A couple of people have e-mailed me over the last few days to bring up a question about UNT’s place in the college football world that I thought would make a perfect blog post.
It seems like a lot of UNT fans are wondering when the school’s football program is going to see the mass influx of talent that people have been waiting on for years now.
I can understand why that expectation is there.
UNT has a terrific new football stadium, arguably the most accomplished football coach to come through town since Hayden Fry in Dan McCarney in place and the Mean Green is headed to Conference USA. UNT has more to sell than ever before.
The expectation is that the highly rated Metroplex recruits should come rolling into town any time now.
That could soon be the case, but it won’t be until UNT can fill the one big void in its sales pitch.
To be blunt about it – UNT has to win.
In UNT’s case that is what has always been the key, just like it is for most programs.
Jamario Thomas was one of the most decorated recruits to sign with UNT over the last several years. He came to town in 2004 when the Mean Green was in the midst of its bowl run and beating teams like Baylor and Cincinnati. There were plenty of other good players who came to Denton around that time to sustain the run.
Those times might seem like yesterday to a lot of UNT fans.
They are ancient history to the players UNT is trying to convince to come play for the Mean Green these days.
Think about it. The players UNT is recruiting now are in the Class of 2013. The last time UNT posted a winning record or played in a bowl game was in 2004, when those players were in the fourth grade.
This generation of high school players can barely remember a time when UNT was a relevant, winning program.
UNT began to turn the ship in the right direction last season when the Mean Green went 5-7 in McCarney’s first season, but that season is just the first step in changing the perception of a program that went 2-9, 3-9, 2-10, 1-11, 2-10 and 3-9 in the six seasons before McCarney’s arrival.
The players UNT is after should be impressed by the 59-7 win the Mean Green posted last season against Middle Tennessee to cap the season, but you can bet there are going to be people out there who remind them of what happened in the years before that.
A 24-0 loss to Army in 2010, a 33-6 loss to Louisiana-Monroe in 2009, the 77-20 loss to Rice in 2008 and a 79-10 loss to Oklahoma in 2007 are part of a tough history UNT is going to have to overcome. Don’t think for a minute those years didn’t inflict some serious damage.
Years and years ago now, one of the biggest reasons I heard as to why players decided to come to UNT was that the team was winning and heading to New Orleans every year. When UNT beat Baylor, that became a big selling point for a while.
UNT has just about everything it lacked back then in place now, and that is certainly helping matters.
The missing piece is a winning program.
UNT is putting the foundation in place that will allow the Mean Green to win.
It’s just going to take some time for those efforts to pay off. The program was too far into the ditch by the time McCarney arrived to expect winning seasons right off the bat, although the Mean Green came remarkably close last season. That ranked as something of a minor miracle considering the circumstances.
UNT will get there again.
Until that happens, UNT is going to be missing that key piece in its recruiting pitch that could bring the wave of talent many have been hoping to see that has yet to transpire.
UNT is landing some talented players early. Linebackers Sed Ellis and Calvin Minor were good pickups at this point for UNT.
UNT fans just have to hope that McCarney and his staff do a good job of evaluating talent because at this point it’s going to be tough to land the players everyone can see have the tools to be impact players at the Division I level.
Those players have options, and are going to want to be sure they are going to a place where they firmly believe – not hope – they can win.