Feeling Lowry: El Paso & Locomotive FC Down, But Sky’s the Limit
And here it is...
Before the kvetching starts, let's you and I make this pact: we don't get to criticize Mark Lowry for his ambitions unless we're ready to sign a contract holding us in our current job or situation when another offer comes along.
No? Right. Me, either.
Let's also be honest. This hurts.
El Paso has seen versions of it before, mainly with UTEP coaches. Bob Stull. Billy Gillispie. Doc Sadler. Tony Barbee. Men who won and moved on for green...er pastures.
It isn't about money for Lowry; but when Todd Brost left the El Paso Buzzards for the Elmira Jackals of the UHL, he told me much the same thing that Lowry told KTSM's Colin Deaver.
It's hard to be seen, here.
But don't miss this: there is no El Paso team better poised to change that narrative than Locomotive FC.
UTEP will always be UTEP. The Buzzards, the independent version of the Diablos, the Rattlers, the Raiders, the...what was the name of the indoor football team? All were passing fancies.
Locomotive FC is different. Soccer is different.
Yes, when UTEP wins it plugs into the attention we automatically give college football and men's college basketball.
But how often does UTEP win?
What happens with its coaches when its programs do win?
The college sports landscape has changed immensely in the last decade. The last time I remember the Haskins Center rocking like I first saw it in the 1980's and early 90's for The Bear was when Barbee's 2009 team went to the finals of the CBI tournament.
UTEP made every seat available for $10 and El Paso showed up to make the kind of noise the courtside class just doesn't do. That night, they just weren't in those seats to not do it. I haven't heard a crowd as loud since.
It's an interesting tradeoff in college sports – in a city that largely no longer tithes to UTEP, the one group that does keeps the lights on but its voice down.
Look, I don't see Locomotive offering its head coach $750K a year anytime soon. The Miners will always have meaning. There is no arguing legitimacy with a program that has one of the most historically significant national championships ever.
It is, though, legitimate to compare then to now to when.
Winning a conference title used to be a big deal. It might be again someday. But be honest, do you think El Paso will ever celebrate like this for a championship in Conference USA?
Things are different.
For Locomotive FC, the United Soccer League and soccer, too.
Even without promotion and relegation in the US game, its shadow continues to grow. The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup will return, and with it the opportunity to win a truly national championship unique in American sport. Locomotive FC plays in an area where there are already tens of thousands of soccer fans, even if their attention is mainly south of the border. But every year, we see more buy-in. We see a team that wins consistently and plays well in front of its fans. And we see more fans.
The longer this team is around, the more it connects with our ready-made soccer-loving city, the plainer it is that the ceiling for Locomotive FC is nowhere in sight.
Fans should know that in a recent conversation I had with MountainStar Sports Group President Alan Ledford, he brought up building a new stadium completely unprompted.
It isn't something you can just wish up, but clearly a home for Locomotive FC is one of MSSG's main goals.
World Cup '26 is less than five years away from returning to North America. The USL continues to push toward having pro/rel and a fall-to-spring schedule that, to me, would legitimize it globally and scratch an itch MLS can't reach.
And Locomotive FC is right there, on the ground floor of all of it. Ready to be as big as it wants to be. To the point where, not only will El Paso be seen, it can't be missed.