North Texas Daily

It’s time for North Texas to fire Tony Benford

It’s time for North Texas to fire Tony Benford

Head Coach Tony Benford walks back to the bench following a timeout to MTSU. Colin Mitchell

It’s time for North Texas to fire Tony Benford
January 18
13:19 2017

Some of us have had relationships that carry on far too long.

Whether it’s the doomed high school romance that drags on until graduation, or the college courtship you think will last but ends in heartbreak, it’s a familiar feeling.

Something similar is happening with the North Texas men’s basketball program.

For five years, head coach Tony Benford has been in a relationship with UNT. It has endured one athletic director, with former A.D. Rick Villarreal resigning last May, and one university president, with Veldon Rawlins retiring in 2014. Now, with a new athletic director in Wren Baker, the pressure to win and right the ship is at an all-time high. But that isn’t happening.

With the Mean Green sitting at 6-11, 0-5 and on a six-game losing streak, it’s time for, like most failed relationships, to come to an end.

It is time to fire Tony Benford.

Yes, I know he’s in the fifth and final year of his contract and a buyout isn’t an ideal. This isn’t about the money. This is about getting the basketball program back on track as quickly as possible.

It’s not all Benford’s fault. Some things were out of Benford’s control, like injuries and the recruiting budget. Yet much like marriages that end in divorce, both parties are to blame for a tumultuous tenure that has resulted in only one conference tournament victory since 2012.

In a report issued by Dallas-Fort Worth consultants Trip Kuehne and Michael Sicuro in September, it was revealed North Texas has the lowest recruiting budget in C-USA. The Mean Green are also second to last in total scholarship expenditures in the conference.

Benford cannot control that. He also cannot keep players from getting banged up.

Especially this season, the Mean Green have dealt with a bevy of blows to key players. Junior forward Jeremy Combs, who was named to the preseason all-C-USA team, is still recovering from the lingering effects of offseason ankle surgery.

McDonald’s All-American and SMU transfer Keith Frazier has been sidelined as well with knee soreness, and has contributed minimally in his limited time in a North Texas uniform. Even last year, the Mean Green dealt with injuries that hurt them down the stretch.

Those are the things out of Benford’s hands.

What Benford can control, however, is wins and losses and the culture of the program.

Since he arrived in 2012, none of Benford’s teams have finished above .500. The best any squad did was 2013, when the Mean Green won their only conference tournament game of the Benford era and finished 16-16.

Benford’s overall record at North Texas is 60-84. That’s a win percentage of .417. Worse, Benford’s teams are 12-45 on the road and 28-49 in conference play.  If you’re keeping score at home, those are win percentages of .211 and .364, respectively.

Head basketball coach Tony Benford gives directions during a game against FIU last season. Colin Mitchell

This year, North Texas’ offense has floundered. Despite 80 percent of their scoring returning in 2016, the Mean Green’s offensive production has dipped from 74.6 points to 67.2 points per game. That’s a 7.4-point difference, which gives North Texas the illustrious honor of being the 297th-ranked offense in Division I. Teams with a better offense than the Mean Green? Sacramento State and the University of Maryland – Eastern Shore.

For a team with a McDonald’s All-American and preseason all-C-USA selection, that isn’t exactly preferred company.

Not only has the offense deteriorated, but Benford also cannot win the games that matter, especially in conference play.

As far as culture goes, Benford says all the right things. He talks about his players going to class, being role models and getting their degrees. For the most part, Benford and his players have delivered in the classroom.

Unfortunately, the aura of the team doesn’t back up the culture of a winning program. Too many times after huge losses I’ve seen players walk into press conferences and out of the arena laughing and joking around. Before games, some – not all – don’t seem 100 percent focused.

That is not a recipe for winning basketball.

As a result, fans aren’t showing up to games, which hurts the bottom line.

The Mean Green are 10th among 14 teams in C-USA in revenue, according to the report issued by Kuehne and Sicuro. The average attendance this season through 11 games is 1,834. With a six-game losing skid in hand, North Texas is tied for dead last in the C-USA standings at the midway point of the season.

It’s time for Benford to move on. And it’s time for Baker to show him the door.

Benford is a good man with good intentions. He has acted like a father figure for many players in the program and those who have left.

But sometimes things just don’t work out.

In sports, especially at the collegiate level, you are judged on your ability to put wins in the win column and trophies in the showcase. It just hasn’t happened for Benford.

It’s time to break up.

Featured Image: Head Coach Tony Benford walks back to the bench following a timeout to MTSU. Colin Mitchell

About Author

Reece Waddell

Reece Waddell

Reece Waddell was the Editor-in-Chief of the North Texas Daily from May 2017 to December 2017. He previously served as the Sports Editor and Senior Sports Writer. Reece also worked at The Dallas Morning News and WFAA-TV.

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1 Comment

  1. godevils4life
    godevils4life January 18, 15:03

    Benford is complete trash. So is Evans. They could not coach a 8 year old’s girls team. I guarantee the race card gets pulled when he gets canned. That’s just the type of guys Benford and Evans are. They see themselves as victims and everyone else is out to get them. They are pure garbage. Only ever thought of themselves and never lifted a finger to help anyone. This firing will be 4 years late.

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