North Texas Daily

Rick Villarreal steps down as UNT athletic director

Rick Villarreal steps down as UNT athletic director

May 23
10:57 2016

Scott Sidway | News & Sports Editor


Editor’s Note: To see Villarreal’s exclusive conversation with North Texas Daily about his resignation, click here.

UNT Athletic Director Rick Villarreal will step down from his post June 20, according to a university news release. He has held the position for just over 15 years.

“UNT President Neal Smatresk and I recently have been in discussions about the future of the university’s athletic program and a transition of athletic leadership, and we have come to this mutual agreement,” Villarreal said in a statement. “With the support of dedicated staff members, I have accomplished almost everything that I imagined possible here. I am satisfied that the work we have undertaken together has placed our coaches and student athletes in a better position to succeed, both on and off the field.”

Villarreal took over as athletic director in 2001 and helped UNT make big strides athletically, including a move from the Sun Belt Conference to Conference USA in 2013. He also played a pivotal role in improvements to athletics facilities, like the construction of Apogee Stadium and the Mean Green Village.

“Rick has taken pride in helping to put our coaches and teams in the position to succeed, and he is one of the most effective community advocates in the history of our university,” Smatresk said in a statement. “But his biggest contribution of all is to the bright futures of our student-athletes. And for that, especially, Rick will always have a place in the heart of this university. We all appreciate and respect what he has accomplished.”

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

Villarreal’s most gaping hole in his resume at North Texas, however, is the lack of production in the win column in the three major-money sports: football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball.

In 107 games under head football coaches hired by Villarreal, the football team went 29-78 and endured four 10-loss seasons. His coaches also are connected to all-time lows in the program’s history, including three of the five worst totals for most points allowed in a single game.

In men’s basketball, Villarreal found success in the hire of Johnny Jones early in his tenure, but since hiring Tony Benford as head coach, the program failed to replicate that success. Since hiring Benford, the men’s basketball program has gone 54-73 and has failed to make it out of the first round of the C-USA tournament.

For women’s basketball, the program has endured eight straight losing seasons under Villarreal-hired coaches. The team did make a positive turn-around in 2015-2016. Since 2008, the program has gone 79-163 and has never finished above .500 in conference play. In two of those seasons, the team recorded five wins, and four times the team finished with 20 or more losses.

Smatresk will identify an interim athletic director and make decisions about a national search for a new one at a future date, according to the release.

“I’ve taken pride in serving as this university’s athletic director,” Villarreal said in a statement. “Even when the work was challenging, it was gratifying. I will miss being part of daily campus life, but will forever treasure memories of the experiences I’ve had at UNT.”

Featured Image: New UNT football coach Seth Littrell smiles after student body president Adam Alattry gives him a tie with official UNT tartan. File Photo. Evan McAlister | Staff Photographer

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