The 1986 UTEP Head Coaching Search

Sometimes when you dig for worms you find a quarter. That's what happened to us when we were researching for another story and ran across a few gems on the 1986 UTEP head coaching search. 

Some brief background, The 1985 Miners staggered into the clubhouse after a 1-10 season including a trip to Melborne, Australia to take a L at the hands of Wyoming. By the time the Miners boarded the flight to Australia, coach Bill Yung was a lame duck and the University was searching for a replacement. 

In a world void of Twitter and the internet, the coaching rumor mill sustained itself with the local newspaper and local sourcing. If you wanted to know if a coach was interested in a job, you either called the coach or the coach's buddies. 

No agents, no permission to talk, just phone calls and inuendo, the way God intended it. 

The El Paso Times is an invaluable resource for finding out who was on UTEP's radar or who wanted to be. Spoiler alert, UTEP hired Bob Stull. Stull wasn't a bad hire, in fact, he's probably the most successful coach in the last 30 years, winning 10 games in 1988 and almost 60% of his games overall at UTEP. The ten wins in 1988 are the most in school history. 

So who else through their hat in the ring?

Kevin Steele

The 27 year old Oklahoma State Assistant expressed interest. In fact he told the El Paso Times that UTEP was the only job he was interested in. He got at least as far as a phone interview with UTEP AD Bill Cords. Steele went on to Tennessee and later Nebraska where he coached linebackers for the 1994 National Championships. He left college and coached linebackers for the Carolina Panthers before taking the Baylor job in 1999, where he finished up a disastrous 9-36. He's since coached at Alabama, Clemson, LSU, and now serves as defensive coordinator at Auburn. Tennessee flipped out when his name was linked to the Vols opening last winter. 

Mike Holmgren

 Holmgren and Robbie Bosco

Holmgren and Robbie Bosco

Before Holmgren was accumulating frozen snot on his mustache and trying to control Brett Favre, he was a QB coach for BYU. The Cougars were a legit national power in the early 80s, winning the National Title in 1984. Holmgren tutored BYU quarterbacks like Robbie Bosco and Steve Young. Holmgren told the El Paso Times that "was really impressed with the UTEP played us (BYU) and the athletes down there. And I've enjoyed trips to El Paso." Apparently, UTEP never contacted Holmgren about the opening. He eventually latched on with Bill Walsh and the 49ers before getting the head job with the Packers. He took three teams to the Super Bowl, winning in 1996.

Spike Dykes

 Spike Dykes

Spike Dykes

The eventual Texas Tech head coach put in for the UTEP job as well. Dykes served as an assistant at New Mexico, Texas Tech, and under Darrell Royal at Texas. That last one put Dykes in "made guy" status. In 1985, Dykes was coordinating defenses at Texas Tech when the school fired head coach Jerry Moore. The Red Raiders turned to former Texas assistant David McWilliams to fill the position but he kept Dykes on. Still McWilliams agreed to allow Dykes to pursue the UTEP opening. "I think the right guy could make it work at UTEP." McWilliams lasted one season at Tech before leaving to the Texas job, Dykes moved into the head coaching role and the rest was history. 

Mike Shanahan

 Shanahan with the ups. 

Shanahan with the ups. 

Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan might've been offered the job, but Denver head coach Dan Reeves wanted Shanahan to focus on his duties in the Mile High city. AD Bill Cords confirmed that he wouldn't talk to Shanahan until the Broncos' season ended. Reports were that the El Dorados, UTEP athletics' fund raising body, offered Shanahan the job. Cords said no, that wasn't the case. Shanahan was also linked to the opening at Minnesota. For his part, he said he'd talk to anybody about a head coaching job which wasn't a denial per se. He eventually dropped out of consideration, formally just before Christmas, 1985. Shanahan coached the Broncos to two straight Super Bowl titles. One over Holmgren and the Packers. 

Eventually UTEP landed on Stull, the UMass head coach and the rest was undoubtedly history. 

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