EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) – With COVID-19 continuing to hit El Paso and the state of Texas, UTEP football has elected to cancel its annual trip to Ruidoso, New Mexico, for training camp this August.
UTEP athletic director Jim Senter confirmed the news to KTSM. The El Paso Times was the first to report the transgression. The Miners will host training camp in El Paso at their own facilities.
Senter said that the athletic department had been eying ways to cut costs before the pandemic and Camp Ruidoso had been on the list. However, after the Miners lost $1.3 million in revenue thanks in large part to the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament, it made the decision much easier as a way to limit spending.
“We try to determine, are we getting the most value for the money spent?” Senter said. “We just thought with money being tight and taking a revenue hit of about 1.3 million dollars that we would be better served to stay home this year. It’s hard because there’s some tradition there and the people and leadership in Ruidoso have been wonderful.”
Senter told KTSM that training camp could return to the mountains at some point in the coming years, but that it wasn’t on the table for 2020.
With COVID-19 ravaging El Paso, Senter also said it would be easier to keep athletes, coaches and staff safe if they’re in El Paso for training camp. UTEP announced five cases of COVID-19 within its athletic department on July 4 and voluntary workouts are currently suspended until at least July 16.
Across the college sports landscape, the Ivy League announced that it was cancelling its fall sports season on Wednesday. The league would not say if those sports might be played in the spring. It was the first conference domino to fall and could be a precursor of what’s to come. Senter said that he is open to many options, including moving the fall sports season to the winter or spring.
“Everything is on the table as it relates to our season,” Senter said. “I’m open to exploring anything because I want our young people to be able to play and we need to play to continue to fund our athletic program.”
Senter highlighted July 24, the day walk-through practices are allowed to begin at UTEP with coaches and student-athletes, as an important day. Social distancing will become challenging if and when sports become full-contact and how the virus spreads once that process starts will be a tell-all in Senter’s mind.
“When it gets to the point that we’re blocking and tackling, where you no longer can social distance, that’s when we’re going to have some of the biggest challenges where we focus in on, ‘can we do this, or can we not?'” said Senter.
UTEP is currently only testing athletes when they arrive on campus, or if they’re experiencing symptoms. However, once official practices begin for fall sports, teams that are in-season will be tested for coronavirus weekly.
For instance, in the fall, sports like football, volleyball and soccer who’s season has already begun will receive weekly testing, while basketball, track and field and others will not. Once the winter seasons begin, weekly testing will start for those teams.
“When practice starts for them, we’ll test them weekly. We’ll have to,” Senter said. “If they’re in huddles and locker rooms, they won’t be able to uphold the social distancing we’re currently employing right now.”
As far as fans in the stands, Texas Governor Greg Abbott is still providing exemptions for sporting events to have up to 50% capacity; Senter said the Miners would ideally like to have fans, but it all depends on how the virus develops.
“Everything depends on the virus and what it’s doing in our community and also the community of our opponent,” said Senter.
UTEP is currently slated to open the 2020 season at the Sun Bowl against Texas Tech on Sept. 5.