North Texas will stay a little closer to home once football season rolls around — both this year and for the foreseeable future in Conference USA.
UNT will play its first season in C-USA next season, when the Mean Green will play host to Rice, Texas-San Antonio and UTEP.
Those three games were announced, along with the league’s full schedule and its divisional lineup, on Wednesday.
UNT will join Louisiana Tech, Rice, Tulane, Tulsa, UTEP and UTSA in C-USA’s West Division. The East Division will include East Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, Southern Miss and UAB.
“It’s great,” UNT coach Dan McCarney said of C-USA’s lineup. “There is nothing better than football in Texas, and we have four Texas teams and two Louisiana teams. It’s a tremendous conference with teams from all over the South and Southeast.”
UNT announced its schedule for its first season in C-USA in conjunction with the league announcing its divisions and schedule.
UNT will open at home against Idaho on Aug. 31 before going to Ohio (Sept. 7), Ball State (Sept. 14) at home and traveling to Georgia (Sept. 21).
The Mean Green then will play four home games and four road games in C-USA on dates that have yet to be determined.
UNT will play host to Rice, UTSA, UTEP and former Sun Belt Conference rival Middle Tennessee. The Mean Green will travel to Tulane, Tulsa, Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech.
Ohio, Georgia, Rice and Tulsa all won bowl games last season, while Ball State also played in a postseason game.
Louisiana Tech and MTSU finished 9-3 and 8-4, respectively, but were not selected for bowl games. UTSA finished 8-4 but was still in the process of joining the Football Bowl Subdivision ranks and was not eligible for the postseason.
“This has to be one of the most challenging schedules in the history of our program,” McCarney said.
The challenge is one UNT is excited about largely because so many of its games will match the Mean Green with state or regional rivals. School officials expect attendance to rise significantly because of the interest those games will create and because fans of opposing teams will be within driving distance.
Opening at home against Idaho will be a landmark moment for UNT, which has not opened a season in Denton since falling to TCU at Fouts Field in 2001.
UNT will mark the milestone by celebrating the history of its program. McCarney said UNT will wear throwback uniforms for its game against Idaho that already have been designed.
“I’m thrilled about opening at home,” McCarney said. “It’s something we wanted badly.”
Antoine commits to UNT
Jermaine Antoine showed a variety of talents throughout his high school career at Loreauville (La.) High.
Antoine was a first-team all-state running back, played a little on defense and showed flashes of talent that led colleges across the country to recruit him as a wide receiver and defensive back.
Antoine decided Wednesday that the best of those opportunities was at UNT.
UNT recruited Antoine as a cornerback and secured a commitment from the highly regarded athlete Wednesday.
“My relationship with the coaches was the big reason,” Antoine said of picking UNT. “It just felt right. They had been recruiting me for a long time. Why not go there and try to make a difference?”
Antoine said he chose UNT over offers from Western Kentucky and Louisiana-Lafayette. He was scheduled to visit TCU this weekend but cancelled that trip. TCU had yet to offer him a scholarship.
Oral commitments are nonbinding. The first day recruits in the class of 2013 can sign letters of intent is Feb. 6.
“There is no doubt that he can come in and make an impact right away,” Loreauville coach Trent Delahoussaye said. “He won’t be satisfied unless he is starting right away.”
Antoine received the All-Around Athlete award at the U.S. Army National Combine in San Antonio early last year.
Antoine garnered interest from some of the top programs in the region, including Texas A&M, but saw several of those schools back away after examining his academic record, Delahoussaye said.
A&M pulled its offer, but UNT continued to recruit Antoine, who has dramatically improved his academic standing over the last year. Delahoussaye anticipates that Antoine’s grade-point average will rise to 2.5 after the spring semester.
Antoine has yet to post a standardized test score that would allow him to met NCAA qualifying standards. Delahoussaye said Antoine will retake the ACT two weeks after signing day and needs to boost his score by one point, a goal he says is well within reach.
Antoine rushed for 1,399 yards and 26 touchdowns while catching 27 passes for 538 yards and six additional touchdowns. He was the MVP of District 6-2A.
“North Texas recruited me as an athlete,” Antoine said. “They want me to play cornerback and think my future is on defense.”
Antoine said he believes he will be able to make a quick transition to playing in UNT’s defensive backfield.
“I’m going to come in and try to compete for a starting job right away,” Antoine said. “I’m ready to play.”
Jimmerson, Warner to practice in spring
Freddie Warner and Antoinne Jimmerson will participate in spring practice beginning in March after meeting conditions for them to return to the Mean Green after they were charged with theft in December.
Jimmerson rushed for 544 yards and five touchdowns as a redshirt freshman last season. Warner, a sophomore defensive back, did not play due to injury.
According to a police report, an employee of a department store at Golden Triangle Mall observed two men putting clothes into backpacks on a security video. Both left the store without paying for the items, which had an estimated value of between $50 and $500.
The employee notified Denton police, who arrested Jimmerson and Warner, according to the report.
“Everything has been handled internally,” McCarney said. “They have been doing community service. They will be a part of our football program and play in the spring.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is email@example.com .
North Texas, Louisiana Tech, Rice, Tulane, Tulsa, UTEP, Texas-San Antonio
East Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, Southern Miss, UAB
Aug. 31 — Idaho
Sept. 7 — at Ohio
Sept. 14 — Ball State
Sept. 21 — at Georgia
C-USA home games (dates TBD) — Rice, Texas-San Antonio, UTEP, Middle Tennessee
C-USA road games (dates TBD) — Tulane, Tulsa, Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech
The following is a list of players who have committed to become members of North Texas’ 2013 signing class:
Valor Christian (Colo.)
Eastern Arizona College
Fort Bend Bush
Fort Bend Elkins
Snow College (Utah)
Trinity Valley Community College
Wichita Falls Rider
Fort Bend Austin
* Transfer already enrolled at UNT