In 1924, the Texas College of Mines Rifle Club appeared in the College’s yearbook, The Flowsheet. The caption noted that the club officially began on October 18, 1923. At that time the 44 members, along with Dean John W. “Cap” Kidd and Professor Nelson signed the Civilian Rifle Club charter and sent an application to the National Rifle Association. In 1923 the Club practiced but did not participate in competitions until 1924. In the 1925 Flowsheet there is photo of the “Sharpshooters” which included 36 members, of which 5 were females. In 1926 The Flowsheet featured the official Rifle Team with Professor Howard Quinn acting as the Faculty Executive Officer. The team consisted of nine male members. Their highest score of 1929 points was against the El Paso High School team who scored 1870. In 1927 and 1928 the team included all-male membership. After 1928 a Rifle Team or Club was not included in Flowsheet again until 1931 and again it was all male. After 1931 there was not a Rifle Club or Team until 1949 when the team fell under the leadership of the ROTC, which began in 1948. At this time there were two teams, one competitive male team and one non-competitive female team, though the ROTC was only available to male students. The competitive Rifle Team was open only to males until 1959. Throughout the years there have been female Rifle Clubs but they were not competitive and often used participation for a physical education credit.
In 1954 the competitive male Rifle Team won the first national championship title for the University by beating out 1600 other college teams. The championship was the first of several wins and championship titles for the next few years, including winning the same national championship in 1955 and 1956. The team accumulated to following trophies from 1951-1954: William Randolph Hearst Army Area trophies (1952, 1954); the Hearst National Army Cup, the first national championship (1954); Department of Defense Plaque (1954); Fourth Army Intercollegiate trophy (1953); the first place trophies for the Southwest Invitational (1952, 1954); and the third place trophy for the Southwest Invitational (1953).
In February 1959, Sgt. Robert G. Cox told The Prospector that Rifle Club membership was open “to all students, and anyone wishing to participate is urged to attend the meeting.” This included female students. By 1961, though still open to both genders, the team included only one female participant. The team continued to struggle to attract female membership until 1972 when two females joined the team and performed as well as the male members. The following year the Women’s Intercollegiate Athletic Organization (WIA) created a female competitive Rifle team, as part of Title IX legislation which stipulates, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance…”
The present Rifle Team, which has been under the direction of Head Coach George Brenzovich since 1999, has continued to add to the accolades of the historical Rifle Team. Some records and honors achieved in recent years include: NCAA Individual Champion Soma Dutta (1991, Smallbore); NRA All-Americans shooters; Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll shooters; Conference USA’s Commissioner’s Academic Medalist Alix Moncada (2010, 2011); and CRCA All-Academic shooters. For more information about the Rifle Team visit the official website, UTEP Rifle.
[Sources: The Prospector, 1924, October/19/1944, March/5/1949, December/17/1949, October/07/1950, February/13/1954, February/13/1954, February/27/1954, May/01/1954, May/08/1954, February/26/1955, February/14/1959, and November/30/1972; and 2011 UTEP Rifle Fact Book.]
Ashley Swarthout was a student in the Masters of Arts in Teaching English program at UTEP. She graduated in May 2013 and is now teaches dual credit at Chapin High School.