POSTED: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - 6:05pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - 6:35pm
The UTEP basketball team is turning back the clock in a bid to recapture the magic of the winningest decade in program history.
“Bringin’ Back the 80’s” is the theme for the 2012-13 season.
UTEP posted the seventh-best winning percentage in the 80’s with a record of 227-82 (.735) behind North Carolina (281-63, .817), UNLV (271-65, .807), Georgetown (269-69, .796), DePaul (229-63, .784), Temple (225-78, .743) and Syracuse (243-87, .736). The Miners appeared in six NCAA tournaments and captured eight conference titles during the decade, while playing before 55 capacity crowds in the Special Events Center.
Tim Floyd was an assistant coach at UTEP in the 80’s and fondly remembers a golden era for Miner Basketball.
“High character, talented freshmen athletes were brought in and given the chance to grow and play early in their careers,” said the third-year Miner head coach. “They stuck together and created a perennial top-20 basketball team.
“I recall tickets being tough to get, crowds being long at the airport upon our team’s arrival from road trips, students camping out the night before ball games making sure that they received their free student ticket, and never being in fear of anybody on the schedule, regardless of who we were playing or where we were playing.”
UTEP players are dressed as iconic 80’s characters in the team’s 2012-13 schedule poster. Men’s and women’s schedule posters will be given away prior to the Homecoming football game versus Tulane next Saturday (Oct. 20), and players from both squads will sign autographs at the North end of the stadium from 4:30-5:30 pm.
The men’s basketball season ticket stock features Miner legends from the 80’s, including Hall of Fame coach Don Haskins.
The season ticket commercial includes video highlights from the 80’s as well as the return of the beloved “Amen” chant, which will be reinstated for home games this year.
The Miners will also wear throwback uniforms on “80’s Night” for their season opener versus Oral Roberts (Nov. 9).
The Miners began an unprecedented run to seven straight NCAA Tournaments during the 1983-84 season, rising to as high as fifth in the nation that year. They claimed Western Athletic Conference regular season titles in 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1987, and WAC tournament trophies in 1984, 1986 and 1989.
Current UTEP assistant coach Greg Foster was a member of the great Miner teams from the late ‘80s, playing alongside future NBA stars Antonio Davis and Tim Hardaway.
“Every game was truly a war,” Foster said. “We had tremendous rivalries and our crowd really got after the other team. The electricity was incredible. People came out in droves. There were times when you could barely hear yourself think, it got so loud [in the Special Events Center]. Getting tickets wasn’t easy. It was a fun, fun time.
“We weren’t afraid to play anybody. A lot of us felt like we were back burner guys from a recruiting standpoint. But the one thing we always knew was that we could guard and defend and stop people. We had a chance every night because of it.”
In a nod to the “play anyone anywhere, anytime” philosophy of the era, UTEP has put together an ambitious 2012-13 schedule including home games versus UNLV, Oregon, Memphis, Nebraska, New Mexico State, Marshall, UCF and Houston.
The Miners have also lowered season ticket prices in the upper reserved section from $195 to $160, which breaks down to less than $9 per game. Season tickets are on sale now by calling 747-6150, and group packages (only $12 per person) are available by calling 747-7450.
“It’s one thing to reduce the cost of the tickets, but the value comes in the talent level of the teams that are coming into the Haskins Center this year,” Floyd said. “We wanted those seats that were unoccupied in the upper rows to be filled, because having been here in the 80’s I recognize what an intimidating place the Haskins Center can be when our educated fans are in full attendance. I’m thankful that Bob Stull and Dr. Natalicio pushed hard for our fans in bringing about this new ticket pricing plan, which I think will help create a whole new generation of Miner fans.”
Fans can get their first look at the 2012-13 Miners at the free Orange and White Scrimmage on Saturday, Oct. 27 at 7 pm in the Haskins Center.