Over the last few days, we have started to take a look at some of the key issues North Texas’ new athletic director will face.
Rick Villarreal is stepping down after 15 years. One of the improvements he should be credited for is the gradual improvement in UNT’s scheduling.
UNT played a ton of football games on the road early in his tenure to pay the bills. Ah, yes, the Body Bag/Opportunity Game.
One of the reasons the Miracle Bowl Run of the early 2000s really was a miracle was because of the nonconference games those teams played.
UNT played on the road at Texas, Alabama, TCU and Arizona in the first five weeks of the 2002 season and recovered to finish 8-5 and beat Cincinnati in the New Orleans Bowl. A year later, UNT played at Oklahoma, Air Force and Arkansas with a home game against Baylor stuck in there. In 2004, UNT went to Texas, Colorado and Baylor with a game against Florida Atlantic thrown in.
Somehow, UNT recovered every year to play in a bowl game.
Life has gotten significantly better for UNT in terms of its football schedule since. One of the big reasons that is the case is Apogee Stadium. One of the big selling points when UNT was getting its ducks in a row to have it built was that the school would be able to improve its scheduling.
There has been a payoff.
UNT has the series with SMU it long desired on the books each season, not to mention one with Army. The Black Knights are another good draw.
Former UNT coach Dan McCarney was not a big fan of the Body Bag/Opportunity Game and spoke about the need to balance those games with games against FCS teams. Those games were eventually added.
There were a few pretty major snafus along the way. UNT only managed to get five home games on the books in two of the first five years Apogee was in place, including last year.
UNT has vowed to avoid that fate in the future and has these games on the books
|2016||Home – SMU, Bethune-Cookman|
|Away – Florida, Army|
|2017||Home – Army, Lamar|
|Away – SMU, Iowa|
|2018||Home – SMU, Incarnate Word|
|Away – Arkansas, Army|
|2019||Home – Army, Abilene Christian|
|Away – SMU, Wisconsin|
Essentially, it sets up like this: SMU and Army on a rotating basis, a Body Bag/Opportunity Game and an FCS team UNT should beat. UNT doesn’t have the FCS games on the schedule yet for 2020 and 2021.
Memphis is on the books beginning in 2022 for a two-game series and could take Army’s place, depending on what else UNT does in those years in which SMU is the only other team on the books.
The question a new athletic director will have to answer is if UNT’s current approach is the best approach.
Other teams in Conference USA are bringing in Power 5 conference teams over the next few years. Rice will host Baylor next season when Arizona State visits Texas-San Antonio. Louisiana Tech gets Mississippi State at home in 2017.
There are a number of issues that go along with landing a Power 5 team for a home game. First off, UNT isn’t going to get a huge check for hosting a Power 5 team like it would if it went on the road.
Villarreal also talked in the past about how he didn’t want UNT’s players to feel like the visiting team at home. That could end up being an issue if UNT were to host a Big 12 team with a huge Metroplex following like Texas Tech.
There are a lot of benefits to the way UNT has things lined up now, but would the school benefit from bringing in a higher-profile team on a regular basis?
The top three attended crowds in history for a UNT home game are two games against Baylor and the first game in Apogee against Houston.
Some of the more memorable performances in recent UNT history also came at home against Power 5 teams. The Mean Green beat Indiana at home in 2011 for the first win of McCarney’s tenure at UNT.
UNT also took Kansas State to the wire at Fouts Field in 2010. The Mean Green beat Baylor at home in 2003. Would switching things up for more games like those against Indiana, Baylor and Kansas State be worth the price? Would two-for-one arrangements that would have UNT play twice on the road for one home game be worth it, especially if they resulted in a season with five home games?
UNT is 1-46 all-time against teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 and 0-44 on the road.
The program could really use an attention-grabbing win and would have a better chance at home.
The question UNT’s new athletic director will have to face is if the way the school is going about scheduling games is putting it in the best position to succeed.
Here’s our list of challenges UNT’s new athletic director will face: