North Texas Daily

COLUMN: Football is king in Texas: It’s time for the Mean Green to play like it

COLUMN: Football is king in Texas: It’s time for the Mean Green to play like it

COLUMN: Football is king in Texas: It’s time for the Mean Green to play like it
July 15
12:00 2021

In a time of political strife, cultural change and a pandemic, one thing remains true in the Lone Star State as fall inches closer — football is king. There is simply no denying football is the premier sport in the state. Sure, other sports like basketball and baseball are popular, but none compete with the king.

This is no different for North Texas. Although the Mean Green found success in several sports in 2020-21, football was not one of them. While men’s basketball won an NCAA tournament game, softball set a program record for wins and women’s golf won its first-ever Conference USA title, football struggled to a 4-6 record and bowl game blowout.

This presents a problem. Football is the biggest revenue-generating sport for colleges across the country. In North Texas’ case, its most well-known alum comes from the sport as well — former defensive lineman “Mean” Joe Greene. Apogee Stadium is the most prominent building to see upon entering Denton on Interstate Highway 35W. Yet, the university’s recent teams have not played up to their billing.

This is most evident when looking at results in the Safeway Bowl rivalry game North Texas plays yearly against Southern Methodist University. North Texas has won just six of its 40 matchups with SMU all-time (with the most recent victory coming in 2018). Since the game resumed its annual format in 2014, the Mean Green have dropped five-of-seven games versus SMU, all of which they lost by two or more scores. Last year’s 65-35 thrashing at home was the worst beating that the Mustangs have given North Texas in recent time. 

SMU is the Mean Green’s most hated rival and could be the key to turning around the program. Beating the Mustangs would raise morale and show light at the end of the tunnel for football. Success against SMU is imperative in making football the power it should be at North Texas.

To find sustained success, however, the Mean Green need to improve against their conference opponents, too. Only making the Conference USA title game once in 2017, North Texas has failed to find consistent C-USA success. Through the Mason Fine years the team was consistent, but not consistent enough to bring home a conference title. 

North Texas must continue to defeat lower opponents such as Rice University and the University of Texas-El Paso to establish itself against C-USA powers such as Marshall University and Florida Atlantic University. Other sports at the university have already found consistent competitiveness against these programs, yet football has not. In order to garner respect outside C-USA, football must find success within it.

Football’s struggles fall on members of the coaching staff more than anyone else. Other Mean Green coaches such as men’s basketball head coach Grant McCasland and softball head coach Rodney DeLong have found ways for their teams to gain national recognition, a feat head coach Seth Littrell and his staff have yet to achieve in more than spurts. Littrell is coming into his fifth season as the head football coach and has won half his games overall (31-31), but does not have much to show for it.

After a 4-6 campaign in 2020, football is searching for answers to help the program become more respectable. Veteran defensive coordinator Phil Bennett was hired to help a struggling defense. On offense, Littrell was able to add former North Carolina quarterback Jace Ruder to create competition for the current starter in redshirt-sophomore Austin Aune.

With the recent success of other sports at North Texas, football will need to match those performances and attempt to kick off the 2021-22 sports year with a bang. The pressure is on for the Mean Green because football is the big show across Texas and needs to be in Denton, too.

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

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Reed Smith

Reed Smith

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