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UNT set to revise contracts for Baker, Littrell

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Brett Vito, Staff Writer

North Texas is in the process of finalizing new contracts for athletic director Wren Baker and football coach Seth Littrell. 

The UNT Board of Regents authorized school officials to enter into negotiations with both on new deals during a meeting late last month.

Littrell took over UNT's football program following the 2015 season. Baker arrived at UNT in the summer of 2016.

Regents discussed the parameters of contracts for Baker and Littrell in closed session and voted unanimously Feb. 22 to move forward with finalizing those deals.

The final contracts have not been released. 

Both Baker and Littrell have passed on offers to interview with other schools in the last few months and will soon have new contracts in place that could make it tougher for another school to hire them away.

Baker and Littrell have enjoyed tremendous success early in their tenures at UNT. Littrell has led the Mean Green to bowl games in each of his two seasons with the program, while Baker guided UNT to the best year in terms of fundraising in program history.

"I've said before that you win with people," Baker said. "Coach Littrell has done a tremendous job during his first two seasons. There's been significant interest from other programs, but he has remained focused on what's he building at UNT. Our student-athletes are excelling athletically, academically and socially. Our desire is that the finalized contract terms will be competitive not only with our C-USA peers but also with peers from other conferences like the American Athletic Conference and the Mountain West."

Littrell agreed to a new five-year contract following his first season with the Mean Green in 2016. The school reached a final agreement with Littrell in May that included a base salary of $900,000.

Incentives in Littrell's contract were set to push his total compensation past $1 million for the 2018 season, making him one of the highest-paid coaches in Conference USA.

Baker signed a five-year contract when he arrived at UNT that is set to expire in August 2021. The deal pays him $375,000 per year, plus incentives.

UNT is set to increase its financial commitment to both. 

Littrell took over a program that finished 1-11 in 2015 and guided the Mean Green to the Heart of Dallas Bowl. UNT finished 5-8 after falling to Army in overtime.

The Mean Green took another step forward last fall. UNT won the C-USA West Division title and played in the conference championship game and the New Orleans Bowl.

The Mean Green finished 9-5 after falling to Florida Atlantic in the conference title game and Troy in their second straight bowl appearance. 

Littrell, who is 14-13 in two seasons, touted the future of UNT's program as the Mean Green prepared for spring practice a few weeks ago.

"There is a great energy around this program," Littrell said. "The coaches and players are excited. We have just scratched the surface. There are great possibilities for us in the future. We have tasted some success, but we have a tremendous appetite for more."

Littrell has consistently credited Baker with playing a key role in his program's success and the overall growth of the school's athletic department. 

UNT has made several moves to advance the program under Baker, including dramatically upgrading its athletic facilities. The school has renovated the Mean Green Athletic Center and the Ernie Kuehne Basketball Practice Facility in addition to breaking ground on a new complex that will house its women's soccer and track programs.

UNT officials also expect to break ground on a new indoor practice facility that will include a football field in the next few months.

The school set a record for single-year donations in athletics a few months ago at $8.9 million, which was 90 percent higher than the previous record. 

UNT's success in athletics has extended to several sports. 

Baker hired Grant McCasland to lead UNT's men's basketball program last March and has seen the Mean Green take off.

UNT (16-17) will host Mercer on Monday in the second round the College Basketball Invitational. The Mean Green upset South Dakota in the first round of the CBI on Wednesday. The game marked UNT's first postseason appearance in men's basketball since 2010.

The UNT women's basketball team posted its first winning season in 12 years in 2017-18, completing a 17-14 campaign that included two wins in the C-USA tournament. 

The UNT soccer team also enjoyed a standout season in the fall, finishing 14-4-4 and advancing to the NCAA tournament. 

UNT's regents voted to reward Baker and Littrell for their success with the new deals.

"I view it as a reflection of the work everyone on our team is doing," Baker said. "I'm blessed to be surrounded with great people. Our leadership, donors, fans and students are supporting our program at unprecedented levels, and that allows us to be successful. While we've had some impressive accomplishments, I know we still have much work left to do. I'm honored that President [Neal] Smatresk, Chancellor [Lesa] Roe and the Board have confidence in our team to continue our progress."

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

FEATURED PHOTO: North Texas coach Seth Littrell visits with fans following a game at Apogee Stadium last season.