As much as some around here love to bash our Aggie neighbors to the north, you’ve gotta admire a recent move that exudes class.
The Associated Press reports that New Mexico State’s helmets will feature a decal next season displaying the crest of the Army’s 2nd Engineer Battalion from nearby White Sands Missile Range.
First-year coach DeWayne Walker and the coaching staff visited the battalion in March. Walker said the coaches “were moved by the hospitality shown to us and inspired by their discipline and commitment.”
Battalion soldiers attended Tuesday’s spring practice. Walker said displaying the insignia on NMSU’s helmets will recognize and show appreciation for the soldiers’ efforts. Lt. Col. Christopher Benson, the battalion commander, expressed his thanks and called it a humbling gesture. He said it affirms “tremendous support” the soldiers enjoy in the Las Cruces community and throughout New Mexico.
I don’t think anyone would mind if our Miners followed suit and brandished the shield of Fort Bliss’ 4-1 Armored Division on their lids.
In a game full of the vernacular of war, it would be nice to honor the men and women for whom terms such as bomb, blitz and field general have a different meaning
Looks like the rest of the country is warming up to a story that we in
El Paso have been following since November.
That’s when the UTEP
football team’s starting center, Robby Felix, suffered a stroke that
brought his college career to a premature end.
Felix was the focus of a weekend story in Newsday by Bob Glauber.
Glauber looked at Felix’s incident and his rise back to prominence in
NFL Draft lists after it. His story also details Felix’s conversations
with New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who suffered a
stroke of his own back in 2005. Felix would be the second player to
play a game in the NFL after suffering a stroke.
The relationship is
something Times reporter Bret Bloomquist explored in a story back in
Nonetheless, it’s nice to see a positive light being cast on
a former Miner. Felix is thought by many to be one of the top 10
centers available in the draft, which begins at 2 p.m. Saturday and
continues at 10 a.m. Sunday. He may go as early as the third round.
Former UTEP kicker Jose Martinez is also on several draft watch lists.
Check elpasotimes.com for updates from the NFL Draft throughout the
Former UTEP assistant basketball coach Sergio Rouco has been fired from his post as head coach at Florida International after five consecutive losing seasons including a 13-20 record this year.
Rouco finished with a 55-94 record in five years at FIU, which hasn’t finished with a winning record since going 16-14 in the 1999-2000 season.
“We feel that it is now time to move in a different direction,” FIU athletic director Pete Garcia said Monday. “Sergio will remain in our organization in a different capacity and we look forward to continuing to work with him to further build the FIU program.”
Rouco, an assistant at UTEP in 2003-’04 under Billy Gillispie, was an assistant to former FIU coaches Rich Walker and Bob Weltlich from 1987-’91, and under Donnie Marsh, whom he ended up replacing, from 2000-’03. Rouco was instrumental in getting junior college All-America point guard Filiberto Rivera to sign with the Miners in 2003. Rivera led UTEP to two consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.
The Cuban-born Rouco was raised in Miami since age 3. He told the Times in 2004 that UTEP can have a major recruiting edge because El Paso is a better cultural fit for Latin players than other parts of the country. He backed his statement by recruiting two of the best players in the country in Alex Galindo and Ivan Almonte. Both players reneged on their commitments after Rouco left UTEP for FIU. Some will tell you his decision came after it appeared he was not going to be considered for the head coaching slot left vacant when Gillispie left. Those same people will also say the Miners let the wrong man go.
Nonetheless, Rouco went to Miami and UTEP, though it made the NCAA tournament in 2005 with Rivera at the helm, has never been the same since.
But with Rouco now out of the top position at FIU, Billy Gillispie supporters can start clamoring for a package deal to return to El Paso.
National statistical leader lists were released Wednesday and two Miners made the cut.
Stefon Jackson, Conference USA’s all-time leading scorer, finished his senior season as the country’s fifth leading point producer. Jackson who averaged 24.5 points a game this season, was behind Davidson’s Stephen Curry (28.6 ppg), Tennessee Martin’s Lester Hudson (27.5), C-USA mate Jermaine Taylor of Central Florida (26.2), and Chicago State’s David Holston.
In the assists category, UTEP’s Julyan Stone was the nation’s 13th-best dish man, averaging 6.4 a game. Stone was ahead of big names such as Oklahoma State’s Byron Eaton and Davidson’s Curry in this category.
The good news for the Miners is that Stone, who will be a junior in 2009-’10, will be back next season and should be able to direct traffic in an expanded role at the helm of UTEP’s offense. Stone, who averaged 5.6 points a game, and the rest of the Miners will need to increase their scoring averages to help make up for the loss of Jackson.
Jackson will leave behind a significant void in the offense. But his absence also presents an opportunity for someone else to step up as UTEP’s scoring threat. The prime candidate for this role is Randy Culpepper. Culpepper found a groove late in the season and became a bit of a fan favorite during the CBI championship series. His hustle and determination is something Miner fans seem to appreciate. But the junior-to-be will need to become better than a 41-percent field goal shooter and 35 percent from behind the arc.
And wouldn’t we all like to see Claude Britten Kareem Cooper become that dominating presence inside that we all want to see him become?
It’s gonna be a year of “Who Will Meet the Challenge?” next season. But if this team can play with some of the fire that carried them through March, then maybe next year’s postseason won’t have to be paid for.
Other quick thoughts on the 2009-’10 season:
• Finally, a Conference USA tournament that won’t be held in Memphis. Next year’s tourney will be at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. Makes travel for Miner fans a little easier.
• Memphis will be going for a milestone next year, as it is currently tied with Cincinnati (which left Conference USA for the Big East in 2005) for most tournament titles. Can Memphis become the king of C-USA with a new head coach?
• Will ESPN end the Conference USA hating? The network’s Bracket Busters have blown out of proportion (102 teams participated in 2009). Yet, not one Conference USA team played. No UAB. No Tulsa. Nothing. Seems that the NCAA tournament followed suit, by only taking conference champion Memphis to its tournament. But the WAC’s Hawaii, Louisiana Tech and San Jose State were there. Anyone hear about them in the postseason?
Plenty of people have ripped the UTEP men’s basketball program during the past month for essentially paying to continue playing in the College Basketball Invitational.
Well ammo up, folks, because it appears there’s another program in the state trying to buy a championship.
The Austin American-Statesman reports that 12 UT-Austin assistant coaches will receive Big XII championship bonuses, even though the Longhorns didn’t reach the title game.
Longhorn officials announced Monday that a dozen assistants and support staffers will receive Big 12 championship bonuses totaling $44,000. Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds said he received permission from UT’s president and men’s athletic council to cut the checks. Coach Mack Brown will not receive a bonus.
A .0128 difference in the Bowl Championship Series standings sent Oklahoma to the conference title game, even though the Longhorns beat the Sooners by 10 points, according the Associated Press.
Brown, whose base pay is $2.9 million, could have earned a $50,000 bonus for winning the Big 12 South and another $100,000 for winning the conference championship.
Yes, the Longhorn athletic program hemorrhages money. $44,000 was probably found lying around while the school ripped up its old stadium grass last weekend. But at a time when the economy is in the tank and unemployment lines are snaking out the door, is it the right move to shell out this amount of cash?
And at that, if you’re gonna say UTEP shouldn’t open its wallet for something it didn’t earn, don’t you have to say the same for the Big XII South runners-up (in the standings. But finished tied for first with Oklahoma and Texas Tech)?
Seems another hole has been poked in the Tony Barbee leaving UTEP theory.
Both the Tucson Citizen and the Cincinnati Enquirer are reporting that Xavier coach Sean Miller is leaving the Musketeers to become the next coach at the University of Arizona. The Enquirer broke the story some two hours ago.
The news comes one day after Miller reportedly told Yahoo.com that he would remain at Xavier.
"They offered him twice as much per year," Xavier player B.J. Raymond told the Enquirer about Miller. "I'm sad to see him go."
What does this have to do with Barbee?
Well, it seems Josh Pastner was also in the running for the job at Arizona. Now that he won't be the man at the helm of the Wildcats, Pastner, who played on Arizona's 1997 national championship team, is a favorite to become John Calipari's top assistant at Kentucky. At least that's what the guys at straitpinkie.com think. If their assumption proves true, then Tony Barbee's exit — at least to Kentucky — isn't likely.
But what of the now-vacant Xavier job? Barbee a Musketeer?
Doesn't seem like the right fit. And it appears Xavier already has someone in mind.
"I definitely think Xavier should take a look at Coach (Chris) Mack," Xavier's C.J. Anderson told the Enquirer. "He knows the players, and it would be a comfortable transition."
Dan Wolken of the Memphis Commercial Appeal analyzed seven myths regarding the Memphis Tigers’ search for a new men’s basketball coach in a story posted Sunday on the newspaper’s Web site. The story looks at several theories regarding the coaching vacancy that have materialized since it became available last Tuesday.
And Miner fans can take solace (or disappointment) in knowing that current UTEP head coach Tony Barbee is not part of Wolken’s analysis.
Surprisingly, though, New Mexico State coach Reggie Theus is.
“Theus might be a good hire, but he would be a risky hire. The former NBA player and sitcom star was only at New Mexico State for three years, not long enough to prove if he could build a program. And he went to the NCAA Tournament in 2007 with a roster of mostly transfers and players with off-court baggage that most other programs wouldn't touch,” Wolken wrote.
Theus told the paper that he hasn’t been contacted by Memphis regarding the job. And Wolken draws the conclusion that the Aggie coach was never a candidate.
Wolken goes on to dismiss a move to pluck a coach from the NBA, calling it a “weird idea, if not downright awful,” as it would take more than NBA credentials to recruit the caliber of players that Memphis has come to expect.
Several other big names, however, are on the list and include ringing endorsements, even if some have a slim chance of getting hired.
Cincinatti’s Andy Kennedy: “Kennedy has a ton of upside as a coach, and he knows how to recruit the Memphis area.”
UMass’ Derek Kellogg: “It would take a good offer (something in the $1.4-$1.5 million range), but Kellogg would relish the chance to take over a program where he can recruit the kinds of players he recruited here for eight years under Calipari.”
Former UTEP, Texas A&M, Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie: “The appearance of trading coaches with Kentucky would be odd, if not off-putting to some. But let's face it. If Calipari had gone anywhere else, who's the best, most accomplished coach available?” And regarding the fact that Memphis’ former coach is at Gillispie’s most recent former school? “Wouldn’t it be a heck of a story if the two parties who got wrecked by Kentucky join forces, both with something to prove? Now that’s a ‘Wow’ hire.”
So while the rumors may persist, it doesn’t look like anybody, not even the people with the closest look at the Memphis program, see Tony Barbee heading back to the River City.
However, no one has dispelled the notion of Barbee going back under the wing of his former boss at Kentucky. I suppose it sounds like a dream to be on a stage as grand as Rupp Arena. But the money sure doesn't sound as enticing. Barbee's salary, according to a September 2007 El Paso Times story, is $357,457 annually. The salary of former Kentucky assistant Jeremy Cox was $160,000, according to the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader's salary database.
It seems the only reason Barbee would leave for Kentucky is if he isn't enjoying the rigors of being a head coach.
But the process still has time to play out. Stay tuned.
It was a valiant effort, but the Miners fell short of CBI title. It was the hot hand of the Beavers that proved too much to overcome. Let's applaud the Miners' efforts in making it this far. A fond farewell to Stefon Jackson. He was undoubtedly one of the best to ever wear the orange and blue. There is plenty of young talent on this team. And they showed plenty of pluck in this tournament. It should be a catalyst for a fine 2009-10 campaign. And congrats to Oregon State. The better team won Friday.
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