North Texas Daily

Conference USA provides greater visibility for UNT athletics

Conference USA provides greater visibility for UNT athletics

Conference USA provides greater visibility for UNT athletics
September 03
11:38 2013

Akshay Mirchandani / Staff Writer

The much-hyped move to Conference USA has officially begun for the Mean Green athletics department. The change to a new conference may bring different teams and competition, but it also brings more national exposure that UNT did not have during its 13-year tenure in the Sun Belt Conference.

“The exposure that we’re going to get on a national basis will be extraordinary,” Athletic Director Rick Villarreal said. “Not just the football team, but the ability to show our institutional sports. When we play three games on TV are shown across the country and played at Apogee, we’ll have the opportunity to show our new business leadership center. We’ll be able to show the new union that’s starting to go up.”

A contributing factor to the increased national exposure is more TV appearances for all Mean Green sports teams. The football team will be on national TV five times this season compared to three last year.

“It’s not only going to be football,” Villarreal said. “I don’t know how many basketball games we’re going to end up with this year, but in the past within the conference I think we had about 16 games, where as in Conference USA we have more like 84 games to spread among teams. Our soccer championship will be shown on TV, our tennis championship will be shown on TV. All those championships will be shown on TV.”

Senior volleyball player Courtney Windham said that while being more nationally recognized does get her and the team pumped up, they don’t need more attention to focus on winning.

“We don’t need more attention from the media in order to be excited about our games and excited about the competition we are playing because there were teams that were top 25 in the nation [in volleyball] in the Sun Belt Conference,” Windham said. “We’re still going in with the same mindset and I know I’m not thinking about the rise in media because it shouldn’t matter how we play.”

Villarreal said that because of the increased exposure and move to the C-USA, UNT should receive more respect from teams around the nation.

“We worked for a long time to go from the Big West [Conference] to the Sun Belt and having a lot of success. Last year may be the best year we’ve had athletically across the board,” Villarreal said. “It wasn’t a great one in football or basketball, but across the board, maybe as good as we’ve had in a long time, and now you’ve got the opportunity, so we’re already getting respect.”

Aside from the national exposure, another change that will come with the move to C-USA will be increased rivalries. After being the only Texas team during UNT’s entire duration in the Sun Belt Conference, UNT will have the opportunity to play other schools within the state such as Rice University, the University of Texas-El Paso and University of Texas-San Antonio.

“They are going to see a lot of teams that we have never played or seen, playing at home or away, obviously,” head soccer coach John Hedlund said. “But you’ll see some of the rivals that we’ve had over the years like when we play Rice, UTEP, or [the University of] Tulsa, so that’ll be interesting.”

The competition in C-USA will be high, but UNT will be able to compete with the other schools, Villarreal said.

“Maybe it’s tougher, but if you look around we have as good of facilities as everyone in the conference,” Villarreal said. “We have as good of coaches as anyone in the conference, overall. If you look at the size of our school, we’re the 26th largest university in the country.”

Among all the changes that the athletics department is undergoing during the shift to C-USA, Villarreal said that the most important thing is that the programs keep on course and improving like they have in recent years.

“Our job is to go out and keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Villarreal said. “I challenged our kids.”

Graphic by Nicole Arnold / Visuals Editor

Feature photo by Ryan Vance / Intern 

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