Welcome to C-USA: North Texas

North Texas looks for a revival in its football program in Conference USA and to further its success on the hardwood.

While spending last summer in Denton, TX, one thing was made clear to me quickly – I was in a college town. Surely enough, the University of North Texas resides in the heart of the relatively small, but well-populated Denton, which is located just north of its new conference's headquarters in Irving, TX.

During their thirteen-year history in the Sunbelt Conference, the Mean Green made large contributions to the league, and appear to have all of the tools to continue doing so in Conference USA. But despite playing in four separate bowl games and two NCAA basketball tournaments since 2001, UNT is generally swept under the rug at the expense of nearby Texan college football powerhouses.

What they're known for

Yes, UNT is obviously in Texas, where people love their guns and football similar to the way North Carolinians value basketball and barbeque. Though, unlike most of the schools in the state, football hasn't been the breadwinner at UNT recently.

Rather, the school has built quite the basketball program that could fit in nicely in C-USA's new footprint. The Mean Green enjoyed winning seasons in six of their last seven campaigns. In five of them, they amassed at least 20 wins – including in 2010, which was the last time UNT won the conference tournament and subsequently received a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

To put this in perspective, East Carolina's magical 2012-2013 season was the first time the program reached the 20-win plateau since joining Division I.

One week ago, UNT power forward Tony Mitchell was selected in the second round (37th overall) in the NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons. He is the highest draft pick in school history and the first since 1984.

What about football?

The Mean Green hasn't had a winning season in nine years, including a dreadful four-year stretch (2007-2010) that only produced eight wins.

In 2011, UNT hired Dan McCarney as its head coach and opened the brand new Apogee Stadium. Annually, the school schedules a top-five nationally-ranked opponent – usually in SEC – and is sacrificed to the lambs so to speak. In the last five seasons, the Mean Green faced both Alabama and LSU twice and will travel to Athens this fall to play Georgia.

McCarney enters his third season at the helm and returns 17 starters in his first year in C-USA. As a member of the West division, UNT's first league game will be at Tulane on Oct. 5.

Notable Alumni

If you're curious why UNT's nickname is the Mean Green, look no further than arguably the school's most famous alum. You guessed it, Pittsburgh Steelers hall of fame defensive lineman "Mean Joe" Greene. During Greene's sophomore season (1966), the fans and media associated the nickname with the team's stifling defense that ranked second in rush defense.

Greene was a consensus All-American in 1968 and in the following spring, the Steelers took him with the fourth overall pick in the NFL Draft. Greene became the anchor of the legendary "Steel Curtain" defense that helped bring four Super Bowls to Pittsburgh and was named the NFL's defensive player of the year twice in 1972 and 1974.

Another one of UNT's most recognizable alumni was a UNT football player as well, but made his mark in another sport (well, sort of). Steven James Anderson played for the Mean Green on scholarship and once out of school, became a worldwide phenomenon in wrestling circles as "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.

During his career, Austin got into many verbal battles with WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon, whom is an ECU graduate.

Now that UNT and ECU are in the same conference, battles between these schools will occur more often. Hopefully, just on the field, though.

Background

UNT is a public university that consists of about 29,000 undergraduates. The school's only national titles in athletics were in men's golf. The team won four consecutive championships from 1949-1952.

The Mean Green's mascot is an eagle named "Scrappy."


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