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Why Sean Kugler’s out as UTEP’s head coach, explained in a quick read

He’s the first FBS head coach to leave his job this regular season.

UTEP v Florida Atlantic Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

UTEP head football coach Sean Kugler is stepping down.

The school called it a mutual decision.

Why’s he out?

Because he lost early and lost often, and when you lose this much, you eventually get fired or, as it appears Kugler’s done, leave on your own. The Miners are 0-5 this season after losing to Army on Saturday.

Kugler went 2-10 in 2013, his first season, before lodging a nice improvement in Year 2, when UTEP won seven games and played in the New Mexico Bowl. The Miners cratered after that, and Kugler’s record sat at 18-31 over his first four years. This season hasn’t been good to him either, and now he’s out of a job.

Was this the right move?

I don’t know if there are right moves or wrong moves here. UTEP is an exceptionally hard place to win. It’s in Texas, which is a great recruiting state, but it’s in a remote corner of Texas that’s nowhere near the talent centers in Houston, Dallas, and even San Antonio. It’s a more remote destination than even Texas Tech, whose city — Lubbock — an ex-coach recently compared to Siberia and Iraq.

It’s really hard to get talent there, and there’s not a ton of money coming in. It’s not an easy job, even in Conference USA. Just five of the school’s 18 head coaches all-time have FBS records north of .500. If UTEP manages to do a little better with its next hire, this will be a good move. It’s just impossible to guarantee that happens, given all the things that make it a hard place to win at. On the bright side, C-USA is a weak league, and the right hire could have the Miners upwardly mobile in just a few seasons.

Where was he before UTEP?

From 2010-12, Kugler was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line coach. He’s been coaching O-linemen for a long time, including stints with the Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, Boise State, and, way back when, UTEP. This job was a homecoming for Kugler, who played for the Miners in the 1980s and was later an assistant there.

It wasn’t all bad, right?

It was mostly bad, but the 2014 team winning seven games was a big deal. UTEP’s only made four bowls since the turn of the millennium, and that season brought one more. The Miners also had a player drafted in 2017 for the first time since 2008: running back Aaron Jones, by the Packers in the fifth round.