As the second oldest academic branch of the University of Texas System, UTEP shared much of its early heritage with the Main Branch in Austin. This included its colors (orange and white), fight song (“Eyes of Texas”), monogram (“T”), yearbook (“Cactus”), and motto (disciplina praesidium civitatis). Over time, the former mining school forged its own identity, unique and separate from that of the Austin branch.


School Colors

In 1916, while preparing for the School of Mines first commencement, a decorating committee selected the orange and white of the University of Texas for the school’s colors. In 1920, the students voted to keep orange and white as the school’s colors, again to reinforce their standing as a branch of the University of Texas System.

In the early 1980s, the students voted to add blue to the original colors of orange and white. Almost twenty years later, the new athletic logo changed the colors once more to the current navy blue and blaze orange with a silver accent.


Fight Song

In 1985, the student government adopted Marty Robbins’s hit ballad, El Paso, to be UTEP’s new fight song. The Department of Music, which had assisted in securing permission and publication rights prior to Robbins’s passing in 1982, composed new lyrics and modified the music’s tempo for marching and pep. El Paso replaced The Eyes of Texas, which UTEP had shared with UT Austin since 1920.



Because students attending the State School of Mines and Metallurgy referred to the school as TSM, short for Texas School of Mines, the monogram “T” became associated with TSM’s early athletic program. In 1919, the students rejected a faculty proposal to officially designate T as the school’s monogram for athletic uniforms, despite the added prestige of it being the monogram of UT Austin. Instead the students selected “M” for Mines. The iconic M was first painted on the Franklin Mountains by students in 1923. In 1965, students relocated it to the hillside north of the Sun Bowl.



The first yearbooks were annual supplements to the school’s newspaper, Prospector, including the 1920 edition, which was named Adios. In 1921, students voted to be included in the yearbook of UT Austin, known as The Cactus. The following year, students elected to publish their own bound yearbook, which they named Flowsheet, after the engineering term. Students produced Flowsheet annually until 1972, when it was discontinued.


Motto and Seal

UTEP’s motto is scientia et humanitas, which is Latin for Science and Humanities, reflecting the school’s transformation from a mining school into a regional college. Adopted in 1932 by John Barry, UTEP’s first autonomous president, it replaced the motto shared by the school with the UT Austin, which was disciplina praesidium civitatis (a cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy). Bonus fact: UTEP’s official seal, including its motto, is unique among all UT System components. In 1970, the Board of Regents adopted the seal of UT Austin for all of its components. The board, however, granted UTEP the right to use its existing seal, which had been designed by Jose Cisneros and Carl Hertzog in 1949. UTEP’s seal features the sun rising beyond the Paso del Norte, over the Star of Texas.



James G. Brann, a sportswriter for the El Paso Herald, first used the Miners nickname to refer to the School of Mines football team on October 15, 1914. In the early twentieth century, schools did not choose their nicknames—the press usually did. When UTEP opened in 1914, there were already four other mining schools with football teams, and all of them were referred to by the press as Miners, just as teams fielded by agricultural schools were known as Aggies. Because the Herald was first to use Miners, rival papers, including the El Paso Times, declined to use the name during those early years, instead opting for “the School of Mines team” or “Mines.” It was not until 1981, at the onset of the athletic apparel merchandise boom, that the UT System trademarked the Miners nickname.

Other nicknames over history included Muckers and Ore Diggers for men’s team, and Minerettes and Lady Miners for women’s teams.



In April 1919, the students of the School of Mines voted to make the burro the school’s official mascot. Ruth Augur, the school’s registrar, placed the burro in her design for the school’s first seal, a facsimile of which can be found in a floor mosaic located in the old library section Geological Sciences Building. The UT System Board of Regents officially confirmed the selection of the burro fifty years later in 1970.

UTEP’s athletic program, however, had long grown disenchanted with the burro mascot as a symbol for their teams. Despite its official designation by the regents in 1970, athletics began promoting various caricatures of miners and prospectors in their promotional materials. In 1962, Marshall Meece, a civil engineering student, drew a hardhat miner that was adopted by the athletic program. In 1974, the University painted an updated version of Meece’s caricature on the Sun Bowl field. That same year, in a contest conducted by alumni, voters named the figure “Paydirt Pete.” Both name and caricature were trademarked in 1981. Alumnus Bernie Lopez created a new rugged prospector caricature, which UTEP adopted in 1984. His Pete wore a miner’s helmet and sported a pickaxe in a more rough-and-tumble fashion. In November 1999, after Pete had transformed into to the pickaxe-wielding, Tom Selleck-mustachioed hybrid prospector-miner that he is today, the regents officially recognized the miner as the official mascot of UTEP, putting the burro out to pasture.


Picks Up!

The ubiquitous UTEP hand sign represents the pickaxe, the main tool of miners. The hand sign is made by making a fist, while extending the thumb and pinkie to form a pick. The proper motion for the pick is a downward spiking gesture. Starting by the ear, move the arm downward as if the pick is striking the ground.

The hand sign is believed to have originated in the early 1980s at a cheerleading camp attended by UTEP students. By the mid-1990s, it had become an enduring gesture of Miner pride.



UTEP’s main rival is 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 (today’s Student Government Association) president Don Henderson in 1955. After each game, the final score 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 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 28, 1914, twenty-one students arrived on the campus of the State School of Mines and Metallurgy for the first day of classes, then located adjacent to Fort Bliss on the Lanoria Mesa. By the end of the academic year, twenty-seven students from across the United States and Mexico comprised the school’s first cohort. This occurred only six months after El Paso Chamber of Commerce president Robert Krakauer announced that funding had been secured to purchase the former property of the El Paso Military Institute through the generous donations of eighty firms and individuals. However, only two years later, the 34-room Main Building was destroyed by fire. Dean Steve Howard Worrell led the administration in search of a new site, selecting a 22.7-acre plot of land on the western foothills of the Franklin Mountains at the Paso del Norte.

UTEP’s distinctive neo-Bhutanese campus buildings have remained a unique American architectural tradition for over a century. After reading the April 1914 National Geographic article titled “Castles in the Air,” Worrell’s wife, Kathleen, persuaded her husband that the 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, provided the model for the new campus buildings, which were originally designed by Charles M. Gibson, and later adopted by 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, erected in 1917, included what are now known as Old Main, Graham Hall, and Quinn Hall. These original buildings, along with Vowell Hall (erected 1920) and Seamon Hall (erected 1927) comprise the oldest extant public university campus in Texas.

The State School of Mines and Metallurgy at its founding in 1913 was a branch of the University of Texas, which is now known as the University of Texas System. In 1919, the name was changed to the College of Mines and Metallurgy of the University of Texas to better reflect this connection. In 1927 the College of Mines added additional liberal arts, science, business, and education courses to serve the higher education needs of the Paso del Norte region. Enrollment skyrocketed and the College received authorization to confer baccalaureate degrees in 1931. Many of the traditions celebrated today at UTEP emerged during this period, including TCM Day, an engineering celebration originally held in honor of St. Patrick, the patron saint of engineers.

In 1949, the Texas Legislature approved changing the school’s name to Texas Western College to better reflect the school’s increasing number of liberal arts programs and the shrinking proportion of engineers. During the 1950s and 1960s, Texas Western played a lead role in the civil rights movement, from being the first Texas public school to lift the statewide ban on playing integrated teams (1950) to being first state-funded institution of higher education to fully desegregate (1955) to producing the first integrated performance on a Texas college stage (1956). In 1966, the Texas Western Miners fielded the first all-black starting lineup in a NCAA men’s basketball national championship, defeating an all-white team from Kentucky.

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 authority.

In 1990, UTEP undertook a concerted effort to redefine higher education in West Texas by adopting a mission that promoted social mobility and increased research. Today, UTEP is the only former mining school in the nation to have transformed itself into a top-tier doctoral research university.