rushing title and went on to great acclaim. Gabrel was to say later that he didnít win the national title but he slept very soundly at night.

 

JOHN WEDELL ranks as one of UTEPís greatest track coaches -- and thatís saying something. He joins such great UTEP track coaches as Wayne Vandenburg and Ted Banks. Wedell was part of three national championship teams and coached seven national individual champions, more than two dozen athletes who earned All-American recognition and 11 Olympians. In 1982 he took over the womenís program and added two national champions and 17 All-Americans to his resume.

 

CHARLIE WEST was such an all-around athlete he played football, baseball and even basketball at UTEP in the 1960s. In football, he played some as wide receiver on offense but mostly as a defensive back on defense. He set a school record of 19 interceptions and tied another record by returning three for touchdowns.  He also returned punts and is in the top 10 in the UTEP record book for career return average, returns and yards. He played in the NFL 11 years and made it to Super Bowl IV with Minnesota.

 

IíVE BEEN so lucky. Iím old enough to have witnessed all five of the inductees perform their magic, including Cohen in his later years. Cohen, Dobbs and Gabrel have passed away but many of their loved ones were at the induction banquet. So were Wedell and West.

Seeing them and hearing them again was an unforgettable thrill.

 

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