North Texas fans stand in the front row behind the visitors’ bench at Apogee Stadium. UNT’s home attendance has gradually increased over the last decade. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)
Yesterday, we posted a link to a report on season football ticket sales among Conference USA schools.
The information in the report was taken from a study of the UAB football program.
UNT ranks 13th out of the 14 teams at 4,285, just ahead of Rice at 4,165, according to the report. Southern Miss is the top school in terms of season ticket sales at 15,587. The Mean Green have held pretty steady over the last three years, despite beating UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl in the second of those seasons.
The reaction among UNT fans has been pretty strong, and I get that.
To me those numbers just point to the same issue UNT has always faced — there is no magic bullet to suddenly jump start the Mean Green’s program and attract thousands of new fans. For UNT it’s going to have to be a long, gradual climb.
There have been a ton of magic bullet suspects over the years, but there has only been gradual improvement.
To review …
2001 — UNT breaks through to earn its first bowl berth since 1959 behind a remarkable five-game winning streak. UNT averaged 14,769 fans in the season that kicked off the Miracle Bowl Run. UNT averaged 15,260 fan the next year.
2002 — UNT breaks through and beats Cincinnati in the New Orleans Bowl for its first bowl win since the 1946 Optimist Bowl and hosted Baylor the next year in front of 29,437 fans, a total that still stands as the on-campus record for a game. The Mean Green’s attendance jumps from 15,260 in 2002 to 18,694 in 2003. Take out the Baylor game bump and the total drops to 16,008.
2004 — UNT caps one of the longest runs of sustained success with its fourth straight bowl season. Attendance drops from 18,964 in 2003 to 15,184 per game for a team headed to a fourth straight bowl game.
2007 — UNT hires Todd Dodge, one of the most successful high school coaches in Texas. UNT promotes the arrival of Dodge, who helped popularize the spread offense in Texas high school football with an “It’s Wide Open” campaign. There is a lot of excitement around the program that dwindles a bit when UNT is blasted 79-10 in its season-opener at Oklahoma. UNT’s attendance still jumps from 15,685 in 2006 to 17,734 in 2007.
2011 — UNT opens Apogee Stadium and moves out of Fouts Field, an outdated facility with a track. Dan McCarney, a proven winner as a college head coach, arrives at the same time and shows that he is more personable and enthusiastic than arguably anyone UNT has had in the job since Hayden Fry. UNT’s attendance creeps up from 17,718 in 2010 to 18,864 in Apogee’s debut season.
2013 — UNT beats UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl for just the third bowl win in program history. Well, that didn’t turn out to be the magic bullet, either. UNT’s attendance drops from 21,030 in its 9-4 bowl season to 19,271 during a 4-8 follow-up campaign.
My point is this. If you take a look at the long-term, UNT’s attendance has grown. It’s been a gradual process. No one event has sent it through the roof, not opening a $78 million football stadium or a couple of bowl wins or joining C-USA.
It’s a process.
And that is what it always will be.
I have been told over and over again that various developments are going to be that magic bullet — building Apogee Stadium, joining C-USA, hiring two new head coaches. That’s just not the way UNT works.
In other news, UNT center Kaydon Kirby was named to the Remington Trophy Watch list. The honor goes to the top center in college football each season.
The Sporting News also came out with its list of the top coaches in Conference USA. Dan McCarney checked in at No. 7. Marshall’s Doc Holliday is No. 1 on the list. Personally, I think McCarney is a bit under rated considering he took UNT to a bowl game.
UNT has only been to eight bowl games in 100 years. It’s not exactly the easiest place to win.