North Texas Daily

Finances delaying addition of Mean Green baseball and men’s soccer

Finances delaying addition of Mean Green baseball and men’s soccer

Biology junior Dustin Mallory looks on, waiting for his turn to field during practice on Sept. 8. Dylan Nadwodny | Intern Photographer

Finances delaying addition of Mean Green baseball and men’s soccer
February 25
00:42 2016

Alex Lessard | Associate Sports Editor

@alexjlessard

Courtney Anderson | Staff Writer

@CPaigeA23

Of the 14 schools in Conference USA, there are 12 baseball programs and nine men’s soccer programs. Five Texas schools have made it as far as the Super Regionals of the College World Series in the past two years, and four C-USA teams made the NCAA men’s soccer tournament last season.

Yet, North Texas doesn’t have the opportunity to compete with those Division I programs in either sport. 

North Texas hasn’t always been without baseball and men’s soccer, however. In the mid-1980s, the baseball program accumulated a 54-234 record and was disbanded after just five seasons. Men’s soccer became a Division 1 program in 1976, but was disbanded in 1994 as a part of university budget cuts.

Although baseball and men’s soccer are now sport clubs administered by the Pohl Recreation Center, athletic director Rick Villarreal is open to the possibility of resurrecting both North Texas programs.

“I think there’s a lot more talent out there,” Villarreal said. “The conference itself is very strong in soccer, so I think we can be successful there. And I truly believe we can be successful in baseball.”

As sport clubs, baseball and men’s soccer receive around $5,000 each year from the university, but often have to pay the majority of equipment and travel expenses themselves. Despite this, they still compete against other top-tier schools in Texas, including Baylor University and Texas Christian University.

There are only four Division I men’s soccer programs in Texas, with Southern Methodist University being the closest to Denton. The lack of programs creates an opportunity for North Texas to take advantage of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, which is a hotbed for talent. According to soccerwire.com, 27 Major League Soccer players are Texas natives, trailing only California as the most of any state in the country.

“There are a lot of soccer players here in the D-FW area that would really want to play here,” professional sales junior and men’s soccer forward Bryan Jacinto said.

15_MensSoccerPRINTcolor5

North Texas senior midfielder Aaron Cavanagh attempts to take the ball away from a UTD player on Oct. 3. Colin Mitchell | Staff Photographer

Meanwhile, the baseball club has improved in each of its last three seasons, increasing from 2-13 in 2013 to 11-7 last year as a member of the Gulf Coast North conference in the National Club Baseball Association. The conference includes SMU, Baylor and Texas Tech University.

“It’s great that they give club sports like this the opportunity to still play here and make it as official as they can,” criminal justice junior and baseball club president Ben Salter said.

But when recruiting future talent, Salter said some players are discouraged that the club is not an official Division I sport and choose to attend a different university.

“They’d pay to come play here. That’s how big of a market it is,” Salter said. “But I get it, there’s some budgets you got to meet, and there’s a lot that goes into starting up a program, especially when we’re trying to rebuild a football program.”

Villarreal said the school has been looking to add baseball to the fold for at least three years, but other expenses have delayed the process. Apogee Stadium, which opened in 2011, cost $78 million to build, and newly hired football head coach Seth Littrell signed a five-year contract worth $3.625 million in December.

Due to the size of its roster compared to other sports, football requires the most funding while also generating the most revenue for the university. Football has 85 student athletes on scholarship each season, compelling North Texas to add additional women’s sports to meet the NCAA’s Title XI requirements. Title XI doesn’t necessarily mean each men’s sport needs a women’s equivalent, but only that each gender gets equal athletic opportunities.

As a result, there are seven women’s teams, three men’s and two co-ed teams at North Texas. Adding baseball to that list is a top priority, but Villarreal said he wouldn’t want to take away from any already established programs.

“We have continued to raise more and more money, and we have continued to send more corporate sponsorships,” Villarreal said. “But in order to put a baseball team and soccer team into place, and then add the equivalent number of women’s sports, it would be a pretty big financial undertaking.”

Right now, Villarreal’s focus is to improve on what the school already has. Further renovations of the Super Pit and Mean Green Village are in the works, and the process of getting enough funding to begin building a baseball stadium is still unfolding.

With upsets over the University of Oklahoma this season by women’s basketball and tennis, and two victories over Baylor by the softball team last weekend, Villarreal believes accomplishing the goal of being competitive on a national level in all Mean Green sports is possible.

However, getting a baseball program restarted will continue to be at the top of Villarreal’s to-do list.

“It’ll be a continuing discussion,” Villarreal said. “Hopefully, at some point, it will become one that is something that happens here, because I think it can be great.”

Featured Image: Biology junior Dustin Mallory looks on, waiting for his turn to field during practice on Sept. 8. Dylan Nadwodny | Intern Photographer

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