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SI: UNT Athletic Director Wren Baker to WVU; Goodbye Wren Baker

EDIT: Statement from UNT President Neal Smastresk:

UNT President Neal Smatresk: “It has been my pleasure to work with Wren for the past six years as our VP for Athletics and AD. During this time, our athletics program has experienced record-setting success in virtually every area, including student academic performance, fundraising, overall conference records and championships. While we are sad to see him go, this is a great move for Wren and his family, and it speaks volumes for his success here at UNT. With solid infrastructure in place and a staff of great administrators and coaches, we are well positioned to continue our success. We will begin our search soon, and I anticipate that we will attract a strong pool of candidates who can continue our remarkable upward trajectory as we transition into The American.”

Sports Illustrated reports that Wren Baker was hired by WVU.

None of this was confirmed or anything but things like this are not really wrong. Wren Baker has been instrumental in positioning North Texas Athletics for the future in the The American Conference (P6!). Under his leadership, NT hired Grant McCasland which led to an NCAA Tourney win, and three straight versions of league championships. This week Seth Littrell’s North Texas Football Program will try to win their first CUSA title.

His primary successes have been in getting the books straightened out, trimming fat, and improving operations in the program. It moved from a mom-and-pop kind of thing to a modern operation. He has raised money, and set out a vision for NT Athletics and more importantly: raised funds for it.

There has been speculation that Baker had been looking for the next step in recent years. SI reported he had turned down other P5 offers, and a little butterfly tells me he turned down one school over salary requirements.

In 2018, he staged a post-game wrestling match and made sure to get NBA halftime legend Red Panda to NT basketball games. He has been instrumental in reigniting the student section at NT basketball games (Mean Green Maniacs) and that has been great for helping to establish a culture.

Baker arrived when NT hoops was down, and waiting out Tony Bedford’s contract instead of firing him. It was prudent and patient. He hired McCasland away from Arkansas State and enjoyed lots of success immediately. Seth Littrell was hired by current Light The Tower NIL Collective CEO Rick Villarreal — rumors are that it was actually President Neal Smastresk’s hire, but with a rubber stamp by RV — but the two Oklahomans worked well together. Seth Littrell enjoyed a good start to his tenure at NT and received a few extensions and bonuses. The last few years have been more fallow, but NT has been good enough to earn a chance at a league title on Friday.

The six-year relationship has been a good one. Wren Baker raised his profile at North Texas tremendously, and was always going to move on to a bigger opportunity. He left NT Athletics better than he found it, and while there are quibbles and second-guesses, those can be implemented by the next person up.

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