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As you step on campus and take in all that the future holds for you at The University of Texas at El Paso, it is important to take a look back to see how history and traditions helped create it.

State School of Mines


In 1914, the school opened as the State School of Mines and Metallurgy. When the school became part of the University of Texas system in 1919, the name was changed to College of Mines and Metallurgy, El Paso. Then, it was changed to Texas Western College in 1949. It became The University of Texas at El Paso in 1967, the year after the men's basketball team won the NCAA Championship.



Miners use the two-digit salute, utilizing the pinkie and the thumb, to show their passion for UTEP. The proper motion is a downward spiking gesture, starting by the ear and moving the arm downward as if the pick is striking the ground. The pickaxe is the longest-lived icon in UTEP’s history, tracing back to the school’s first unofficial seal in 1919.

Miner Traditions


The first so-called mascot was a student dressed as a prospector leading a burro. The name Paydirt Pete originated from a 1974 contest to give a name to the mascot. It was selected from more than 500 entries. The first Paydirt Pete mascot started as a lovable “little ol' Miner” in 1980. Since, Paydirt Pete has undergone several incarnations to become the tougher, meaner-looking mascot of today.


It is presumed the nickname Miners came from the fact that the school was founded as the State School of Mines and Metallurgy. The nickname was reportedly to have been first used in the newspaper in 1914 to refer to the football team. Other nicknames over history included Muckers and Ore Diggers for men’s teams, and Minerettes and Lady Miners for women’s teams.


Several Miner teams have earned multiple conference and national championship titles throughout the years. However, the first national title continues to be the most memorable when, in 1966, UTEP, then as Texas Western College, won the NCAA Championship in men’s basketball under the legendary, Hall of Fame coach Don Haskins. The Miners were the only team in Texas to hold that title until 2021.

Official UTEP Ring

The Senior Ring was unveiled in 2003 and features symbols unique to the University: Bhutanese architecture, the “M” on the Mountain and Paydirt Pete. Eligible students and alumni receive them at the Official Ring Ceremony during commencement-week festivities.

Bhutan Days

What began as an architectural inspiration has developed into a close bond of goodwill and peace between UTEP and the Kingdom of Bhutan. “Bhutan Days” has become a regular celebration that brings Bhutanese archers, artists, dancers and musicians to the UTEP campus, and honors Bhutanese students – from freshmen to Ph.D. candidates – pursuing their studies at UTEP.

Gator Camp

An orientation experience for freshmen from the 1950s, Gator Camp commemorates the prank-turned-UTEP tradition of “borrowing” a live alligator from downtown El Paso’s San Jacinto Plaza and placing it in the office of a faculty member. On another occasion, an alligator was found at the bottom of the campus pool. Today’s camp focuses on student leadership and UTEP community involvement.


Each fall, alumni return to the campus to reminisce about their days as students. Many departments and organizations host events for alumni, while students participate in spirit competitions. Some of the notable events include the float-building contest for the Homecoming Parade, the Official Pep Rally, the announcement of the Homecoming Court and the Distinguished Alumni, and the football game.

Texas College of Mines (TCM) Day

The oldest student tradition, first reported in 1920, took place to initiate engineers and geologists into the Order of St. Patrick, the patron saint of engineers. It continues today in a more philanthropic manner with ceremonies that include collecting food for the Rescue Mission, cleaning the campus arroyo plants, hosting the TCM Picnic and whitewashing the “M” on the mountain overlooking Glory Field.

University Colors/Song

The school originated with orange and white. In 1980, blue was added and the official colors became orange, white and blue. When the new athletic department logo was introduced in 1999, a darker hue of blue was added, as well as a silver accent. "The Eyes of Texas are Upon You" was adopted in 1920 when the song had been "declared the school anthem for the University of Texas (Austin)." UTEP's fight song, "Miners Fight," also was an offshoot from Austin. In the late 1980s, and with singer Marty Robbins' blessing, the song was rewritten with the melody "El Paso."



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