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UTEP basketball coach Joe Golding helps stranded Pitt football players get to Sun Bowl from Dallas airport

The holiday airline crunch put some Pitt players in a pinch before Golding offered them a ride to El Paso.

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The holiday airline crunch put some Pitt football players in a pinch before Joe Golding offered them a ride to El Paso on Christmas.

Jake Frantl, Samuel Okunlola and Hudson Primus were all traveling through Dallas to El Paso on Sunday en route to the Sun Bowl after spending time with their families. Like so many other holiday travelers, they found their plans disrupted when their flights got canceled on Sunday, leaving them stranded in Dallas in search of a plan.

Golding had one. The UTEP men’s basketball coach was also making his way from Dallas to El Paso with his family and likewise found his flight canceled. He secured a rental car agreement before supply ran out. Then he saw the stranded Pitt players.

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“I see these three guys, and they have Pitt bags on, and they start talking about playing in the Sun Bowl and having to get to El Paso and there wasn’t any cars left,” Golding told KTSM’s Colin Deaver on Monday. “And I was like ‘hey, if we can find a big enough car, I’ll take you guys home.’ They were like ‘who are you?’”

Golding said that he told the guys he was a coach at UTEP, and they piled into an SUV alongside Golding’s wife Amanda and children Cason and Chase for an overnight ride to El Paso.

“Out here in West Texas, that’s what we do,” Golding continued. “I didn’t even really think twice about it. I would hope somebody would do that for Cason and Chase one time if they were stranded somewhere on Christmas night and needed a ride home.”

UTEP coach Joe Golding gestures to players during the first half an NCAA college basketball game against Texas, Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, in Austin, Texas. Texas won 72-57. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)

The holiday airline crunch put some Pitt players in a pinch before Joe Golding offered them a ride to El Paso. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)

Golding’s interview confirmed a story from Pitt football coach Pat Narduzzi, who spoke about his players’ ordeal and Golding’s hospitality earlier Saturday.

“Yesterday afternoon, we had a couple of guys get delayed on flights, they got stuck in Dallas,” Narduzzi said. “Joe Golding, the basketball coach for … University of Texas-El Paso, him and his wife and child picked up and took our three guys and drove them because the flight was delayed to get them here for practice.

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“They got here late last night, and I just wanted to give a shoutout to those guys. Just goes back to the hospitality. Great job by Joe and we appreciate it.”

Golding initially responded to Narduzzi’s interview with a tweet praising the Pitt football players he got to know on the nine-plus hour drive.

“My family and I were blessed to give a ride to Samuel, Jake, and Hudson,” Golding wrote. “They were terrific young men that represented Pitt football in a first class manner. I educated them on West Texas, they educated me on Pitt football and Stack’d burgers! I’m a Pitt football fan now!”

Frantl, a redshirt freshman quarterback, expressed his appreciation on Twitter.

And now that they’re in El Paso, Frantl, Okunlola and Primus can shift their focus to No. 18 UCLA, which awaits them at the Sun Bowl on Friday.

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