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November 7, 2012
Welcome to "Bringing back the 80's" week Miner fans. It should prove to be and exciting time at the Don Haskins Center come Friday night when the Miners host Oral Roberts in their season opener.
Not only are the Miners going to be sporting retro uniforms, that are really sweet and they should go back to them permanently, but most ticket prices are only $8.00 and there is going to be a lot of other fun things for you, the fans, come Friday night.
It should be a great night and from what I've heard, people are excited about the game and event. However, there are things that the university haven't done that could make the night better.
There's always the age-old questions fans ask "where is the marketing" and yes there are posters to hand out and some radio and web spots. There is a promotion that night in the form of headbands given at the door and that is really cool.
But one big area where the university has failed is in the ability to market the night in terms of merchandise. No one is going to sell the retro jerseys that the Miners will be wearing, not even the bookstore. Not to mention there are no t-shirts to commemorate the event.
From what I have been told, merchandising the jerseys or a commemorative shirt is out of the hands of the Athletic Department. That's fine but if this has been in the works for as long as it has been, someone should have thought about this.
Someone should have stepped up and got on board, right?
Aside from the merchandising of retro jerseys and t-shirts, there is one glaring omission form the nights festivities and it makes me wonder, how can you have a bringing back the 80's night and it not involve one of the best things about the 80's and the Don Haskins Center?
What am I talking about? The Strelz, Paul Strelzin of course!
Strelzin is responsible for the phrase, "MMMINER BALLLLLLL!" and it was no surprise he had a large part in creating the home court advantage that Don Haskins and the Miner teams of his time enjoyed.
Was he over the top? Sure. Did he fire up the crowd and get the Don rocking? You bet he did! He was like no one else and there hasn't been anyone like him since.
Yet for some reason there is not a single person that knows the true story as to what happened between the university and Strelzin and why he was let go as PA announcer some 20 years ago. Stories range from violating NCAA regulations to a rift with UTEP president Diana Natalicio to one story saying he he wanted to get paid and UTEP said no.
Clearly though, this is still a hot button issue. On Monday at Mike Price's press conference, athletic director Bob Stull was asked about Strelzin coming back for a one-time-only game this Friday and he became very animated. VERY animated and it was evident by Stull's reaction there was no way Strelzin was coming back.
I have spoken to people that are close to Strelzin, to people from the university about the calling the game Friday and have listened to conversations about this and no one, not one person, has a clear and just answer as to what happened and why he is not going to be allowed to announce this Friday.
The biggest and most common reason I have heard is, PA announcers are not allowed to announce the way he used to announce because of "conference rules". Funny thing is, this Friday is not a conference game, so why not allow him to announce? If it is a NCAA rule, tell him to keep it clean, pump the crowd up at time outs and let him do the game.
The thing is it's not just about Strelzin, it's about another opportunity for the university as a whole to really take a great idea and run with it to the fullest extent.
In the end, there's just one question left to ask. Who are the losers in all of this?
You, the fans are getting cheated out of one more night to really turn back the clock, to relive the days when the Don Haskins Center was the place to be. When The Don rocked and it was one of the loudest and rowdiest places in all of college basketball.
The university is missing out on the opportunity to sell retro jerseys and t-shirts and or any other merchandise like this so the fans have an opportunity to truly participate in the experience of "Bringing back the 80's".
So, it is time for he and the university to burry the "pick axe" and move on because you, the fans, deserve one more night, to turn back the clock and listen to "The Strelz" rock The Don Haskins Center and call a Miner game while wearing your retro jersey.
Chad Middleton, also the producer for 600 ESPN El Paso's SportsTalk, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter at @chad600espn. Make sure to follow Miner Illustrated on Twitter at @minermaniac for more up-to-date news and information about UTEP.