An open letter to UNT Athletic Director Rick Villarreal:
I"m a long-suffering UNT alum who has been attending football games for many, many years. I struggled along with the team during all kinds of losing seasons, and I rejoiced during the New Orleans Bowl years, making my way out to the festivities on two occasions. I've endured the ribbing of my friends who went to school in the old Southwest Conference about our anonymous opponents in the old Southland Conference ("We're playing Tech this week, Kev; who's UNT playing?" "Umm, I think it's Northeast Louisiana. Or maybe Northwestern State. Not sure."), only to have some of those same anonymous schools turn up again in the Sun Belt.
Like most alums, I'm psyched about the new stadium; I drove by it last night when I was in town, and I was pleased to see that the "wing" section of the north end zone has been framed (even if I can't imagine anyone sitting in that one seat up at the very tip). And one of the things I was really hoping for was a chance for UNT to join a more prominent conference--one where us Joe Average Fans have actually heard of the schools. Conferences are in flux right now, and an article a few months ago said that UNT could certainly benefit from this. The WAC, for example, has come calling a few times; that would certainly be an upgrade.
So needless to say, I was really disappointed to read today that the WAC has indeed approached you, but you flat-out turned them down right away. What's up with that? Don't they at least deserve a listen?
Let's look at their lineup for a second. Sure, Boise State is leaving next year (but who needs an annual pummeling anyway?), and they'll be followed a year later by Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii (dang, no awesome away game!). But the conference still has San Jose State, Utah State, Idaho and New Mexico State, among others, and--here's the kicker--they're adding UT-San Antonio and Texas State in 2012. (Yes, never mind the irony of UNT playing Texas State--née Southwest Texas State--since "Texas State" was the name of the school "played" by UNT in the movie Necessary Roughness, and one of their opponents was Southwest Texas. Heh.)
Do you get that, Rick? We could have two in-state opponents instead of the closest one being in Louisiana! Don't you think some of our football recruits would like to play against their old high school friends at some other Texas schools? And some of the other WAC schools are at least places that most fans would recognize (sorry, we could be in the Sun Belt for another 20 years and I'd still get Florida Atlantic and Florida International mixed up.)
The article that I referenced quotes you as follows: “We made a commitment to a conference that we want to try to help continue to grow. We feel that there is a little more stability in the situation we are in today.” But Rick, doesn't stable equal boring sometimes? I don't see this as the same as leaving your stable, faithful spouse for a trophy wife or anything. And you talk about helping the conference grow; maybe it's time for the situation where the conference helps UNT a little more than the other way around. Do you know something we don't know about the WAC's future, or are you just afraid to make a bold move?
Sure, my pipe dream would be to have UNT in a conference with all Texas schools: SMU, Rice, Houston, etc. (TCU may well be out of reach now). But wouldn't a conference with at least some Texas schools be an upgrade?
I'm not sure how the fan base will react to this, Rick. I can only hope you know what you're doing in this regard, because, with the great steps forward being taken with the new stadium, not even giving the WAC the time of day sounds at best like spinning your wheels, and at worst perhaps a step backwards.
One final thing: I realize that it's possible that there is something even better on the horizon that you just can't talk about quite yet. If so, I'll retract the bulk of this letter in due time. But know that I'm not likely to be the only one who's frustrated right now.
Just another concerned alum