EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) – A day after UTEP’s home game against North Texas was postponed because UNT officials expressed concerns with coming to El Paso with the massive number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the Sun City, Miners head coach Dana Dimel said UTEP declined a Mean Green offer to play in Denton this weekend instead.
Dimel said North Texas suggested the game be moved to Denton and in exchange, UNT would pay for UTEP’s travel expenses. However, the Miners rejected the offer, electing to postpone the contest and reschedule it for a later date, likely in December, so they could keep the home game in place.
“We never did consider that option,” Dimel said. “We’d have to fly out on short notice, get a hotel on short notice. There’s wasn’t a lot of motivation to pay a lot of money to give up a home game for reasons not in our control.”
A day after UTEP President Heather Wilson expressed her disappointment with North Texas’ decision, Dimel echoed the sentiment.
Both UTEP and North Texas are required to test three times per week, and despite the large number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in El Paso, the Miners have not experienced a positive case since fall camp in August. The game was also to be played without fans.
“I am disappointed because we wanted to play, we were ready to play and we haven’t played at home in so long,” Dimel said. “I get what’s going on, the concern, I do understand that. But we try to provide the most safe element we can provide from our university. No fans, get in the air, fly in, stay at the hotel, get up and play the next day. It’s a very safe environment, as safe as we can make it.”
The Miners haven’t been home for a game since a Sept. 19 win over Abilene Christian.
With UNT’s decision to not come to El Paso due to the conditions, Dimel was asked if he thought other teams could do the same. The Miners are set to host FIU next weekend, Nov. 7. It’s worth noting that FIU was forced to postpone its game with Marshall this week due to the number of COVID-19 cases at FIU.
“I think it’s out there, but I’m not worried about it,” Dimel said. “I feel very comfortable that we’re going to play against FIU next weekend. I don’t see that happening over and over again.”
Conferences like the Big 12 and SEC have certain mandates, including if a team has 53 players available and meet position-group player minimums, that they must play, or forfeit instead. Conference USA does not have those mandates, and Dimel would like to see more regulations the likes of what other conferences have.
“I want stronger parameters set,” Dimel said. “The other thing I want to push for, if these teams don’t come back to play us in December then they should forfeit these games. You just can’t keep not playing a team. You have to play. That’s my opinion.”
UTEP and FIU are currently slated to play Nov. 7 at 2 p.m. MT at the Sun Bowl. UTEP is 3-3, 0-2 in Conference USA this season.