The University of North Texas Board of Regents will consider a five-year strategic plan for its athletic program and an adjustment to the school’s budget for athletics during a meeting at 4 p.m. today at the Westin DFW Airport Hotel.
Both proposals will be brought forward during a finance committee meeting that is expected to take place at 4:45 p.m. UNT President Lane Rawlins, athletic director Rick Villarreal and senior associate vice president for finance Jean Bush are all scheduled to take part in a presentation and discussion on UNT’s budget for athletics.
UNT’s athletic budget is expected to increase to $30.4 million for the upcoming fiscal year, to level the playing field within Conference USA and support a new baseball program, school officials said last month. That total would include an additional $2.8 million, a portion of which would cover the cost of reviving UNT’s school program that disbanded in 1988.
The UNT regents passed an amendment to the system budget to consider adding $2.8 million in revenue and expenditures last month.
“We’re a lot better than people in the region and state think we are, and one of the reasons we get overlooked is because so much attention is paid to athletics,” Rawlins said last month. “Athletics is how you get attention. ... It’s simply a fact of life for an institution of our size and location.”
Members of UNT’s board asked for additional information on how the school’s athletics budget compares to other schools in Conference USA when they passed the amendment. UNT joined the league this summer after 12 years in the Sun Belt.
Don Potts, the chairman of the finance committee, said that an adjustment to the athletics budget would be a key step toward UNT reviving its baseball program. The school has been trying to add a baseball program for nearly a decade and has had a fundraising committee in place for several months to solicit funds for a new program.
Villarreal has maintained over the last few years that UNT would not add a baseball program until a new facility is built to serve as the team’s home.
Potts estimated last month that UNT has raised $3 million, a total that would allow the school to finance a $7 million facility.
“It’s important for the overall university,” UNT booster and former Regent C. Dan Smith said. “We will be extremely surprised by the fan base a baseball program will create. We should be extremely competitive with any program in the state really quickly.”
Thompson earns honor
UNT senior quarterback Derek Thompson was named the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week for his performance in the Mean Green’s win over Ball State on Saturday.
Thompson threw for 274 yards, tied a career high with 47 pass attempts and rushed for 72 yards in a 34-27 come-from-behind win over the Cardinals.
UNT trailed 27-9 before rallying. Thompson scored the game-winning touchdown on a 26-yard run in the fourth quarter.
“It’s obviously exciting for me,” Thompson said. “It’s a special honor, a great honor, to be named the offensive player of the week. It was a great victory for us as a team on Saturday. Our offensive line played great and kept me upright all game.”
Thompson completed a season-high 31 passes to six receivers and led UNT on six scoring drives in a span of nine possessions beginning in the second quarter.
“We are happy for Derek,” UNT head coach Dan McCarney said. “He is very deserving.”
Thompson battled throughout the offseason to hang on to the starting job for a third straight year. He has started each of UNT’s first three games and heads into Saturday’s game against Georgia having thrown for 818 yards while completing 70.9 percent of his passes.
Thompson converted twice on third down during UNT’s game-winning drive against Ball State, the second time on his touchdown run.
“Derek played phenomenal,” UNT offensive lineman Mason Y’Barbo said. “There were a couple of times when someone got through, but the majority of the time we gave him the time he needed. When you give him that kind of time, Derek is going to make the right decision. Everyone on offense has confidence in him.”
Long snapper done for year
UNT long snapper Blake Dunham, who was injured in the Mean Green’s loss to Ohio two weeks ago and missed Saturday’s win over Ball State, is out for the season with a lisfranc injury in his foot, McCarney said Monday.
Dunham will have surgery today.
“We will miss him,” McCarney said. “He has done a heck of a job.”
Redshirt freshman Tony Johnson served as UNT’s long snapper in its win over the Cardinals and will continue to serve in that capacity this week against Georgia.
“Tony Johnson had never played a snap of college football,” McCarney said. “He did a really good job.”
UNT didn‘t have any problems with snaps in the kicking game with Johnson in the lineup against the Cardinals. Zach Paul made four field goals, including three in the first half that helped keep the Mean Green in the game before coming back from an 18-point deficit.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 or via Twitter at @brettvito.