North Texas Daily

Student fee aids athletic construction projects

Student fee aids athletic construction projects

September 05
11:31 2015

Torie Mosley | Staff Writer

@toriemosley

North Texas athletics has seen many changes the last few years in its pursuit to compete and thrive in the competitive state of college sports.

From leaving the Sun Belt Conference to join Conference USA two years ago to the football team winning the 2014 Heart of Dallas Bowl, North Texas has begun a quest to insert its name into the conversation with other athletic powerhouses in the state.

But with a surging athletic scene comes the need for funds to support the lofty goals..

At last Friday’s Board of Regents meeting, several proposals to raise funds for the athletic program were passed. North Texas will spend $5.5 million to upgrade Coliseum known as the Super Pit, $500,000 to begin construction on a new track, and tack on a $1 increase per semester credit hour to the student athletic fee, according to the UNT System consolidated budget.

Although the money helps the athletics program fund its operations, athletic director Rick Villarreal says North Texas athletics has a long way to go financially if it wants to match its rivals.

“We [had] a 10 dollar student fee, [where] about 4 dollars goes to pay stadium debt. So you really only get six dollars,” Villarreal said. “Schools like UTSA and Texas State that we’re trying to stay ahead of, they have 20 dollar fees. So we’re actually 10 dollars behind those programs because we’ve never had an athletic fee for a while.”

North Texas has increased its revenue by $4 million in four years and built the first budget from scratch for the UNT System since the last athletic fee in the fall of 2008. The funds helped finance construction for the opening of Apogee Stadium in 2011, replacing Fouts Field.

The new approach helps stabilize the financial needs for the athletics department.

“This style allows us not to go backwards or cut anything,” Villarreal said. “We’ve raised a lot of money to build a lot of buildings in the last six months.”

Athletics plans to build new facilities for track, golf, softball, soccer, tennis and the academic facility for student-athletes.

Construction for the new track facility will start around a year from now. Most of Fouts Field, where the team used to practice, was demolished when Apogee opened. After track gets its new home, North Texas will use the remains of Fouts as a site for new university construction.

Football head coach Dan McCarney says he speaks for all North Texas coaches and players on how grateful they feel about getting financial support from the university.

“We don’t take that lightly,” McCarney said. “Whether it’s a dollar, a hundred dollars or a thousand dollars, anything that might benefit all the student-athletes, coaches and athletic teams here all I can do is give my sincere deepest gratitude.”

Senior quarterback Andrew McNulty echoed his coach’s sentiments, saying it’s nice to have the backing and support from the university as a student-athlete.

“That’s great [that] they’re able to put more money into the system,” McNulty said. “[Athletes] here feel like we’re treated really well and we have a lot of fans that have our back and our support. We love that.”

In regards to competing with other big-name athletic programs, Villarreal said the changes to the budget should move North Texas closer in terms of respectability.

“People talk about how ‘we’re not Texas,’ I don’t want to be Texas,” Villarreal said. ” I don’t want to be LSU. I want to be the best North Texas that we can be.”

And if the university meets Villarreal’s goals, he said the Mean Green could become an even more preferred destination for future recruits.

“Everything we’re doing here at the university right now is getting people to understand more what we have here (and) what kind of place (North Texas) is,” he said. “Once they come and find out, they realize just what a great place this is.”

Featured Image: UNT Board of Regents voted last Friday to raise the student athletic fee by $1 per semester to help upgrade the Coliseum and build a new track and field stadium. Dylan Nadwodny | Intern Photographer

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