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Bob Stull: No decision yet on Kugler’s interim replacement

UTEP Athletics Director Bob Stull said Monday he needs more time before naming an interim head football coach to take over for former Head Football Coach Sean Kugler.

Kugler resigned following UTEP’s loss to Army Saturday. The Miners are 0-5 this season.

“What we really need, which is tough, because people get discouraged when you’re not winning, is support for the kids and the coaches who are working hard,” Stull said Monday, adding he could make a decision as early as Tuesday.

Stull said the team’s assistant coaches will continue to work with players for the time being. Stull, who announced his retirement earlier this year, said the university’s next athletics director will ultimately hire the permanent head coach.

A possible candidate for the interim head coaching position is UTEP Offensive Coordinator Brian Natkin.

“We lost our leader, but we still have a lot of football left to play. That is what we are focused on moving forward,” Natkin told the media Monday.

“Two weeks ago, I was coaching special teams,” Natkin said, acknowledging the team’s roller coaster season. “In recent weeks, I started coaching the wide receivers and coordinating the offense. I want these guys to enjoy playing football. That is contagious.”

Natkin said he is not actively pursuing the interim head coach position. “I will support whoever gets the job. I’m a UTEP guy. I care about the team and the university,” Natkin said, “If they offer me the job, I will take it, but I will not go out and beg for the job.”

Natkin said he and his fellow coaches learned about Kugler’s decision to step down minutes before Kugler announced his decision to the team. “We were all shocked because we all know Kugs never quits on anything,” Natkin said, adding Kugler’s best features as a head coach were his loyalty and accountability.

Natkin said he is very similar to Kugler. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to win,” the offensive coordinator said.

UTEP Defensive Coordinator Tom Mason said he was also stunned by Kugler’s announcement. “We still have seven games left. I told the kids, ‘all we gotta do is win six of the next seven games and we could get into a bowl game,'” Mason said. “We’re not a bad football team. It’s just about getting the kids to believe in what they are doing.”

Mason described himself as a “player’s coach” while adding he is no longer “looking to build a resume.” Mason said the team needs help. “We need to fill up that Sun Bowl,” Mason said.

Stull Monday praised Kugler’s dedication to the university and the football team. “The biggest challenge here in El Paso is we’re not close to anyone, so it’s hard to recruit,” Stull said, “In Houston, for example, you have access to thousands of recruits in the surrounding areas.”

Kugler concluded his UTEP tenure with a record of 18 wins and 36 losses, including an 11-22 mark in Conference USA play. Kugler led the Miners to a winning season in 2014 (7-6) and a berth in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.

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