After last Thursday loss to FAU jakeprobst mentioned that, it seemed we always played poorly when we have good crowds. Now, I agreed with him because it seems like every time the Haskins Center is full and loud we lose. I kept thinking about it and decided to go back in history and check the numbers to see if that is true. I started with 2009-2010 season because that was a successful year with many big games and because that is the earliest attendance records I could find for now. Since UTEP averages anywhere from 7,000- 9,000 per game I have decided to only include games with crowds of over 10,000. This will be part one I hope to do a series for every recent season.
UTEP was 5-0 and had just finished humiliating their biggest rival on the road by 21 points. Two weeks later NMSU limped into the Haskins center at 2-5 but ran out with a victory that left the 10,459 fans having to watch the hated Aggies celebrate on our home court. There was no big names on the schedule as Air Force was the only other team in the first twelve home games to draw more than 8,000. Over the next few weeks, UTEP lost a pair of road games to ranked teams Mississippi and Texas Tech and won the Sun Bowl Invitational. UTEP was 10-3 when old WAC rival and the biggest name on the UTEP schedule #25 BYU paid the Don Haskins center a visit. The turnout was a disappointment as less than 8,700 showed up to see UTEP lose by six.
16,709 were ready to stick it to Kentucky by breaking the record for consecutive home wins. However, the UTEP Miners had other plans as five Memphians on the roster contributed to the silence at the FedEx Forum after the four-year streak ended. Despite the road sweep of Memphis and UCF El Paso wasn't sold and a less than 8,000 greeted them for the Tulane game. After an impressive performance at #25 UAB where UTEP won in double OT they returned home at 15-5 (6-1) ready for revenge against the only other team to beat them in conference Houston. A smaller than expected crowd of 10,500 showed up to witness another UTEP victory. Three days later 12,100 skipped ESPN2 and came to the Don Haskins center to party. The only downside was with the big UTEP game only 26,000 went to the Sun Bowl to support the Texas vs. The Nation all-star game. Apparently, that was not good enough and the game relocated to San Antonio where mysteriously an official attendance never surfaced and now the game has postponed indefinitely "due to extenuating circumstances". Enough of that back to the Miners.
UTEP travelled to Dallas where a pro orange crowd of 3,000 cheered UTEP to an 18-5 (9-1) record. Back home a crowd of 11,800-welcomed ECU. Randy Culpeper exploded for 45 points and the Miners cruised to a 100-76 victory. UTEP hit the road with their brooms and dusted Tulsa and Southern Miss. Just Thirty two tickets went unsold for the UTEP vs. Rice clash. The last place team gave UTEP little problem as we improved to 22-5 (13-1). With the victory, UTEP received a #24 ranking as they hit the road for a key game against Marshall. After a national ranking, and a C-USA regular season championship wrapped up finally on senior night a complete sold out Don Haskins center awaited the 23-6 UAB Blazers. This was the most amazing game I have ever attended in El Paso.
We all know what follows next UTEP beats UCF to advance to the semifinals against host Tulsa. UTEP overcomes Tulsa to move ahead to the championship game Saturday morning on CBS. All the odds were in UTEP’s favor Houston was about to play its fourth game in four days. Houston had played the night game and had a quick turnaround for a morning championship game. None of that mattered as Tom Penders and his Cougars won the C-USA Tournament and earned a #13 seed against Maryland. There was some doubt we would not get an invitation to the big dance but on selection Sunday UTEP drew the #12 seed vs. #5 Butler. Our imaginations quickly began dancing as we envisioned another classic twelve seed upsetting a five seed. #13 Murray St upset #4 Vanderbilt before our game started so now we were thinking Sweet 16. More than 12,700 showed up to the HP Pavilion in San Jose where UTEP has a large alumni presence. Butler won and advanced all the way to the National Championship game against Duke.
Overall UTEP finished 6-2 with the losses coming to Butler and NMSU who rebounded nicely after that awful 2-5 start. They finished 22-12 winning the WAC and earning a #12 seed. We did have that massive victory at Memphis. We also defended our home court during conference play drawing crowds of over 10,000 for five out of the eight games. I was disappointed we did not get 10k for the Sun Bowl Invitational championship game against old rival Air Force. The BYU crowd was just awful for the importance of the game. It was good but it could have been better. What do you think of our crowd that season?