UTEP’s home opener with Texas Tech is off.
Fifteen hours after the Big 12 mandated that each of its member schools could play one home non-conference game in mid-to-late September, UTEP issued a statement that it would not be hosting the Red Raiders on Sept. 5 this season.
“While we are disappointed that we will not be able to host Texas Tech this fall, we always understood that the current climate made our non-conference schedule subject to change,” athletic director Jim Senter said in a statement. “We continue to engage officials from Texas Tech and explore future scheduling options.
“We are in contact with all of our remaining opponents as we evaluate a number of different scenarios for this year’s non-conference schedule. We look forward to sharing the updated schedule with our fans in the near future. In accordance with our ‘Paydirt’s Pledge,’ if one or more home games are canceled, fans will receive a prorated refund.”
The fate of UTEP’s Sept. 19 road game with Texas has not been determined and is pending on the Big 12 solidifying a start date for the 2020 season, which it said will be announced “in the coming weeks.”
The Austin American-Statesman reported the Texas athletic department said the Longhorns wanted to keep the game, which would pay the Miners $1.4 million.
From Texas’ standpoint, UTEP checks a lot of boxes. The Sept. 19 date, the week before the Longhorns are scheduled to start Big 12 play, is ideal and UTEP is a fellow University of Texas system school. The Longhorns’ other scheduled non-conference game against South Florida was on Sept. 5 and was to pay the Bulls $1.9 million.
Texas’ non-conference game at LSU was previously cancelled by the SEC.
Tech’s visit to UTEP was supposed to be a return trip from last year’s game in Lubbock. The Miners were to pay the Red Raiders $300,000 for the trip to El Paso.
Though the circumstances are extraordinary, moving games back a year or more is common; presumably Tech will return the visit to El Paso in the future.
UTEP now has an open date to fill to keep its schedule at 12 games. The Miners host New Mexico State on Sept. 26 and travel to Nevada on Sept. 12. Nevada is a member of the Mountain West, which has not announced a revised scheduling model, and New Mexico State is an independent.
Senter previously said playing New Mexico State twice “was on the table,” a phrase which he used to describe most hypotheticals.
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