The nickname Miners came from the fact that the school was founded as the Texas State School of Mines and Metallurgy. Other names were considered, such as “Ore Diggers” and “Muckers.”
The first mascot was a student dressed as a prospector who led a burro. The first burro was named Dynamite, followed by Jenny, and then a burro named Clyde. After Clyde began making appearances at football games, University President Dr. Joseph Ray demanded that something be done about “that sorry-looking, pot-bellied creature, not fit to represent the Miners.” Clyde was replaced in 1966 by another burro named Henry.
The name “Paydirt Pete” was selected in 1974 from over 500 entries in a contest to give a name to the mascot. The first animated Paydirt Pete mascot was a lovable lil’ ol’ miner nicknamed “Sweet Pete,” but he was replaced later by the more rugged Paydirt Pete. Another version of the mascot was introduced in the fall of 1999 when the athletic department introduced a new logo. The current Paydirt Pete made his debut at a men’s basketball game during the 2004 season.
As the second oldest academic component of the UT System, the original colors of orange and white reflected the close association with The University of Texas at Austin (see “Songs & Cheers”). In the early 1980s, the students voted to add blue to the original colors of orange and white. Almost 20 years later, the new athletic logo changed the colors once more to the current navy blue and blaze orange with a silver accent.
UTEP’s main rivals are the Aggies of New Mexico State University (NMSU) in Las Cruces, New Mexico. When the Miners and the Aggies meet during football season, the winner receives a pair of traveling trophies – the Silver Spade and the Brass Spittoon.
The first spade used for this purpose was an old prospector’s shovel dug up from an abandoned mine in the Organ Mountains near Las Cruces in 1947. The current Silver Spade was initiated by UTEP Student Association – now the Student Government Association – President Don Henderson in 1955, and each year the score of the game is engraved on the blade.
The Brass Spittoon, officially known as the Mayor’s Cup, came into existence in 1982 when the mayors of the cities – Johnathan Rogers of El Paso and David Steinberg of Las Cruces – decided to present another traveling trophy to the winner of the UTEP-NMSU game. A United Blood Services plaque is also presented at half-time to the school that with the largest blood drive results. The Miner/Aggie rivalry also crosses over into basketball and other UTEP sports.
In addition to the Battle of I-10 between UTEP and NMSU, the Miners also have a rivalry with The University of New Mexico Lobos. Before the breakup of the Western Athletic Conference, the Miners often played both the Aggies and the Lobos in football, and the winner of the series between the three schools earned the title of the “Rio Grande Champion.”
On September 23, 1914, 27 students attended classes on opening day at the Texas State School of Mines and Metallurgy. This occurred only six months after El Paso Chamber President Robert Krakauer announced that funding had been secured through the work of over 50 firms and individuals. However, two years later, the 34-room Main Building located at Ft. Bliss was destroyed by a fire. This left Dean Stephen Howard Worrell to lead the administration in search of a new site, which became a 22.9 acre area near the Rio Grande River in the western foothills of the Franklin Mountains.
For nearly 100 years now, UTEP’s distinctive Bhutanese–style is one of the few university architectural traditions in the United States. After reading the April 1914 National Geographic article titled “Castles in the Air,” Dean Worrell’s wife, Kathleen, persuaded her husband that the unique architecture of Bhutan would suit the rugged terrain of the Franklin Mountains of El Paso as well as it did the Himalayan Mountains. Thus, the Bhutanese “castles,” or fortress/ monasteries known as a dzongs, were recommended as a model for the new campus buildings to noted El Paso architect Henry Trost. They are characterized by high inward-sloping walls with few windows at the base, a continuous red band called the kemar placed high under the eaves, and are decorated with geometric medallions called mandalas. The first cluster of buildings constructed in this style includes what are now known as Old Main, Graham Hall, Vowell Hall and Quinn Hall.
The school became a branch of The University of Texas in 1919 and the name was changed to the College of Mines and Metallurgy. Several years later, the El Paso Junior College merged with the College of Mines, dramatically increasing enrollment and creating a rivalry among the student body. Students majoring in mining or engineering were called “engineers” while students majoring in arts or education were called “academes” or “peedoggies.” This distinction continues today during engineering celebrations held in honor of St. Patrick, an event considered the oldest continuous tradition at UTEP called “TCM Day.”
In 1949, the Texas Legislature approved changing the name to Texas Western College to reflect the school’s increasing number of liberal arts programs and the shrinking proportion of engineers. The University of Texas at El Paso became the official name of the University on March 31, 1967, when The University of Texas System (UT System) renamed all the institutions under its umbrella.
Dr. Diana Natalicio was chosen to lead the University, effective February 11, 1988. She is both the first woman president and the first former faculty member to have risen through the ranks to the institution’s top administrative post.