Nov. 6, 2013
In 2012, Athletic Director Rick Villarreal spoke with the Hall of Fame Committee about the need to recognize the efforts and contributions to the advancement of the athletic department by people who were not eligible through the normal channels as an athlete, coach, athletic administrator or staff. The committee agreed and included Villarreal’s selection, C. Dan Smith, as part of its’ Hall of Fame Class. In an effort to create a formal award, the Athletic Department has now created the Fred McCain Award, named after the former athlete, coach and athletic director to be presented to individuals whose contributions and efforts advance the athletic program in major ways. This year’s honoree of the award is Ernie Kuehne.
“It takes outstanding student-athletes, coaches and administrators to achieve success on the field and the very best end up in our Hall of Fame. However, it also takes the support and involvement of donors and volunteers who help effect change that advances the program in major ways, said Villarreal. “That’s why we chose to name the award in honor of Fred. It honors the over 40 years of program-changing service given by “Coach” McCain, whether helping break the color barrier, serving as an outstanding coach and mentor to young players or leading the department as Athletic Director. He had to make tough choices to keep the department solvent and he made them because it was in the best interest of all athletics. His name and this honor belong together.”
In recognizing Kuehne, Villarreal stated that few individuals have had the type of impact Kuehne has had in such a short period of time. Kuehne, a 1966 graduate of North Texas, made an initial $1 million pledge in January of 2011 to help with Apogee Stadium and other department needs. His commitment didn’t stop with the monetary gift. A year later Mr. Kuehne agreed to chair the basketball enhancement committee whose main priorities included a basketball practice facility and a new scoreboard and sound system in the Super Pit. In 30 days, the group raised over $3 million in pledges, including an additional $1million dollar gift from Kuehne himself. The basketball practice facility was quickly completed and has been in use since March while the additions to the Super Pit were completed in May.
“Ernie Kuehne was invested from the day we met in the fall of 2010. I saw the tear run down his cheek and I knew he cared when he recalled the experiences and opportunities that North Texas had provided for a young, humble boy from Mart, Texas,” said Villarreal. “He wanted to give back and he has in a big way. Our basketball program, our student-athletes, our coaching staff and the university will benefit for years to come due to his commitment.”
Kuehne will be honored at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in the spring of 2014 along with 2013 Hall of Fame inductees 2013 Jim Cooper, Scott Hall, Heather Hutyra, Corky Nelson, and Cody Spencer at halftime of the homecoming game Saturday vs. UTEP.