During the years 2004 and 2005 UTEP football fans felt on top of the world.
We hired Mike Price and magically he turned us into winners instantly. In those two seasons we won 16 games and accepted two bowl invitations, also reaching as high as #23 nationally and averaged close to 45,000 during Price’s first twelve Sun Bowl games.
We all know the story after that with some feeling Price overextended his welcome after he finished with a losing record in his final seven seasons.
Whichever side of the fence you’re on there is no denying that without Price’s arrival UTEP wouldn't have joined C-USA until last year when Louisiana Tech and the others joined.
Around that same time some major changes were happening on the national scene. No different from today C-USA’s best teams were getting poached by the
Big East American Athletic.
A total of nine teams defected from the C-USA, forcing the conference into rebuild mode. C-USA instinctively grabbed six teams UCF, Marshall, Houston, SMU, Tulsa and UTEP.
The first five were automatic, UCF, Houston and SMU brought in the big television markets, and Marshall had a really good football team having won 5 of the last 6 MAC titles at the time.
Tulsa was an up and coming team with good geographical rivalries with the Texas schools that still continue today.
What exactly did UTEP bring to the table that Louisiana Tech didn't?
Both teams were finalists for the 12th member C-USA was seeking. We have always had and will always have our basketball team and the intimidating Don Haskins Center as a sexy draw but that wasn't the reason why UTEP was picked.
Football is king in America. Sometimes you don’t need a good football team if you have a large TV market to fall back on.
In El Paso we didn't have either a good team nor the TV market. With the hiring of Price and the combination of his instant success it was a perfectly timed recipe for a move. In turn we reaped the immediate rewards and jumped shipped from the
dying dead WAC.
La Tech is a respectable school that constantly fields good football and basketball teams, they also lobbied a great deal to join the conference during the transitions.
Geographically speaking they were a perfect match over UTEP and truth be told you could even go as far as saying they deserved the spot more than us.
In the end C-USA picked UTEP because it seemed as if they got carried away in the moment. Price was a big name and it looked as if UTEP was going to be a top tier team for C-USA as entire conference TV deals were renegotiated because of Price.
The addition of Price helped C-USA gain a much larger TV deal than UTEP would have ever received in the
WAC. As usual our attendance was a contributing factor as it continues to be among the best of the G5 with the old motto of "40/10".
Since then C-USA has seen many teams come and go. We often wonder if we could have won a couple of conference titles had we stayed in the
We will never know the answers.....
Tomorrow we play an old nemesis from the
WAC who probably feels as if they should have been in C-USA the past nine years instead of us. They went 51-52 in the WAC over that span while we went 36-57 in C-USA.
None of the past will matter come game time tomorrow at Joe Aillet Stadium. Nothing is certain in this crazy C-USA season, but the winner will be one game closer to the wide open West title.