The football series North Texas fans wanted for years isn’t going away any time soon.
UNT and SMU announced Monday they have tacked four games on to their last agreement and now will play through the 2021 season.
UNT will host SMU on Sept. 1, 2018, and Sept. 5, 2020. The Mean Green will travel to SMU on Sept. 7, 2019, and Sept. 11, 2021.
UNT will travel to SMU for this season’s game on Sept. 9.
“I’m excited we were able to extend the SMU series,” UNT athletic director Wren Baker said via text message. “It is one that is easy to travel to for both fan bases and of interest to supporters of both schools. We’ve typically drawn well for the home games and traveled well on the road.”
UNT and SMU have played 36 times and is one of the oldest series in Mean Green football history. The Mustangs have a 30-5-1 edge all-time in what has been an on-again, off-again rivalry.
The teams played regularly beginning in 1922-42 and again from 1974-84. UNT and SMU played only three times between 1985 and 2006, which led to an outcry among Mean Green fans to revive the series.
The UNT-SMU rivalry was dubbed the “Safeway Bowl” in the 1990s after former UNT coach Matt Simon called the Mustangs out for not agreeing to play the Mean Green regularly.
“I’d like to play because I think we could beat them, and my players feel the same way,” Simon said. “If they’d like to play on a Safeway parking lot ... just give us a date and time.”
The teams have met in each of the past three years, including SMU’s 34-21 win at Apogee Stadium last season in Seth Littrell’s debut as UNT’s coach. That victory gave SMU consecutive wins in a series that has become more evenly matched in recent years.
SMU has won four of the past seven meetings.
The schools played in 2006 and 2007 and agreed to meet on a regular basis shortly after splitting those games. Former UNT athletic director Rick Villarreal and former SMU athletic director Steve Orsini agreed to a four-game series late in 2007.
That contract included games in each season from 2014-17. A provision in that deal reserved dates for the teams to play annually through 2025.
The schools agreed at the time to negotiate to play on those days.
The deal UNT and SMU announced on Monday solidifies games in the first four of those seasons, beginning in 2018.
Baker said he was in favor of extending UNT’s series with SMU shortly after taking over the program last fall. He quickly followed through and helped facilitate the extension announced Monday.
A crowd of 24,718 fans packed the stands at Apogee Stadium when SMU visited UNT last season. The crowd was the largest of the year for a UNT home game.
UNT’s game at SMU in 2015 drew 25,401.
UNT officials have pointed to those large crowds and the simmering rivalry between the schools as key reasons the series should continue.
UNT graduate and KTCK 96.7 FM/1310 AM The Ticket personality George Dunham spent 25 years as part of the school’s radio broadcast team for football and men’s basketball and described how important the series is to Mean Green fans in 2015.
Former UNT coach Dan McCarney questioned that fall whether the series constituted a rivalry because SMU had traditionally dominated the Mean Green.
Dunham responded on McCarney’s weekly coaches show.
“I am a North Texas grad,” Dunham said. “That is our rivalry. I hate SMU and always have.
“If they were playing Russia State, I would root for Russia State to beat them by four touchdowns.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.
North Texas and SMU announced Monday that they have agreed to extend their yearly football season by four games beyond their showdown at Ford Stadium in Dallas on Sept. 9. The following are the four games that have been added:
2018 — Sept. 1 at Apogee Stadium
2019 — Sept. 7 at Ford Stadium
2020 — Sept. 5 at Apogee Stadium
2021 — Sept. 11 at Ford Stadium