When North Texas athletic director Rick Villarreal looked back on the Mean Green’s first year in Conference USA recently, one of the biggest benefits he saw was just how often his teams were seen on television.
UNT’s football program garnered national attention because of an eight-play, goal-line stand it made in a win over Rice during a national broadcast and received additional exposure throughout a breakthrough year that ended with a win over UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
The school found out Thursday that it will have a host of additional television exposure again this season, when the Mean Green will have seven television games.
“The visibility for our football team was important,” Villarreal said of the value of the television exposure UNT received in its first season in C-USA. “The Rice game was on Halloween night when people tuned in not expecting a lot and it turned out to be one of the best games you will ever watch. It was competitive on both sides and that eight-play stop on the goal line will be remembered. I run into people across the country who come up and say that they saw it and that it was unbelievable.”
Arguably the most highly anticipated of the seven games UNT will play this season that are scheduled for television is the Mean Green’s home opener against SMU on Sept. 6.
The longtime rivals will play at 11 a.m. at Apogee Stadium in a game that will be carried by Fox Sports.
The series is one of the longest in UNT history. The teams have played 33 times with SMU holding a 28-4-1 edge.
One of UNT’s rare wins in the series came in the teams’ last meeting in Denton in Darrell Dickey’s final season as the Mean Green’s coach in 2006. Linebacker Maurice Holman finished with 11 tackles and a sack, and quarterback Woody Wilson came off the bench to account for 177 total yards in a 24-6 win over the Mustangs.
SMU came back the next year to beat UNT 45-31 in Todd Dodge’s first season and the last meeting between the teams. Daniel Meager set a school record with 601 passing yards in the loss.
While UNT’s game against SMU is the most highly anticipated of the Mean Green’s television appearances, it is far from the only time the team will be on TV.
UNT’s opener at Texas on Aug. 30 will be shown on the Longhorn Network and will garner attention due to the fact it will be Charlie Strong’s first game as the Longhorns’ head coach. The Mean Green’s games at home against Louisiana Tech on Sept. 11 (CBS Sports Network), at Rice on Oct. 25 (FOX Sports 1 or FSN), at home against Florida Atlantic on Nov. 8 (Fox College Sports), at UTEP on Nov. 15 (FOX Sports 1 or FSN) and at UTSA on Nov. 29(FOX Sports 1 or FSN) will also be on television.
UNT is hoping the exposure it will receive this year will give the program a boost like it did last year.
UNT coach Dan McCarney echoed Villarreal’s sentiments that the television appearances the Mean Green made helped the program.
“People from all over the country got to see us play,” McCarney said. “That gave us an identity. They saw our uniforms, saw us succeed and a big mob of green when we played in the Cotton Bowl with our fans. That is what I keep hearing from people. It made a lasting impression with people that this program may be on the rise.”
Playing in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on New Year’s Day was one of the milestones in recent program history.
If UNT makes it back this year, the game will be played back at the Cotton Bowl, but the date has changed. The bowl announced on Thursday that this season’s game will be played at noon Dec. 26 on ESPN.
The game was shown on ESPNU the last four seasons.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.
NORTH TEXAS FOOTBALL TV GAMES
The following is a list of North Texas football games scheduled to be shown on television:
CBS Sports Network
FOX Sports 1 or FSN
Fox College Sports
FOX Sports 1 or FSN
FOX Sports 1 or FSN
* Thursday night game