The school has undergone three name changes since the Texas Legislature awarded El Paso with a four-year institution in 1913 known as the "State School of Mines and Metallurgy." When the school became part of the University of Texas system in 1919, the school's name was changed to "College of Mines and Metallurgy, El Paso." The name changed to Texas Western College in 1949 and to its present title, "The University of Texas at El Paso," in 1967.
We must presume the nickname "Miners" came from the fact that the school was founded as the "State School of Mines and Metallurgy." In doing research on this project, early mention of "Ore Diggers" and "Muckers" for the nickname was found, but nothing to determine if the name "Miners" was voted upon by the student body, or if a faculty member, John W. (Cap) Kidd, chose the name. Kidd was a big booster of athletics, especially football, and in 1915, when funds were rather lean at the school, Kidd donated $800 to equip the football team. He also assisted with coaching, although he was not the head coach. The present track facility on campus bears Cap Kidd's name.
The Miners have had nearly as many mascots for its athletic teams as the school has had names.
Probably the first so-called mascot was a student dressed as a prospector leading a burro, named Clyde. Some years after Clyde began making appearances at football games, then-president Dr. Joseph Ray became disenchanted with the animal's appearance.
In a letter to the dean of students, Dr. Ray demanded that something be done about that "sorry-looking, pot-bellied creature, not fit to represent the Miners." Clyde was surveyed out in 1966 and replaced by Henry, another burro.
The name Paydirt Pete originated from a 1974 contest to give a name to the mascot. The name Paydirt Pete was selected from over 500 entries. The first animated Paydirt Pete was given a face in 1974. It was recreated in 1980. This was a lovable little ol' Miner which probably led to his being dubbed "Sweet Pete." At any rate, ol' Sweet Pete was not a very popular mascot and, like Clyde, he made a quick exit in order for the present Paydirt Pete to arrive on the scene.
This Paydirt Pete is meaner looking, has a major-league swagger and has become something of a goodwill ambassador for the school, as well as appearing at UTEP sporting events. Sometime after Pete made his appearance, he decided to kick the smoking habit and the cigar, which jutted to one side of his mouth, was removed. The latest rendition of Paydirt Pete was introduced in the fall of 1999, along with a brand-new UTEP athletic department logo.
The winner of the UTEP-New Mexico State football game 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. This was the symbol of victory, and the spade was given to the winner of the football game between the Miners and Aggies each year.
The idea of the present Silver Spade was from UTEP student Don Henderson, the student association president and now a very successful El Paso businessman and former mayor of the city. In 1955 Henderson secured the present spade and each year the score of the game is engraved on the blade.
Perhaps the idea behind the spade is the fact that at the time the prospector's spade was uncovered, both schools' major field of study had use for the tool -- mining and metallurgy for the College of Mines and agriculture at then-New Mexico A&M. The brass spittoon, officially known as the Mayor's Cup, came into existence in 1982 when the mayors of the two cities -- Jonathan Rogers, El Paso, and David Steinberg, Las Cruces -- decided to present another traveling trophy to the winner of the UTEP-New Mexico State game.
Research failed to produce where and why the school selected the colors orange and white. We do know the student body debated in the early 1920s as to whether it would continue with these colors after the school changed its name for the first time. The students voted to keep the colors and in the early 1980s, blue was added so now the official colors are orange, white and blue. When the new UTEP athletic department logo was introduced in the fall of 1999, a darker hue of blue was incorporated into the logo, as well as a silver accent to go with the customary orange.
"The Eyes of Texas are Upon You" was adopted by the 1920 student body when the song had been "declared the school anthem for the University of Texas (Austin)."
UTEP's fight song, "Miners Fight" was also an offshoot from the Austin campus. However, in the late 1980s and with Marty Robbins' blessing, the UTEP Music Department rewrote the song with the melody "El Paso."
"Miner Fight Song"
Down in the west Texas town of El Paso
Home of the River they call Rio Grande
Down on the border the town of El Paso
Home of the Miners the best in the land
Fighting till end the Miners of UTEP
Long live the College of Mines, the College of Mines
Loyal forever, we're standing together
Onward to victory Orange and Blue, we will be true!