BYU and UTEP are former WAC rivals, though players on both teams probably have little awareness of the history between the two schools. One other nugget many people probably don't know: UTEP coach Mike Price tried to recruit BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall.
The two recalled that time some 25 years ago as their teams prepare to play in the New Mexico Bowl on Saturday. Both teams arrive in Albuquerque on Wednesday to begin their final preparations for the game.
Price was the coach at Weber State then, and had coached Mendenhall's brother, Marty. Bronco Mendenhall was a cornerback at Snow (Utah) Community College. His team went to play in the JUCO national championship game in Tulsa against Northeast Oklahoma in 1985. Price decided to hop the charter plane to the game to watch, and ended up sitting with the Mendenhall parents.
"We didn't have the rules like we do now so I just jumped on the team plane with him, bought a ticket from the boosters club and went to Tulsa to watch the game because I was trying to get a bunch of players off their team," Price recalled at a recent news conference in Albuquerque. "I sat with his parents, got to know them and I got an offensive tackle and defensive back out of the deal. Not him, but I did pretty good. Now all of a sudden he grew right up in front of me and hopefully not past me. I still got a little gas in the tank."
Mendenhall recalls: " I remember that like it was yesterday and I think about when was that. I'm 44 years old now; that's over 20 years ago. Coach Price has seen a lot of players since then and now to think I am coaching against Coach Price, it's bizarre."
Bronco Mendenhall ended up going to Oregon State. Price had several other coaching stops before landing with UTEP, which is making its first bowl appearance since 2005.
"We don't have anybody on the team that's been to a bowl game and that's not good," said Price, who is about to complete his seventh season in El Paso. "We're going out the right way and we want to go out the right way with a win."