North Texas athletic director, Rick Villarreal, announced that he will be stepping down from his position this morning. Villarreal has been the athletic director of the Mean Green for over 14 years and contributed consistently to the expansion of North Texas athletic facilities and fundraising.
In the past few seasons, Villarreal has come under great scrutiny from fans due to low attendance and poor athletic performances. Specifically, a great deal of the scrutiny has fallen on the performances and management of the football, men's basketball and women's basketball programs. This past seasons, fans paid for a "Fire Rick Villarreal" banner to fly over campus to express their feelings on his performance. Although Villarreal can't fully control what happens on the fields or court each game, fans have blamed his coaching hires as the reason why programs struggle.
The history of Villarreal coaching hires has included former head football coach, Todd Dodge, who finished his career at North Texas with a 6-37 record. Current men's basketball coach, Tony Benford, has yet to complete a winning season in his four seasons at North Texas. The most recent successful North Texas football season was coached by head coach, Dan McCarney, in 2013. However, McCarney only posted a 22-32 record in his five seasons with the Mean Green.
The Villarreal decision comes just months after the conclusion of a 1-11 season by the Mean Green, during which head coach Dan McCarney was relived of duties and eventually replaced by new coach Seth Littrell. North Texas football only averaged 13,631 in attendance per game during the disappointing season, a drop of 29 percent from the previous season. The timing might be perfect, in terms of football, to turn the program around with an athletic director and a head coach that hopefully have similar views.
Although Villarreal was heavily criticized, his time at North Texas was not completely unsuccessful. Sports such as women's soccer and men's golf enjoyed great success during his tenure. North Texas also took the jump from the Sun Belt to Conference USA under the direction of Villarreal. His ability to fund raise led to the addition of Apogee Stadium, which currently continues to be one of the best facilities in the conference. However, those feats were overshadowed in the end by a lack of excitement and success in the past few years.
North Texas will begin to look for their new athletic director and hopefully energize a fan base that desperately needs a jolt.