UNT athletic director search update (Dickenson interviews with firm)

Dickenson

Dickenson

North Texas acting athletic director Hank Dickenson spoke with representatives from Eastman & Beaudine Inc., the search firm helping the school search for a replacement for Rick Villarreal, on Monday.

Multiple sources with knowledge of the situation told the Denton Record-Chronicle on Tuesday that the meeting took place. Those sources and others provided some perspective on where UNT’s search stands and how it might proceed.

Dickenson, a longtime UNT athletic department official, has guided the school’s athletic program since June 6. Former UNT athletic director Rick Villarreal officially stepped down on Monday. Villarreal’s departure was announced on May 23.

UNT officials met with the school’s lettermen on Tuesday night. A similar meeting with boosters is scheduled for next week

Those meetings are a part of the school’s efforts to evaluate the program. UNT hired Trip Kuehne and Michael Sicuro as consultants to help with that process.

Kuehne is a well-known amateur golfer and the son of UNT booster Ernie Kuehne. He is the founder and senior managing partner of the Westlake-based investment firm Double Eagle Capital Management, LP.

Sicuro works for Venture Capital & Private Equity. He has more than 30 years of experience with public and private companies with revenue of up to $4 billion in annually.

The evaluation process of UNT’s program has been underway for the last several days, a source with knowledge of the process said.

“They are trying to evaluate the staff,” a source who did not want to be identified said. “That has been going on for a couple of weeks.”

Multiple prominent UNT boosters said Tuesday that school officials have managed to keep the details of how the search is progressing quiet, even among the most connected donors.

Other than Dickenson, few names have come up in connection with UNT’s opening for its first athletic director since the spring of 2001.

One prominent UNT booster said he brought up Arthur Johnson, the executive senior associate athletics director at Texas, as a potential candidate. The booster did not have any knowledge of whether or not Johnson is on UNT’s list of potential candidates.

UNT is looking for a leader who can take advantage of the facilities Villarreal put in place during his tenure and spark its high-profile programs. UNT opened Apogee Stadium, the school’s $78 million football venue, in 2011 and also built several other key facilities, including the Mean Green Athletic Center.

UNT finished 9-4 and beat UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl at the end of the 2013 season.

That is the lone winning season UNT has produced in football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball — its three programs with the highest profile — in the last four years.

Dave Anderson, a longtime UNT booster, said he didn’t know what direction the school’s search would take, but expressed confidence in the future of the program.

“Change in any organization can be good,” Anderson said. “I hope they make a good decision.”

Tuesday afternoon notes (Thoughts UNT-UTA in men’s hoops, et cetera)

It’s Tuesday afternoon and time for a couple of tidbits I have been meaning to get to here on the blog.

First off, the UNT men’s basketball team has continued to release its schedule a little bit at a time.

The good news is that UTA is back on the schedule again next year. The Movin’ Mavs briefly dropped off there for a bit a couple of years ago.

For a school that has struggled to establish rivalries with programs that its fans care about, that seemed like a odd move.

UNT and UTA resumed their series last season, when UTA hammered UNT 90-67.

The Mean Green’s hopes to turn the tide were tied in part for a while on recruit Curtis Hollis. I am on record as saying that I would be shocked to see him end up in Denton after backing out of his commitment to UNT and reclassifying from 2016 to 2017. Bill Embody of Scout.com wrote a story today that backs up that thought. Hollis told Embody that TCU, USC and Tulsa are recruiting him the most and that he will visit SMU this summer.

And in other news, UNT senior track athlete Kendron Sowells was one of 14 Conference USA athletes to receive a Jim Castañeda Postgraduate Scholarship award.

Sowells was a four-year letterwinner for UNT. The senior sprinter graduated with a degree in kinesiology back in May. He was on the C-USA President’s List four times, was a two-time C-USA Spirit of Service winner and received the Arthur Ashe Jr. award for community service and athleticism.

Sowells is headed to Incarnate Word to pursue his graduate degree in physical therapy.

Frank Harris to announce destination, et cetera

There were a couple of tidbits of note to come down today that I wanted to get to tonight on the blog.

We mentioned a while back that the dominoes were starting to fall in terms of 2017 quarterback prospects.

The big news at that point was that Rice had just landed Miklo Smalls of Plano East.

Another domino dropped today when Peyton Mansell of Belton committed to Iowa.

Next up is Schertz Clements product Frank Harris. He will announce on TV on Wednesday and is considered a Texas-San Antonio lean.

Harris visited UNT back in March.

And in a side note, ESPN will buy the second half of the Big Ten’s media rights package for $190 million.

All told, the Big Ten will receive $2.64 billion media rights over the next six years.

I bring it up because it shows just how big a difference there is between the Power 5 leagues and the Conference USA level. C-USA is expected to land $2.8 million a year under its new TV deal.

Over-under betting totals for season are out, key UNT targets making decisions

The over-under win totals for the upcoming season have been set in Las Vegas. North Texas came in at two wins. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

The over-under win totals for the upcoming season have been set in Las Vegas. North Texas came in at two wins. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

Vegas Insider has released its over-under win totals for the upcoming college football season.

I always find the totals intriguing.

The idea is a simple one. People bet that a team will win more or fewer games than the over-under total. You’re right, you win.

There are a couple of schools of thought on how the lines are set, but the bottom line is this: They are a good gauge in terms of the expectations for the upcoming season.

UNT checked in at two, so yeah, expectations are not particularly high for the first season of the Seth Littrell era. I have always found it interesting how the offseason progresses in terms of expectations for UNT, or any other program, for that matter.

Immediately after the previous year, some pretty reasonable expectations are established. Then the weeks and months start to pass.

Inevitably, by the time the season rolls around people have managed to convince themselves that they have way underestimated their team’s prospects.

That’s been the case this year for UNT as well. Expectations have been on the rise for months after a 1-11 season and a coaching change. There are some good reasons this time around. UNT has a ton of junior college talent coming in and a renewed energy.

Vegas hasn’t budged a bit, though.

Here’s a look at UNT, some Conference USA teams and other teams of interest, including key rival SMU:

Team Over-under win total
North Texas 2
Other teams of interest
SMU 3.5
Conference USA teams
Marshall 8.5
Western Kentucky 8.5
Southern Miss 8
Louisiana Tech 7.5
Middle Tennessee 7.5
Florida International 6.5
Rice 6
UTEP 5
Old Dominion 5
Florida Atlantic 4.5
Texas-San Antonio 4
Charlotte 2.5

And in other news, a couple of UNT football recruiting targets are making their decisions today. There have been a number of players UNT has offered who have made the call recently, but wide receiver Kamren Curl and quarterback Peyton Mansell are a couple of prospects who are of particular interest.

Curl is from Muskogee, Littrell’s hometown, while Mansell is a quarterback.

Curl committed to Texas Tech, while Mansell is set to announce later this afternoon. He is expected to commit to Iowa.

John Liddle is taking over as the voice of UNT women’s hoops

Liddle

Liddle

There has yet to be an official announcement, but it looks like North Texas grad and longtime radio guy John Liddle is taking over as the voice of UNT women’s basketball.

Liddle worked at KNTU when he was a UNT student and has been working in Oklahoma the last several years. He has been the radio voice for Southwestern Oklahoma State University.

Liddle sent out a Tweet announcing he is taking over at UNT and will also work at The Ticket. He also updated his Twitter page to include voice of UNT women’s basketball.

UNT has been looking for a replacement for Steven Bartolotta, who left the university after last season.

I knew Liddle a bit when he was a student. He’s a good guy.

The Sunday leftovers — A look at where UNT stands in football recruiting

It’s Sunday night and time for the leftovers, that time of the week where we pick back through the events of the weekend, reheat the good stuff — and some of the bad — while hopefully putting it all in perspective.

The big news of the last few days was North Texas continuing to load up on junior college recruits in football.

UNT picked up commitments from DuPage wide receiver Quinetin Jackson and and LA Valley cornerback Eric Jenkins. 

UNT had seven junior college signees back when it announced its initial 2016 class in February and has continued to load up on transfers since. Jackson was the sixth late add UNT has made.

Nearly all of those players will be summer arrivals, which raises a whole host of good questions.

– How many scholarships does UNT have?

– Does the addition of so many JUCO players over the summer mean some of the earlier signees not make it?

– Who won’t be back next year?

Those are all great questions people have either asked me or posed elsewhere.

The bottom line is this: There is no way to tell much of anything until the fall.

Trying to sort through a mid-major school’s scholarship situation is nearly impossible unless someone is going to pull back the curtain and tell you exactly what the deal is. Teams are not going to tip their hand.

I asked just to see if I might get lucky. The official line is that UNT’s JUCO transfers will continue to arrive through the summer. Some will be in early in July.

The problem with late-arriving JUCO players is that they are the biggest roll of the dice in college football, period. Players end up in junior college for a host of reasons, not all of them good. The ones who arrive late at FBS schools in the summer have reasons they are in that position — again, pretty much none of those reasons are positive ones.

I will keel over and die of shock if UNT bats a thousand in terms of getting all of its junior college signees/commits on the field this fall. Even with the ones who make it, odds are some won’t pan out.

The fact that UNT has gone this direction says a couple of things. UNT’s coaches haven’t been overly impressed with what they have to work with as far as returning players and that getting top Texas high school players to campus isn’t particularly easy, which we already knew.

UNT is often the school of last resort for major college prospects in Texas wanting to land an FBS scholarship due to the fact the Mean Green have had just one winning season in the last 11 years and have a perception problem.

UNT is going to have to win, and win consistently to change that.

Just expect part of the process of getting to that point to include some hits and misses on a whole host of roll-the-dice JUCO signees the Mean Green are landing this summer.

And in a side note,  I did reach out to San Antonio Southwest running back Tyrone Middleton. The door isn’t shut, but it’s getting to the point where I would be surprised if he ended up playing for UNT.

UNT basketball camps coming up

The North Texas men's and women's basketball teams will hold summer camps in the next few days. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

The North Texas men’s and women’s basketball teams will hold summer camps in the next few days. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

The North Texas men’s and women’s basketball summer camps are coming up in the next few days.

I have been meaning to give both Tony Benford and Jalie Mitchell a plug here on the blog, where we get the largest audience as far as readership goes. The news kind of got lost in the shuffle of the Rick Villarreal stepping down and the football recruiting rush of the last few days.

There is still time to get kids into the camps that are the big attraction. Here’s more …

Benford’s Little Eagle Camp runs Monday through Wednesday from 9 a.m. to noon and is open to players in grades 1-3 and runs $75. Benford’s summer camp that is open for players in games 4-12 runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and costs $175.

The UNT men’s basketball program has done a great job with its camps for years.

Here is a link to the website, where one can get more information and register for either camp.

Mitchell’s advanced camp is also coming up next Saturday and Sunday. It runs $125 for players who commute and $175 for those who stay at UNT.

UNT also has a website for Michell’s camps.

UNT adds late WR Quinetin Jackson

North Texas went all the way to Illinois to land College of DuPage quarterback Devin O’Hara this summer.

The Mean Green picked up his go-to target as well as a late addition to its 2016 recruiting class.

UNT had been recruiting wide receiver Quinetin Jackson for the last several weeks. Jackson committed to play for the Mean Green late Saturday night.

“North Texas seemed like it was the best fit as far as the coaching staff and my quarterback is going there,” Jackson said. “The coaches want to use me as a go-to receiver, someone who can take the top off of a defense.”

Jackson, who is 6-3, 208, caught 28 passes for 655 yards and eight touchdowns last season. He has two years of eligibility remaining. Here are Jackson’s Hudl highlights.

UNT inside receivers coach Tommy Mainord recruited Jackson, who is from Granite City, Illinois.

Jackson also had offers from Southeast Missouri and Eastern Michigan. He will report to UNT in early August.

Jackson attracted the attention of several other schools that later backed off because he is a summer graduate.

UNT is moving to a passing offense this fall under new coach Seth Littrell. Jackson believes he will be a good fit for the offense.

Playing with O’Hara was a prospect that played a role in Jackson’s decision to commit to UNT but he is also looking forward to working with the team’s other quarterbacks.

Alabama transfer Alec Morris entered the summer as the odds-on favorite to start for the Mean Green.

“I am looking forward to seeing what everyone can bring to the table,” Jackson said.

UNT picks up late commitment for ’16 in Eric Jenkins

Eric Jenkins thought his college football career would take him to Cincinnati for the next two seasons.

Those plans changed in a hurry over the last few weeks and led the LA Valley College cornerback to North Texas.

Jenkins signed with Cincinnati in February, but didn’t end up enrolling. Jenkins parted ways with the Bearcats and committed to UNT this week.

Jenkins will join defensive end Raveon Hoston and running back Anthony Wyche, who also played for LA Valley last season, in UNT’s 2016 signing class.

“The coaches are great and my teammates signed with me,” Jenkins said. “I also love Dallas. I am always there. I am good friends with Deion Sanders Jr. I train with him. North Texas will be the right place for me. I have family there and have more family moving in.”

Jenkins, who is 5-11, 182, was rated as high as No. 83 in the listings of the top junior college players in the Class of 2016. The website 247 Sports rates him No. 115 in its rankings.  Here are his Hudl highlights.

Jenkins posted two interceptions in the Golden State Bowl and was the game’s Defensive MVP.  He is originally from New Orleans and completed his high school career with Sanders at Atlanta Sports Academy.

Jenkins has two years of eligibility remaining. UNT defensive coordinator Mike Ekeler recruited Jenkins, who said he expects to compete for a starting job right away.

UNT returns both of its starting cornerbacks from last season in Nate Brooks and Chad Davis.

Jenkins also said he can return punts. UNT lost top return man Tre Johnson and struggled to find a replacement in the spring.

 

Follow-up thoughts on UNT’s nonconference lineup

Former North Texas quarterback Dajon Williams celebrates after scoring a touchdown in a win over Nicholls in the 2014 season. UNT will play a series of other teams that compete in the FCS ranks over the next several years. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

Former North Texas quarterback Dajon Williams celebrates after scoring a touchdown in a win over Nicholls in the 2014 season. UNT will play a series of other teams that compete in the FCS ranks over the next several years. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

North Texas will play teams that compete in the Football Championship Subdivision in each of the next six seasons and will host Houston Baptist and Rhode Island in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

We reported the addition of Houston Baptist and Rhode Island to UNT’s schedule yesterday.

I knew that was going to go over like a fart in a Baptist church, and I fully understand why.

One of the big selling points when it came to building Apogee Stadium was that the facility would help UNT bring in more attractive opponents.

Houston Baptist and Rhode Island don’t exactly qualify. They won’t bring in big crowds, or get UNT fans excited.

There is another point that is being overlooked, though.

Those are games UNT should win. And aren’t wins the one thing the program really needs more than anything anyway?

UNT has enjoyed exactly one winning season in the last 11 years. At this point, bringing in attractive opponents isn’t what I would be worried about.

Bringing in teams UNT can beat would rank a whole lot higher on my scheduling priority list.

It’s been a few years now, but the big complaint at UNT used to be that the school was sending its football team on the road to play a host of guarantee games early in the year. UNT played road games against Texas, Alabama, TCU and Arizona in the first five weeks of the season in 2002.

Two years later, UNT played at Texas, Colorado and Baylor in the first four weeks.

Darrell Dickey would have killed for an early-season game against an FCS school in those years, when he coached some of the best teams in recent program history. Dan McCarney was also a big advocate of playing FCS games.

People say that playing FCS opponents isn’t exciting, but I seem to remember a whole lot of excitement when Dajon Williams led UNT to a 77-3 win over NIcholls early in the 2014 season. And more than 21,000 fans showed up for that game.

The bottom line is that UNT fans will get excited and show up if the Mean Green win, period. If UNT pulls a stunner and somehow manages to come home to face Middle Tennessee next season with a 2-2 record, no one is going to give a flip if one of those wins came against Bethune-Cookman, this year’s FCS opponent

UNT has gone the route of sending its teams on the road early in the season for multiple guarantee games. It’s scheduled home-and-homes with regional foes like Houston and MAC schools like Ball State and Ohio.

What it hasn’t done in years is gone out and won consistently early in the season. A UNT official made a great point today.

Guess when the last time UNT was 2-0 to start a season.

It was 1994, when UNT was playing in the FCS ranks.