Athletic Director Rick Villarreal Stepping Down
In 16 Years, Villarreal Changed The Landscape Of North Texas Athletics
DENTON - After nearly 16 years as the top administrator for intercollegiate athletics at the University of North Texas, Rick Villarreal announced Monday that he is stepping down as the university’s athletic director effective June 20, 2016.
“UNT President Neal Smatresk and I recently have been in discussions about the future of the university’s athletic program and a transition of athletic leadership, and we have come to this mutual agreement,” Villarreal said. “With the support of dedicated staff members, I have accomplished almost everything that I imagined possible here. I am satisfied that the work we have undertaken together has placed our coaches and student-athletes in a better position to succeed, both on and off the field.”
Under Villarreal’s leadership, improvements were made in many key areas, including facilities, student-athlete academic achievement and support for gender equity.
Every facility used by student-athletes has been newly built, renovated or upgraded under his leadership, including Apogee Stadium; the Athletic Center, which includes sports medicine, the weight room and administrative offices; Waranch Tennis Center; Lovelace Softball Stadium; Mean Green Soccer Complex; North Texas Volleyball Center; Kuehne Basketball Practice Facility; the Student-Athlete Academic Center; golf practice facilities; and improvements to the Super Pit and swimming and diving facilities. Villarreal played the key role in raising millions of dollars in gifts and pledges to fund the expansion of facilities and student scholarships.
In Villarreal's tenure, North Texas moved from the Sun Belt Conference to Conference USA, earned 31 conference championships, participated in five bowl games and twice reached the NCAA basketball tournament. Just as importantly, academic performance rates and graduation rates were among the highest in the department’s history and within the conference.
Villarreal’s accomplishments reflect his love of sports and this university and his dedication to our student-athletes, Smatresk said.
“Rick has taken pride in helping to put our coaches and teams in the position to succeed, and he is one of the most effective community advocates in the history of our university,” Smatresk said. “But his biggest contribution of all is to the bright futures of our student-athletes. And for that, especially, Rick will always have a place in the heart of this university. We all appreciate and respect what he has accomplished.”
Villarreal says that while the complex and multifaceted job of serving as North Texas' athletic director has sometimes been challenging, it also has been very rewarding.
“I’ve taken pride in serving as this university’s athletic director. Even when the work was challenging, it was gratifying. I will miss being part of daily campus life, but will forever treasure memories of the experiences I’ve had at UNT.”
President Smatresk will identify an interim athletic director and make decisions about a national search for a new athletic director at a future date.