Hello Miner Nation, and welcome to another edition of The Dig. Obviously, the hottest topic around sports in El Paso over the last few days has been the status of UTEP football coach Mike Price. Well, you can still vent about it, but you don't have to wonder what's going to happen. Mike Price will return as head coach of the UTEP football team for a 9th season as announced by the University today. That said, here's what's going on around Miner Nation, around Conference USA, and around the entire country.
AROUND MINER NATION
Mike Price to Return for 9th season:
It's official, Mike Price is coming back for his 9th season. You may or may not be happy about it, but I truly believe that this is the best thing for UTEP football. Mike Price has put together a 45-52 record since taking over in El Paso, and had led the Miners to 3 bowl games. That's more bowl appearances than in the previous three decades .
No doubt, there's been ups and downs. In fact, the end to this football season may have been the most disappointing stretch throughout the entire Mike Price era. It prompted many fans throughout the Sun City to question his leadership, and call for changes at the top of UTEP football. Obviously, those changes didn't happen, and here's my best guess as to why.
First off, is the money issue. Mike Price still has one year left on his contract, and in order to remove him, the University would have needed to buy out the remainder of that contract. Doesn't seem like much, but it is certainly enough to make a difference.
Second, Mike Price only has one year left on his contract. Does anyone really think that making a move now is going to better the football team, or attendance for next year's games?? I doubt it. It makes no sense to pull Price now, let him have his last year, and that will be that.
Lastly, Mike Price has earned the right to finish out his contract. UTEP gave Mike Price a second chance when he ran into his issues at Alabama, but at the same time Mike Price has breathed a breath of life into a program that was absolutely horrendous before he got here. We may not be seeing the 8, 9, 10 win seasons that we all dream of, but this program is always competing, something it very, very rarely did before Price. UTEP and Mike Price have been good for each other, and there's no reason to end the relationship on a sour note.
Here's an awesome writeup by the staff over at Miner Illustrated. It really gives a quick glimpse of what CMP has done in his time at UTEP. The Miners will return 7 offensive starters, and 4 on the defensive end. We will lose big time players like Joe Banyard and Travaun Nixon, but we will welcome the return of guys like Lamaison, Meger, Edwards, Jeffrey, Leslie, Reed, and Bagley. I know its hard to get over the disappointment of this season, but I can't wait to see what we can do next year.
UTEP Men's Basketball Shows Improvement/Gabe McCulley Returns to Action
The UTEP men's basketball team played a tough road game on Tuesday night in Eugene, OR as they squared off against the Pac-12's Oregon Ducks (4-1). The Miners stayed close the entire game, were tied at the half, and had a shot to tie with only seconds left. A Mike Perez shot came up a bit short, and the Miners fell 64-59. Perez led the way with 18, while John Bohannon had perhaps his best game as a Miner with a 13 point, 9 rebound effort.
Gabe McCulley, who had been out thus far recovering from an injury, returned to action and played 24 minutes. McCulley didn't score any points, but one would assume that his presence and leadership alone made a difference in that Miner lineup. I'd expect Gabe to start getting his scoring on track in the very near future, and if Mike and Bo can step up and play like they did on a consistent basis, this team will be a lot better, much sooner than everyone expects.
UTEP Women Steamroll Aggies
The UTEP women's basketball team continued their hot start on Tuesday night, dropping the New Mexico State Aggies by a final score of 63-27. The lady Miners' stifling defense held the Aggies to only 8 points in the first half, and the win improved them to 6-0 on the season. Up next is a home game against Lamar, before hitting the road to take on the New Mexico Lobos up in Albuquerque.
AROUND CONFERENCE USA
Much like their football team, the UAB basketball team is off to a very unexpected slow start. Many people expected the Blazers to be one of the better teams in Conference USA, but those plans have stalled a bit as UAB fell to 1-5 after last night's 55-47 loss to South Alabama. The Blazers have now dropped games against Creighton, Murray St., Wichita St., and Tennesse Martin, along with South Alabama. Their lone win came against Troy.
On the other side of things, the Tulane Green Wave, a team which many expected to finish near the bottom of C-USA, has now improved to 8-0 on the young season. The Green Wave haven't exactly beaten any great teams, but hey 8-0 is 8-0. Up next is a home game against Georgia Tech, and still on the slate is a trip to Syracuse to take on the #3 Orangemen.
University of Houston QB Case Keenum has already set tons of NCAA and school records in his time with the Cougars, and now he is trying to add a Walter Camp Award to his collection of achievements. Keenum, along with Stanford QB Andrew Luck, Baylor QB Robert Griffin III, Alabama RB Trent Richardson, and LSU CB Tyrann Mathieu are the finalists for the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award. Auburn QB Cam Newton won the award last season.
The Tulsa women's volleyball team will play the University of Oklahoma in the opening round of the NCAA tournament in Los Angeles. The Sooners finished the season with 21-11 record, while the Golden Hurricane finished with a 27-6 mark. The two teams met last year in the NCAA tourney's second round, a match won by the Sooners in five sets.
AROUND THE NATION
Attorney Joe Amendola, who represents accused child molester and former Penn St. assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, has come forth to say that Sandusky may consider pleading guilty to the charges brought against him. Sandusky maintains his innocence, but accusers continue to out to tell their story of how Sandusky abused them. The most recent one claims the coach threatened to harm his family if he didn't keep quiet. At this point, it really doesn't matter what the guy pleads. I think we all know the outcome of a trial, if it were to come to that.
Representatives from the Big East, and West Virginia University continue to do the legal dance as both parties seek to have the others' lawsuit thrown out. West Virginia filed suit in an attempt to vacate the conference as soon as next season, while the Big East seeks to hold on to whatever it is they have, for as long as they can, as well as grab some cash for "damages". We'll see what happens with this one.
**Don't forget the Conference USA championship game between #6 Houston, and #24 Southern Miss will take place on Saturday at 12:00 p.m. ET, and will be televised by ABC.