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The Consultants Would Like To Speak With You

There was a big meeting last Monday night at Apogee. The Consultants, Trip Kuehne and Michael Sicuro came to Apogee and heard the fan’s complains. They had already taken stock of the letterman the week previous. The NT Daily’s Austin Jackson did some reporting, you guys. Let’s read what he had to say.

After Kuehne addressed the crowd, UNT head football coach Seth Littrell and men’s basketball coach Tony Benford took the podium, outlining their expectations for the upcoming season and the state of their respective programs.

While understandable to have the two highest paid coaches in the department give a speechy-speech, uniting a fan base by having the most polarizing head basketball coach step up to discuss things is odd. And the Mean Green Internet has been upset about it. I’m sure Tony Benford was not too excited about the prospects either.

Littrell began his address by saying the alumni’s passion and desire to be great is mutual and later explained his irritation with the question, “Why North Texas?” Citing the facilities, student body, local recruiting hotbed, alumni, fan base and administration, Littrell posed his own question, emphatically asking, “Why not North Texas?”

The spectacular crash-and-burn at the end of Dan McCarney’s era will likely dominate our thoughts about him for sometime. Such was the sound and fury of this end. In the longest view, he did produce a lone oasis of a football season that will long be remembered by Yours Truly. The Heart of Dallas bowl is minor, and forgettable to the average college fan, but it was pretty damned great to see some winnin’ Mean Green after so many terrible years. Aside from that little tidbit, it looks like Why Not North Texas? will be added to the vocabulary. Seth Littrell is out here repeating the line, y’all.

Benford, who doesn’t have luxury of a fresh start like Littrell, explained why next season would be an improvement in men’s basketball. Benford outlined his team’s improving culture and veteran leadership, praising the team’s work ethic on and off the court. He credited his upperclassmen, specifically junior forward Jeremy Combs and senior guard J-Mychal Reese for being “culture creators” who have both helped the team’s current roster and attracted recruits.

Benford said the culture he’s established over the past four years is starting to pay dividends, saying it will “translate to wins this year.”

It is hard for me to get excited for ‘culture creators’ — however true that might be — when the culture of the program as Benford inherited it was a winning one.

“There’s some apathy out there, but give us a chance. Give the kids a chance,” Benford said. “Come watch Jeremy Combs. Come watch J-Mychal Reese. Watch the new guys, and then make a decision.”

Win some games Tony. That’ll clear up apathy.

Media members were then instructed to leave the premises for the fan feedback portion of the forum. Kuehne and Sicuro said removing reporters would allow the fans and alumni to feel safe expressing their opinions.

While I understand the rationale, this move came right after praising transparency. Isn’t that the role of the media though? Helping to spread information that will provide some semblance of transparency?

[Thomas] Coe said he left the meeting feeling “52 or 53 percent confident” that the meeting was evidence the university was heading in the right direction. He said a portion of his skepticism was due to the “pathetic” amount of donors present compared to the school’s alumni base, saying the turnout was evidence North Texas wasn’t ready to compete with bigger programs.

There’s academic research on donations and winning football games isn’t one of the biggest factors for producing donors. What does is essentially a combination of student experience, and disposable income. But that’s neither here nor there. /Owen Wilson voice.

This meeting with donors and alumni was a step in the right direction that served to at least temporarily quell the internet rumblings. Every organization should at least pretend to care about its fans. While the official purpose of the Athletic Department is something along the lines of ‘producing student athletes who are prepared for the real world etc’ you and I know that it is basically a minor-league football and basketball operation. You can’t run those things successfully without paying customers and UNT hasn’t very many because they haven’t been very good. In fact they’ve been awful.

There have long been rumblings that outgoing AD Rick Villarreal was holding back the department from reaching its potential. Now that he’s gone the work toward building up the department begins. The Consultant’s role is akin to reading the forum and producing an executive summary. I’m sure the graphics will look nice. I can’t imagine the mandate was to get a comprehensive look at the fandom, since that would require a more significant undertaking beyond holding a little get-together with 100 or so folks at a time.

The athletics department has a lot of problems — but so do the most successful ones. The most important problems facing this organization are those that prevent consistent winning. Bringing back Patrick Cobbs and making him feel special will not stop LaTech from running up the middle on our defense. Having Shannon Shorter come through more often will not make threes drop in the CUSA tournament. Those outreach efforts are great and contribute toward building an atmosphere of caring and inclusiveness, but nothing brings folks together like winning. No kids-day promotion will fill the stands like a perfect record and championship scenarios.

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