In the program’s short history at UTEP, women’s basketball has become a top contender in the conference, has produced professional basketball players, and competed for the NCAA title.
In October 1973, UTEP announced that it would begin to offer women the opportunity to compete in intercollegiate sports and Basketball was one of the first eight sports offered. It would not be until the Title IX passed in 1975, however, that the University provided more than minimal funding for the coaches, athletes, and equipment. Wayne Thornton and Don Lewis were UTEP students who helped to put together a team and met with President Arleigh B. Templeton to secure a practice facility and funds from the University– $1,000 to start the program and the Women’s Gym (a facility that no longer exists) as a practice facility. In 1999, Thornton commented in an interview with The El Paso Times that the gym “had an ice skating rink for a floor and no nets, the walls were beaten up.”
Despite hard beginnings, the women’s basketball team was formed and Carol Ammerman, a physical education graduate student, filled the position of Coach. Ammerman was paid a monthly salary of $250 when she was hired. The team finished off their first season with an overall record of 11-5. Since its humble creation the women’s basketball team has employed the following seven head coaches: Carol Ammerman (1974-1978); Wayne Thornton (1978-1979); Janet Woods (1979-1986); Ken Weeks (1986-1987); Craig Roden (1987-1990); Sandra Rushing (1990-2001); and Keitha Adams (2001-present).
Coach Adams is the most successful UTEP women’s basketball coach in the program’s history. Coach Adams has been named Conference-USA Coach of the Year twice, in 2008 and 2012. She coached the team in its first 20-win season (22 wins) in 2006-07. Additionally, during that same season Coach Adams and the women’s basketball team had a conference record of 16-0, and claimed the program’s first Conference-USA title. The team later earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament where they beat Western Kentucky, 92-60 in the first round; the team eventually lost to Stanford.
In the 2011-2012 season, Coach Adams again proved that the team was a force to be reckoned with when the team won both the 2012 Conference USA and tournament championship. The team won the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament where they lost against Penn State, 85-77, in the first round.
One of the stand-out players in the program’s history is Be Stoney, player from 1977-1981. In the 1979-80 season she scored 472 points, the following season she scored 508 points, setting the yearly records. She also set the record those seasons for the highest scoring average, averaging 18.1 both years. Additionally, the team has produced two WNBA draft picks, Natasha Lacy and Izabela Pierkarska, both drafted in 2008.
To follow the program, visit the official website.
[Sources: 2011-2012 UTEP Basketball Fact Book; Aguilar, Matthew, Tales from the Morgue: The El Paso Times, “1990: UTEP Women’s Basketball celebrates 25 years, November/21/1999; Eurobasket, “Izabela Piekarska Basketball Player Profile,” http://www.eurobasket.com/player.asp?Cntry=ISR&PlayerID=92360; Nova, “Miners Reach NCAA Tourney, Spring 2008; The Prospector, October/5/1973, December 6/1974, and December 13/1974; University Communications, “UTEP One of Eight Schools with Multiple Players Chosen,” April/9/2008 and “Former Miner Lacy Earns Roster Spot with WNBA’s L.A. Sparks, June/3/2011; UTEP Coach Profile, “Keitha Adams,” 2012; and UTEP Offical Athletic Site-Hall of Fame, “2010 Inductees,” http://www.utepathletics.com/hallfame/2010-inductees.html.]
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.