North Texas Daily

A hopeful Wren Baker introduced as UNT athletic director

A hopeful Wren Baker introduced as UNT athletic director

A hopeful Wren Baker introduced as UNT athletic director
August 01
14:31 2016

Clay Massey | Senior Staff Writer


As he took the podium to address a crowd of donors, staff, fans and reporters inside Apogee Stadium, new athletic director Wren Baker embraced university President Neal Smatresk. An obviously humbled Baker was soon joined by his two daughters as they rushed the podium where their father was speaking.

“For me and my family, today is a new point,” Baker said. “I can’t tell you how humbled I am to be trusted in leading the Mean Green athletic program.”

The day was a homecoming of sorts as Baker and his wife both grew up less than 150 miles from Denton, noting both he and his family love the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Baker comes to North Texas after serving as interim athletic director at the University of Missouri. Before Missouri, Baker was the deputy athletic director at the University of Memphis. Baker had a heavy hand in helping turn the Memphis football program around. He also aided in saving the program money while increasing revenue.

Former North Texas interim athletic director Hank Dickenson, who took over after Rick Villareal resigned in May, noted the similarities between North Texas and Memphis.
“I think the experience with
Memphis where the basketball program was certainly at a high level in terms of support, but the football had historically been at an up-and-down,” Dickenson said. “[It was] very similar to North Texas, peaks and valleys but not enough peaks. He was a part of a real reclamation process there.”

Baker was attracted to the North Texas job after seeing the hire of head football coach Seth Littrell, and the area the university sits in. The talent rich D-FW hotbed for all sports got Baker’s attention, and the quality of living around the university helped Baker want to seal the deal.

Above all, he noted a desire of the coaching staff and athletes to win.

“As I had discussions with the president and chairman I am confident there’s a lot of resources in place,” Baker said. “There’s just a desire to win. There’s a strong desire to win. I think we’ve got great coaches. I never had a negative impression of North Texas.”

Smatresk knew Baker was the man for the job.

“[Baker] was clearly my far and away my top choice,” Smatresk said. “I don’t think we could have gotten a better one.”

With many North Texas athletic programs picking up academic honors last school year, Baker hopes to be able to continue to that greatness while adding to the on-field honors.

“We will focus on investing in our student athletes,” Baker said. “Their experience, as well as their personal growth is critical.”

Smatresk said he feels Baker can carry on the vision he has of North Texas becoming not only tier-1 as a research university, but as a tier 1 athletic school.

“While we still have a ways to go, we have wonderful coaches, and a good promising future,” Smatresk said. “We went through a lot of ideas, and at the end of the day we found the guy that put it all together for us. We found a guy that has built athletic programs from scratch.”

Baker was announced on July 29 as the new AD and has yet to find the time to evaluate his administrative staff, but said he will do so in the coming weeks.

For now, however, Baker is focused on only one thing.

“By golly, we will win,” Baker said, joking that he had to keep his speech family friendly. “I am confident we will accomplish great things. Let’s get going.”

Featured Image: Full-Image @WrenBaker Twitter | Courtesy

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