The Road To Conference USA
Posted May 9, 2012
The journey to the May 4 press conference annoucing Conference USA extending an invitation to North Texas to join C-USA did not begin weeks ago, it started a decade ago and involved dozens and dozens of people in and out of the athletic department.
This is how it happened.
2002 - The athletic department begins formulating a proposal for major expansion, informally known as the Mean Green Village plan. It calls for building south of 35E a new athletic center, a residence hall, dining hall, an expanded academic center and several new athletic facilities, including a new football stadium.
2002 - North Texas purchases land from Liberty Christian School, which is planning a move to a larger campus, on the south side of 35E along Bonnie Brae.
2003 - Eagle Point Golf Course closes, and Phase 1 of construction of the Mean Green Village begins.
2005 - TCU, Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette, Saint Louis, South Florida and Charlotte leave Conference USA.
July, 2005 - Central Florida, SMU, Marshall, Rice, Tulsa and UTEP join C-USA.
North Texas's presentation to C-USA fails to yield an invitation. However, the Mean Green emerges with a clear understanding of the steps needed to raise the athletic program to the next level. The league's message: if you do as proposed in your Mean Green Village plan, C-USA will be interested.
2005 - Phase 1 of the Mean Green Village ends with completion of the Athletic Center, Victory Hall and Champs Cafeteria. The Mean Green athletic department moves to new offices for the first time since 1952.
2005 - Liberty Christian moves to its new campus in Argyle, and North Texas begins Phase 2 of the Mean Green Village construction, the women's athletic complex and the academic center.
2006-2007 - Phase 2 completion: the Mean Green Soccer Stadium, Waranch Tennis Complex and the Volleyball Center open in 2006. Lovelace Stadium opens in 2007.
August, 2007 - As the drive to raise funds from alumni for a new football stadium picks up steam, North Texas receives $1 million from C. Dan Smith.
October, 2008 - Students vote on a referendum to increase the athletics fee to help pay for a new football stadium. In one of the largest turnouts in school history, the referendum is approved by a 58-42 percent margin.
2008-2009 - The athletic department's external staff is bolstered by four additional positions in athletic development to manage the stadium campaign. The ticket operations staff is also increased by four.
2009 - North Texas begins increasing it athletic-department budget. Over the next three years, the athletic budget will grow by more than $10 million a year, bringing it in line with the budgets of Conference USA members.
November, 2009 - Phase 3 of the Mean Green Village begins: construction of a new football stadium.
2010 - Chuck Neinas, executive director of the College Football Association from 1980 to 1997 and acting commissioner of the Big 12 Conference, works as a consultant to North Texas, evaluating the university's prospects and providing advice to navigate and take advantage of the ongoing conference shuffling.
2010 - North Texas sets up a website with on-site cameras showing the construction of the new football stadium.
Spring, 2010 - The stadium construction site receives a number of visits, including unofficial visits from Conference USA representatives.
December. 2010 - Alumni contributions toward the new stadium continue to come in, including a second donation of $1 million, this one from Ernie Kuehne.
Spring, 2011 - North Texas employs current industry standards for its re-seating campaign for club level and season tickets at Apogee Stadium, bringing the department's ticketing and donor-relations in line with C-USA protocols.
2011 - Unofficial communications are conducted between Conference USA and North Texas. Among those involved in the discussions are Athletic Director Rick Villarreal, who was previously associate AD at C-USA member Southern Mississippi, and President V. Lane Rawlins, who was formerly president of C-USA member Memphis for ten years.
August, 2011 - Naming rights to the new football stadium are purchased by Apogee in the second largest naming-rights agreement in college athletics. It's another event that is noticed by Conference USA.
September, 2011 - Apogee Stadium opens.
November, 2011 - SMU accepts an invitation to join the Big East. Also moving to the Big East from C-USA are Houston and Central Florida. While Rice keeps C-USA in the Houston market, the conference will be without a presence in Dallas-Fort Worth or Florida.
February, 2012 - Memphis accepts an invitation to the Big East, leaving C-USA.
March, 2012 - More visits to campus, including the Tulane athletic director and representatives from Conference USA.
May 4, 2012 - Conference USA formally extends an invitation to North Texas.
David Pyke is a 1982 graduate of North Texas, the creator of the website meangreenworld.com, a former journalist and a member of the media-relations staff of the UNT Athletic Department. He offers an inside view of happenings in and around Mean Green athletics.
Previous Editions of Green Land
April 25, 2012: The Process Of Hiring A Head Coach
March 13, 2012: Mean Green Seniors Make Their Case For NFL
February 15, 2012: Sun Belt Tourney, Apps And Apogee Visitors
January 31, 2012: Signing Day 2012 Coverage
December 20, 2011: Welcome To College Basketball, Tony Mitchell
December 8, 2011: Weighting For Football
November 23, 2011: Changing the NCAA Landscape