USA Today poll out, Texas at No. 24, offers UNT upset opportunity

McCarney

When Dan McCarney arrived at UNT before the 2011 season, he talked a lot about changing the culture of the program and taking the Mean Green places its never been.

McCarney has followed through in pretty fine fashion. UNT won a bowl game for just the third time in school history last season, putting the Mean Green in position to progress toward matching some of the accomplishments of the great New Orleans Bowl run of the early to mid 2000s beginning this fall. UNT played in four straight bowl games starting in 2001.

The release of the USA Today poll this morning established another opportunity for McCarney and his team. The Longhorns are ranked No. 24 nationally. UNT will open in Austin when the Mean Green will have a chance to break a 36-game losing streak against ranked teams.

UNT last beat a ranked team in 1974, when the Mean Green knocked off San Diego State.

UNT is 1-45 all-time against ranked teams and suffered some tough losses along the way, including a 79-10 loss to Oklahoma in 2007 and a 65-0 loss at Texas in 2004.

The Mean Green has come a lot closer to breaking through since McCarney’s arrival, falling 45-21 to Georgia in a game that was tied in the third quarter last season. UNT fell to Kansas State 35-21 two years ago.

McCarney said last night at UNT’s event for Mean Green Club members that his team is heading to Austin for more than just a $875,000 payday. UNT is heading to Austin to win.

History says reaching that goal will be a challenge for UNT. The Mean Green is 0-9 against the Longhorns.

McCarney is out to change that, just like so many other aspects of UNT’s program that has undergone a dramatic transformation in his short time at the school.

Thursday morning recruiting tidbits (Riddle names UNT as team in chase in video)

There were a couple of recruiting tidbits of note to come down the pipe since last night.

One of the key questions of this recruiting cycle for UNT is whether or not the Mean Green will take a quarterback. The answer will likely be affected by the way things go on a number of fronts.

Can Andrew McNulty or Josh Greer, who is just a sophomore, grab the starting job and run with it?

Does the light come on for Dajon Williams, who will be a redshirt freshman this fall?

And perhaps most importantly in this case, does the plan to grayshirt Caleb Chumley pan out? UNT should know by the time signing day rolls around in February. Chumley is a big athlete who will start out at quarterback, but it seems like he would be great fit as a tight end or defensive end. Does he show up on campus as planned? Where does he play?

And that brings us to Florida quarterback Chris Riddle. He’s been on the radar for a while. We talked to Riddle all the way back in April for our on-going UNT recruiting target series.

Riddle was in the news again this week when he talked to USA Today about the upcoming season in the video at the top of this blog that was passed along to me by someone in the Riddle camp. The first school Riddle named when asked about the colleges that are recruiting him is UNT.

Just looking at Riddle and where things stand, UNT seems like a good match in terms of talent level.

The question now for Riddle is if UNT or another school — whether it is one higher up the food chain or another C-USA type team — offers him a scholarship.

When it comes to UNT, that will depend a lot on the way the quarterback situation unfolds this fall, whether or not UNT decides to sign a quarterback and what its chances are to jump into the race and sign one of the better prospects from Texas this year.

And while we are on the topic of recruiting, here is the story I wrote for today’s paper on Dekaney tight end Kelvin Smith committing to UNT.

Notes and tidbits from the Mean Green Club event

I swung by UNT’s Mean Green Club event at Apogee Stadium tonight to see what was said (and to be perfectly honest, grill everyone I could find for information like a cheap steak).

Here’s a rundown of what went down …

– The event is held every year to honor Mean Green Club reps. The reps raised $266,780 last year.

– 20 percent of UNT’s athletic scholarships are covered by the Mean Green Club.

– UNT honored a series of reps for their contributions, including: Alan White (District 1), David and Julie Anderson (District 2), Todd Samuels (District 3), David Fast (District 4), Jim Fincher (District 5), Luke Condor (District 6), and Eddy Matchette (District 7).

– Richard Steensen (first), Steve and Andrea Ciulla (second) and Ernest and Monica Martinez (third) were honored for the amount of money they raised.

– David Fast (first), Tom Klammer (second) and Steve and Andrea Ciula were honored for raising the most money among newcomers.

– David and Julie Anderson were named the reps of the year for raising the most money

– Steve and Andrea Cuila received the Mean Green Spirit Award

– There is always a host of UNT fans who are interested in how many people are actually in the Mean Green Club. The state secret was not completely unveiled, but it was mentioned that the school’s goal is to get to 1,500 members.

– The UNT men’s basketball team’s schedule is nearly done. UNT will play Iona and Creighton at home and will also travel to Arkansas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Tony Benford said UNT might have the toughest schedule in Conference USA. He might be right. Iona isn’t a household name, but went 22-11 and 17-3 in the MAAC last season.

– One of the interesting aspects of UNT’s first season in Conference USA was that the school went the entire year without winning a championship. Rick Villarreal made a good point. UNT participated in every conference tournament. Not everyone makes the conference tournament in a few events like softball.

– UNT is graduating 80 percent of its athletes, which is a really good figure.

– UNT will have the same helmets as last year, but might have one special helmet for a particular game next season.

– UNT had the fourth highest team GPA in all of college football last season.

– Dan McCarney said UNT will have no eligibility issues

– There were more than 1,500 players who participated in UNT’s summer camps.

– There are 120 women signed up for UNT’s Helmets and Heels women’s clinic tomorrow.

– There are more starting jobs still open heading into fall camp than at any time in the McCarney era.

There are some good tidbits in that list, but it is also important to note that offensive lineman Cyril Lemon and Hanna Forst from the women’s volleyball team spoke and absolutely nailed it in terms of putting in context what receiving a scholarship can do for a person. Forst went to South Carolina, where it didn’t work out. She transferred to UNT and found a home. Lemon’s story is one we are going to get into as part of our yearly football magazine, but let’s just say he overcame a lot.

Rick Villarreal and Dan McCarney also spoke. Both are always good to listen to and thanked a room full of UNT’s most loyal supporters.

UNT picks up commitment from Dekaney TE

Smith

The college options these days for high school tight ends can be few and far between, thanks to the rise of spread offenses that flood the field with speedy slot receivers in addition to long and lean players near the sidelines who often look like small forwards from the basketball team.

Kelvin Smith is a throw back to the old days of football with tight ends that are equally adept at grabbing a pass in traffic or mauling a linebacker to open up space in the running game.

That made Smith, who is 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, a perfect fit for UNT. The senior committed to play for the Mean Green this week.

UNT uses tight ends and H-backs extensively. Drew Miller caught 17 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns last season as a senior and ranked fourth among UNT players in both receptions and receiving yards.

Smith caught just three passes, but was an All-District 13-5A selection last season when he helped clear the way for Demarcus Felton, a running back who signed with Texas Tech.

“It really jumped out that North Texas uses tight ends,” Smith said. “I really like to block, but I can also catch the ball.”

Smith said he chose UNT over an offer from New Mexico. UTEP and Rice also showed interest. UNT defensive line coach Kevin Patrick recruited Smith, who attended UNT’s satellite camp in Deer Park earlier this summer. The more Smith found out about UNT, the more he thought the school was the right fit for him because of the opportunities he would have both with the football program and to advance his academic career.

Smith has a 3.5 core GPA and plans to major in electrical engineering.

For more on Smith, see tomorrow’s edition of the Denton Record-Chronicle.

Until then, here is some film of Smith from his Instagram account:

Wednesday morning notes (June Jones with an interesting comment on UNT)

SMU coach June Jones made an interesting comment today that is making the rounds. Jones was talking about SMU’s schedule and mentioned that he wouldn’t be shocked if UNT shocks the world and beats Texas in its opener. UNT had a terrific year last season, but lost a ton of players. The Mean Green’s whole season comes down to the basic question if whether or not UNT can replace those guys and continue to win. There is a growing sentiment out there that UNT can do just that. Jones’ comment is just the latest sign.

Munden

On the recruiting front, we reported Monday night that Marshall offensive lineman Chett Munden has committed to UNT.

Our follow-up story that focuses on the payoff from UNT’s early-season summer events ran in today’s paper.

Munden and Converse Judson offensive lineman Abdul Beecham struck up a friendship at one of those get togethers, which played a key role in Munden committing to UNT.

 

And finally, the big question late in the recruiting cycle for UNT — and just about everyone else out there — is whether or not the players who committed early in the process will stick.

Mississippi JC cornerback Zavian Bingham posted on his Twitter account that he is very much committed to signing with UNT. That’s always a good sign.

Final thoughts on UNT’s budget

Well, we now officially know where all the money comes from in UNT’s athletic budget.

Just to reiterate, UNT had some information in its budget presentation that showed a pretty significant reduction in the school’s expenditure budget for athletics.

Once we received some clarification, UNT is still sitting at about $29 million for its overall athletics budget once all the sources were taken into account. That matches what is in the USA Today database.

UNT is pretty competitive in terms of its overall budget when it comes to C-USA schools.

Tuesday afternoon notes (UNT budgetary figures, updated with complete explanation)

And the answer – Bob Brown, UNT’s vice president of finance, was nice enough to provide the answer to our UNT budget question. It’s a little complicated, but in the end it makes sense. UNT’s athletic budget was divided into a few items. There is the $18.2 million base budget, $5.2 million in the debt service budget, $4.5 million in the student financial aid/scholarship budget and about $1.1 million in anticipated receipts from non-ticket sales and revenues that will be budgeted as they money is received.

Altogether, the athletic budget is approximately $29 million.

The base budget is what went down slightly. The overall budget went up slightly.

The decrease will not impact UNT because of the increases in other areas, including ticket revenue, donations, et cetera.

Update – I had a chance to get a question or five in with the UNT athletic department to get a better perspective of where the numbers in UNT’s budget proposal came from and what they mean. UNT athletic department officials said that there will be a bit of belt tightening around the university this year, but when added revenue from C-USA, additional funds that come in through fundraising and increased ticket sales are taken into account UNT’s total athletic budget will be around $29 million, up slightly from last year. That is a huge difference between the budget proposal and where UNT officials said the budget will actually be.

Here is the link to the full proposal, where the figures came from: UNT budget proposal. The slide that shows the funding per department is at the end of the packet.

I should be able to find out where the difference came up in the next couple of days.

UNT is continuing to look at its financial situation in the wake of some difficulties over the last few months (and that might be putting it mildly). Our university writer Jenna Duncan picked up some budget figures for UNT at a meeting today that are of some interest when it comes to the athletics front.

UNT’s proposed athletics budget for 2015 is $18.2 million, down 18.7 percent from 2014, when UNT spent $22.4 million on athletics and just under what it spent in 2013.

I have put in a call to get a better understanding of where the difference comes from, but part of the change is rooted in the entry fee UNT is paying to Conference USA. We mentioned in our summer series that UNT is about to make the third of four payments to cover the $2 million entry fee this August. That fee will soon be paid off. UNT won’t have to add it in the budget in the future. Once it comes off the books that will no longer be included in the total.

UNT has continued to increase its spending on athletics over the last few years and was on the verge of adding a baseball program, a project that moved to the back burner to a certain extent while UNT sorts out what it needs to do to rectify its financial issues going forward.

The budget figures in today’s presentation indicate that UNT is set to remain close to where it has been the last few years financially after paying off its C-USA fees.

And in other news, the turmoil in Austin heading into UNT’s season-opener at Texas continues. Three more Texas players are down to their last strike and are in danger of being dismissed.

Chett Munden commits to UNT

Munden

Marshall offensive lineman Chett Munden committed to UNT on Monday night following a weekend visit to Denton for the Mean Green’s annual Friday Night Lights camp.

“I loved it,” Munden said. “It felt like home. I had to talk to my head coach before I committed. I talked to him and called the UNT coaches this evening.”

Munden, who is 6-foot-7 and 305 pounds, was a first-team All-District 14-4A selection as a junior. UNT offensive line coach Mike Simmonds recruited Munden, who projects as a tackle on the college level.

Munden said he chose UNT over an offer from Louisiana-Monroe. Here are his Hudl highlights.

Munden visited UNT earlier this summer during an event reserved for the Mean Green’s top recruiting targets.

Munden developed a friendship with Converse Judson offensive lineman Abdul Beecham during that weekend event. Both returned to UNT for the Mean Green’s Friday night camp, where Beecham committed. Munden joined UNT’s class three days later.

“Abdul and I have been talking since June,” Munden said. “When he committed it made me want to commit even more. I figured I would do it instead of waiting. I could go ahead and relax.”

For more on Munden, see Wednesday’s edition of the Denton Record-Chronicle.

Monday afternoon notes (recruiting tidbits and bowl projections)

Just to follow up, Du’vonta Lampkin, a big-time defensive tackle out of Cy Falls UNT was in on, committed to Texas this afternoon.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to recruiting news on this Monday afternoon. Darrion Landry, a wide receiver out of Blinn JC that UNT is after, told the guys at the Herald-Leader that Kentucky is leading when it comes to landing his services.

Finally, Phil Steele has updated his bowl projections and is picking UNT to face Colorado State in the New Mexico Bowl.

Early projections rarely come to fruition, but that would be an interesting match-up considering UNT broke a 42-year bowl drought in a 45-20 loss to the Rams in 2001, ushering in one of the greatest eras in program history that saw the Mean Green play in four straight New Orleans Bowls.

UNT recruiting target set to announce today

Cypress Falls defensive tackle Du’Vonta Lampkin is set to announce his college destination this afternoon.

UNT offered in May. Lumpkin was committed to Oklahoma, but backed out. He’s expected to commit to Texas.

It’s a long, long, long shot for UNT, but it is one of those news tidbits that could impact other players across the state.