Team Preview: UTEP

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(All information as of July 1, 2005)


UTEP endured three straight two-win seasons from 2001-03, with just three of those victories coming against NCAA Division I-A opponents: lightweights Tulsa (1-10) in 2001, Rice (4-7) in 2002 and SMU (0-12) in 2003.

Then Mike Price landed on the doorstep of this college football doormat and one of the feel-good stories of the 2004 season was born.

The Miners went 8-4 last season, appeared in both national polls for the first time in the program's history and played in a bowl game. They equaled a school record with a seven-game winning streak and placed 10 players on the All-WAC team, one shy of another school record. They scored 35.8 points per game, better than all but 10 of the 117 Division I-A teams.

Credit Price for the stunning turnaround. He was one of just two first-year I-A coaches to take his team to a bowl game last season.

Yet he wasn't really a "first-year coach." Not in the truest sense of the term. After all, this was a man who coached at Washington State from 1989-2002 and logged three 10-win seasons, five bowl games and two Pac-10 co-championships (1997, 2002).

This was a man who was hired to walk in the shadow of Bear Bryant himself as head coach at Alabama. Hired, then fired four months later without ever coaching a down or even signing a contract with the Crimson Tide after a scandal-charged night in a Florida strip club and hotel room in April 2003.