EL PASO – Less than 10 per cent of the athletes at the University of Texas at El Paso – a division one university that offers most of the collegiate sports – are from El Paso, yet the coaching staff recruits here first.
There are 32 high schools in El Paso with plenty of good athletes graduating every year, yet only 10 of UTEP’s football team of 110 players are from El Paso.
“We usually take the kids from El Paso and give them a chance to sign with us,” said Coach Robert Rodriguez, the UTEP football recruiting coach for El Paso. That means El Paso players of division one caliber are the first to get an opportunity to sign with the Miners.
When looking at some of the players that UTEP has tried to get in the past, it appears that “UTEP loses players to bigger BCS [Bowl Championship Series] schools,” said UTEP football coach Jeff Banks. Other reasons are that some of the players do not finish high school and some get into trouble once they arrive or before even getting a chance to get to UTEP, he said.
Highly recruited El Pasoan Cliff Tucker who graduated from Chapin High School was offered a football scholarship to UTEP, but he decided instead to go to Maryland an ACC school (a school in a bigger conference) and play basketball for four years.
“It was a chance to go to my to my dream school and when I was given the opportunity to play there was no place I would rather have gone,” Tucker said. He decided to come back to UTEP and play football for his last year of eligibility “I came back because it was an opportunity to play another sport that I love.”
“Some players don’t want to live in El Paso anymore. They want to experience life outside of el Paso and that is why some of the kids leave. They feel as though they need to leave El Paso to be a success,” said Rodriguez.
Well-known El Pasoan Ruben Munoz who attended Eastwood high school said he knew he could be successful at UTEP. “I decided to stay in El Paso and go to UTEP because I love UTEP. I used to come to all the games when I was a kid and when I was a kid I decided UTEP was the school I was going to go to… and this is were I am now.”
Out of 18 new UTEP freshmen athletes in any given year, only one comes from El Paso. The rest are recruited mostly from Dallas, Houston, and southern California.