UNT president Lane Rawlins announced today that he is retiring.
While Rawlins was only around a short time — and he will stay on for a few more months — his impact on UNT’s athletic program was pretty significant.
There were several people who played a role in helping UNT get out of the Sun Belt and into Conference USA, and there is little doubt Rawlins was one of them. He helped found C-USA in 1995 when he was at Memphis and had the connections in the league that helped UNT make its case that it belonged, especially after SMU left.
He also played a role in bringing in Dan McCarney as UNT’s football coach. UNT contracted consultant Chuck Neinas to study the overall athletic program and then brought him back to help conduct a search for a new coach after UNT finally got rid of Todd Dodge. McCarney has already won more games in two years than UNT won in the previous four years combined.
UNT opened Apogee Stadium during his watch and moved closer to bringing a baseball program back to UNT.
Rawlins understood the importance of athletics to the overall health and perception of a university. It wasn’t unusual to see him at games. I remember talking to him after a football game a time or two.
What will be interesting is where UNT goes from here in terms of finding a new president and what his or her take on athletics will be.
When one looks back at the last few years, UNT had some influential and aggressive people when it comes to athletics in key positions. Rawlins was in the president’s office. Rick Villarreal has been aggressive as an AD, helping get a new stadium build, among several other facilities. UNT also had a couple of pro athletics people on the board of regents, including former football player C. Dan Smith and Bobby Ray, who served as the board’s president. Both made some important and also overlooked contributions that helped usher in an era of growth in UNT athletics.
One of the key members of that batch of administrators will soon bow out.
Rawlins contributions are ones that can’t be overlooked. Neither can the importance of the next president and his or her potential impact on UNT athletics.
UNT has its new stadium in place and is will be in Conference USA next year.
It seems like most the key moves UNT needed to make for the immediate future were made under Rawlins’ watch.
There is always a new challenge, though, for the university as a whole and for the athletic department.