North Texas Daily

Athletics department hosts Signing Day Meet and Greet for fans

Athletics department hosts Signing Day Meet and Greet for fans

February 04
05:02 2016

Reece Waddell | Senior Staff Writer

@ReeceTapout15

Courtney Anderson | Staff Writer

@CPaigeA23

Cookies, drinks and bags of green and white balloons filled the third floor HUB Club at Apogee Stadium Wednesday night, with flat-screen TVs scattered across the venue looping highlights of the 19 new North Texas signees.

The North Texas athletics department hosted a Signing Day Meet and Greet, open to all Mean Green fans, for supporters to forget about last year’s dismal 1-11 season and look ahead to the future. Hundreds of North Texas alumni and fans mingled and chatted about all things UNT football, with free appetizers and a cash bar accompanying them.

This was an event designed for fans to interact with head coach Seth Littrell and his new coaching staff. Even UNT president Neal Smatresk stopped by to offer his support.

“I look at this coach and I see the next UNT dynasty,” Smatresk said. “I see a team that’s going to do great things. I see a new energy and a new attitude.”

But the event was not only designed for fan interaction. Fundraising was also an important part of the planning and thought process that went into making the occasion possible.

“[We wanted to] get early ticket sales, to be honest with you,” deputy athletic director Hank Dickenson said. “We wanted to get people fired up and want them to know we’re selling tickets now.”

With this past football season showing record-low attendance at home games, there is a strong push for fans to back the football program. Long-time donor and the man UNT’s softball field is named after, Don Lovelace, had only positive words for what he believes will be the turnaround for North Texas football.

“I think we’re going to be a consistent winner and put a team on the field where we as fans can be very proud of,” Lovelace said. “The more we win, the more fans will come. So I’m very confident in the future of this program.”

The outpouring of support for the team and its new head coach was apparent, with several donors and alumni expressing their encouragement for the future of North Texas football. One season ticket holder, UNT class of 2004 alum Bryan Waddle, is even renewing his Mean Green Club membership.

“The lack of urgency in general is what led me to cancel my membership, the fans and boosters not demanding more,” Waddle said. “There needs to be an expectation of winning. But I intend to renew my membership tonight for this season.”

Another Mean Green Club member, UNT class of 2004 alum Curt Garner, said he has been coming to this event every year since he’s graduated from North Texas. The level of excitement showcased at the Meet and Greet gives Garner optimism, especially considering the Mean Green’s lack of success in recent seasons.

“I really like seeing the spirit behind this program and people being enthused,” Garner said. “It’s nice to know that there are people who still have that passion for UNT football despite the last two years. To have an event of this size with a new coach, it really says a lot for the support that’s out there for the program.”

Head Coach Seth Littrell talks with students during the signing day meet and greet at Apogee Stadium. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

Head coach Seth Littrell talks with students during the signing day meet and greet at Apogee Stadium. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

The amount of people that descended upon Apogee even surprised North Texas athletic director Rick Villarreal, who saw supporters he had never seen before.

“Sometimes you don’t realize the numbers you have,” Villarreal said. “Our base is bigger than we know it is. Having an event like this with the excitement surrounding Coach Littrell, and seeing the new faces and some old faces come back is really important. It makes a statement that people believe we are in a position to take our rightful place where we ought to be.”

Before the main festivities began, Littrell introduced each assistant coach during a brief presentation, so fans could put faces to the names. Senior associate athletic director John Nitardy said it was important to give fans a face-to-face experience with the ones who will be leading the Mean Green next season.

“To have people come out and meet with these coaches and talk to these coaches one-on-one is just great,” Nitardy said. “The coaches have come in on such short notice and have been kind of running around trying to settle in. I think it’s a great opportunity.”

The next time North Texas will take the football field publically will be in April for the team’s annual spring game, followed by the team’s season opener against Southern Methodist University on Saturday, Sept. 3. Littrell said he’s looking forward to getting back to work and putting on a show for North Texas fans.

“The support I’ve seen tonight is awesome,” Littrell said. “I can’t wait for the season to start and to show everyone what this team can do.”

Featured Image: Hundreds crowd around Dave Barnett and Seth Littrell during the signing day meet and greet. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

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