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Exclusive: Rick Villarreal discusses resignation as UNT athletic director

Exclusive: Rick Villarreal discusses resignation as UNT athletic director

UNT athletic director, Rick Villarreal. File Photo

Exclusive: Rick Villarreal discusses resignation as UNT athletic director
May 23
11:57 2016

Scott Sidway | News & Sports Editor

@ScottyWK

Editor’s Note: For the original story, click here.

From your point of view, what played into the decision to step down?

RV: I think a lot of things. The time I’ve been here and the amount of things we’ve done, all those were great. But at the end of the day, you have to do everything, and we struggled in football, we struggled in basketball, and those are the sports we have to win. Somebody’s held accountable for that, and I think that along with the fact I had been contemplating how much longer I was going to do this. With conversations between the president and myself, we came to this decision and felt like it was best.

You mentioned to me off the record awhile back you had considered retiring sometime in the next couple of years. Is this sooner than you were planning, or did this feel like the right time?

RV: It just felt like the right time. I think with a new football coach coming in, with basketball in a situation where there may have to be a decision made, and then Jalie [Mitchell], I believe she’s going to be an unbelievable coach in only her second year – I think the time was right now because of all of those things. Somebody who’s going to be here for an extended time needs to step in and help Seth [Littrell] through his first season and consecutive seasons, and make those decisions that may have to be made during this year.

Is this retirement for you, or are you thinking about staying in the field and fielding offers? Or are you ready to just sit down and spend time with the family?

RV: Scott I can tell you, I don’t think I can sit around in a house, and anybody that’s been around me for any length of time knows I go 100 miles per hour. I don’t know that I can just sit around and play with the grandkids every day. I am going to do a lot of that, but I’m going to take a little bit of time off here, decompress, lose a little more weight, and get myself in good shape. Then, this may sound crazy, but I believe all of us are led somewhere to do certain things. So I’m going to take my time and kind of see what comes my way, because that’ll be what I’m supposed to do.

How long has this thought process been going on? Did you approach President Smatresk, or did he approach you? When did this become a decision in either your head or his?

RV: It was kind of a mutual decision. I had commented to him earlier about my length of time I was interested in staying, and we had another conversation about continuity in the program. So again, it was really a back-and-forth conversation, and at the end of the day, this week felt like the best decision.

At the end of the day, how much of a better position do you think you left UNT in than it was when you first arrived 15 years ago?

RV: I think if you’d ask anybody, they could answer the question for you. But the one thing that has happened, I’ve been through four and a half presidents here – four and a half administrations. So you don’t have somebody who kind of knows what things were like at this time or that time. But I can tell you, it’s night and day. From facilities, from fundraising, from academics, from the culture – I think one of the things, whether people agree with this or not, we changed the culture. When we got here, there was no pride. We were losing games left and right, and you didn’t hear a word. I think today, people take great pride, and I’m excited about that. Even when people aren’t happy with it, I get why they’re not happy with it because I wasn’t happy losing. Nobody is happy losing. But we’ve changed the culture to where people care. And hopefully, and I mean this, I hope that part of this situation is that those who have been away from the program will come back to the program, and that more and more and more people that are North Texas grads will come back and find out what we have here today and help grow this program the way it needs to grow.

UNT Athletoc director announces his retirement from current position Dec. 23, 2016.

UNT Athletic Director, Rick Villarreal, said in an emailed university news release today he was stepping down from his current position. File Photo. Reece Waddell | Senior Staff Writer

So what’s on the agenda then between now and June 20th?

RV: Just going to tie up some loose ends, make sure projects that are in process, that people will need to take over the completion of those if they’re not completed by then. To make sure that we get everybody up to date on what’s going on with so many things going on in the NCAA and those kinds of things – making sure everybody knows who’s going to take what piece of the pie to make sure we stay on track until an interim is named. And again, when the new person comes in, I want to make sure they come into the very best possible situation.

You said restoring pride back in North Texas athletics is one of your biggest accomplishments. If you have any, what would you say is your biggest regret or thing you wish you had accomplished in your 15 years at North Texas?

RV: I wish we won more games. I look around and see our facilities; I look around and see the academic progress. This past fall, we raised $6 million or so. I regret that we didn’t win more games and thereby attract more people back to the program. I’m not sure that winning solves everything, because after four straight bowl games 2001-2005, even though we were out there, we couldn’t get 10,000-12,000 to buy season tickets when we’d been to four straight bowl games. But I wish we would have won more games.

If you have one thing you could say to fans or North Texas students before you step down, what would that be?

RV: That it’s been an honor to be the athletic director here and that I poured 24 hours a day into this job. And sometimes things have been really great, and sometimes they haven’t been so good. I hope that students, fans and everybody involved will stay green, regardless of wins or losses. Regardless of who’s in what place, this is still their institution. I hope they will learn to love it in a way they will support it day in and day out.

Featured Image: New football coach Seth Littrell, middle, and athletic director Rick Villarreal dance during the UNT fight song. December 8,  2015. File Photo. Evan McAlister | Staff Photographer

 

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