Standing on a concrete patio outside his new $9.7 million athletics center, University of North Texas Athletics Director Rick Villarreal gazes south and sees a bright future – a 50,000-seat football stadium that he hopes will soon sprout from the gently rolling former fairway and propel the Mean Green into the ranks of the nation’s elite teams.
“From the president to the board of regents, they’ve all made it very clear that there’s no reason we can’t have a nationally competitive program,” he said.
No reason except money, that is. On a hot July day, the new athletics center, situated across Interstate 35 from the main campus north of Dallas, still had bare walls and an empty foyer. After moving in, the sports department ran out of money to add its decorations and trophy cases.
Like the University of Texas Longhorns, the Mean Green play in Division I-A with the NCAA’s most competitive teams. Like UT, North Texas has high hopes for its football team. Both have powerhouse Oklahoma University on their schedules this year.
The similarities end there.
UT’s athletics budget is $107 million this year. UNT’s is $15 million. The Longhorns spend about $210,000 per student-athlete; the Mean Green, less than $40,000. UT’s athletics department employs 260 – six times the size of UNT’s.
The teams’ financial statements also have very different bottom lines. UT is one of the most profitable programs in the country; North Texas is one of the least.