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Results of vote on UNT athletic fee delayed

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Brett Vito, Staff Writer

The results of a referendum on an increase in the fee that North Texas students pay to help support the athletic department will not be finalized until next year.

The UNT Student Government Association announced Thursday that it received a formal complaint prior to the student election being certified. The results had been set to be announced at 5 p.m.

The complaint was based on the timing of the meeting to certify the results — set to take place during the days surrounding final exams. Student government rules prohibit the meeting from taking place at that time. 

UNT will have to wait a few additional weeks to see if the proposal passed. 

UNT's student government is scheduled to meet during the first week of the spring semester to certify the election results. That meeting will take place the third week of January.

UNT currently has a fee of $10 per semester credit hour for athletics. The athletic department also receives a portion of a student services fee.

The school's students voted this week on a proposal that would increase the athletic fee to $16.25 per semester credit hour and eliminate the student services fee. The net result would be that students pay $4.25 more per credit hour and provide the athletic department with an additional $3.5 million per year.

Athletic director Wren Baker said the increase in funding would help the Mean Green athletic department in several areas, including improving facilities, travel and recruiting budgets in addition to increasing marketing and promotions aimed at students.

"We have been able to create a lot of momentum in the last year," Baker said. "Every revenue stream has increased, but getting a student fee that is competitive is critical. We are doing more with less but would like to move toward the average of Conference USA, and this fee is still well below the average. We think even with this increase we can continue to get tremendous results."

UNT athletics officials and student-athletes campaigned over the last few days, touting the impact the additional revenue would have on the department. 

"It would do a lot, not only for athletics but also for band and cheerleading," UNT football coach Seth Littrell said during his weekly press conference Thursday. "In order to continue on our path and continue to be successful, you have to continue to grow. You need resources to continue to compete. We look at it as if we are giving our student-athletes what they need to be successful."

UNT officials have emphasized that the increase would put the program on a more even footing with the school's peer institutions in the state in terms of the fees they charge. 

UNT's student athletics fee would still be 30 percent lower than the average in Conference USA and 19 percent below the fees charged by Texas State and Texas-San Antonio after the increase, according to a UNT study. UTSA also is a member of C-USA.

UNT has made significant progress in its short time under Baker, despite having what he described as a student athletic fee that is not competitive. 

The school's football team won the C-USA West Division title this fall and will face Troy in the New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 16. The soccer team won the C-USA tournament and played in the NCAA tournament, while UNT's volleyball team won the conference's regular-season title.

UNT's student athletics fee was originally created to help fund construction of Apogee Stadium, which opened in 2011.

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.