UTEP football is back on the hunt for a head football coach for the first time since 2017 following the firing of Dana Dimel, who was 20-49 overall and 10-34 in conference play during his near six full seasons in El Paso. Dimel took over a program that was winless in 2017 and possibly the worst team in America. He left the Miners better than he found them, but that isn’t always enough in major college football.
The work turns to finding a replacement that can lead UTEP into consistent contention. The Miners have only posted two-straight winning records and consecutives bowl appearances once since the 1970s. They’ve only gone bowling five times this century.
The obstacles are obvious for the next coach at UTEP. Texas is known as a fertile recruiting ground, but that isn’t as true in El Paso. The Miners play in a different time zone than the rest of the Lone Star State and must get creative on the recruiting trail due to location and budget. Dimel relied on the JUCO ranks. The next coach must find a different formula.
Here are the initial candidates to watch for the UTEP opening according to sources.
Jeff Banks – The special teams coordinator and tight ends coach at Texas is highly thought of in the coaching community, especially in the state of Texas. Banks was the running backs coach and special teams coordinator at UTEP from 2004 through 2012, which included three bowl appearances and back-to-back winning seasons under head coach Mike Price. In 2012, his units blocked four kicks and returned a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns.
Banks also spent time at Texas A&M and Alabama. His rolodex is loaded, which means he should be able to assemble a top-notch CUSA staff. He’s an ace recruiter. The only concerns about Banks inside the coaching world result from off the field baggage. The problem for UTEP might be financial. Dimel was set to make $850,000 in 2024. Banks was paid $1.1 million in 2023 at Texas. If he wants to be a head coach, though, the Miners might be the program willing to take the chance.
Jeff Grimes – The current Baylor offensive coordinator graduated from UTEP in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in education. He was a four-year letterwinner for the Miners at offensive tackle where he learned from position coach Andy Reid. Grimes began his college career as a GA at Rice and then Texas A&M. He coached offensive line for most of his career, becoming an offensive coordinator at BYU in 2018. He took the same job at Baylor in 2021 and helped the Bears win 12 games, a Big 12 crown, and the Sugar Bowl that year. His wide-zone offense would provide the Miners with an identity and his love of El Paso and UTEP gives him a leg up on the competition for the job.
Brennan Marion – Once the best big-play wide receiver in FBS history while at Tulsa, Marion is quickly building a reputation in the college coaching world as a superstar offensive play caller. He set records as the OC at William & Mary in 2019 before moving to the FBS ranks as a receiver coach with stops at Hawaii, Pittsburgh, and Texas. He became the offensive coordinator at UNLV prior to this season and his “GoGo” offense is helping the Rebels resurrect the football program after years of mediocrity.
Kenny Perry – The trend of Texas programs hiring former Texas high school football coaches is at an all-time high thanks to the success of Jeff Traylor and Joey McGuire. Perry was a successful high school coach in his own right back in DFW and is the second-in-command at Texas Tech. Perry also has college experience at SMU, Kansas, and TCU.
Matt Wells – The former Texas Tech head coach is a name to remember if UTEP wants experience at the position. He oversaw the Red Raiders from 2019 through 2021 after a successful stint as the head coach of Utah State. Wells is relatively familiar with the area thanks to two seasons as the wide receiver coach at New Mexico. He’s currently an offensive analyst at Oklahoma.
Emmett Jones – It is time for a program to give Jones his first shot at a head coaching job in the college ranks. He was a successful leading man at the high school level at South Oak Cliff before taking a job at Texas Tech. He was close to getting the Kansas job in 2021, serving as the interim head coach in spring before Lance Leipold was hired. Jones is now the wide receiver coach at UTEP.
Jason Eck – UTEP athletic director Jim Senter spent time at Idaho as an assistant coach in the late 80s/early 90s and then again as an administrator from 2000-2003. Eck arrived at Idaho in 2004 as an assistant coach in charge of the offensive line. He returned late in 2021 to take over as the head football coach of the Vandals. Eck, 46, played offensive line at Wisconsin in the 1990s and his teams are known for their play in the trenches. Idaho won seven games and reached the FCS playoffs in 2022 – Eck’s first year as a college head coach. The Vandals are 5-1 in 2023 and undefeated in conference play after Week 10.
The familiarity between the two – Senter still has great relationships at Idaho – combined with Eck’s style and profile make him an ideal candidate at UTEP. He wins with the type of player profiles that UTEP must recruit. He’s used to doing more with less. And, just like Dimel, his roots are along the offensive line. Eck is also affordable considering his contract states that he makes $175,000 a year before bonuses.
Mack Leftwich – The current offensive coordinator at Texas State who helped engineer one of the top offenses in the country in 2022 at Incarnate Word. He played quarterback at UTEP from 2013-2015 and as a student assistant in 2016. His dad, Spencer, also coached at UTEP. Leftwich, 28, is a young and without head coaching experience, but he’s helped rebuild Texas State’s offense in one season and knows the landscape in El Paso more than most college coaches. The Miners need an identity, and Leftwich would provide one as a young, offensive-minded coach with lasting ties to the area.
Kris McCullough – McCullough is an up-and-comer in the coaching ranks with an offensive identity and an understanding of how to do more with less after serving as head coach at UT-Permian Basin. He's 19-4 in two years as a head coach at the non-FBS level, including a 10-win season and the program's first conference title in 2023. The Falcons scored 96 points in a Week 1 win over Texas College and 86 in a Week 3 win over Southwest Baptist. They scored at least 40 points in six of the team's first 11 games this season.
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