Rice football is facing four new Conference USA opponents this season thanks to conference realignment.
Two of four new foes – UTSA and Louisiana Tech – were on the Owls schedule last season as nonconference opponents. Rice met Florida Atlantic last month for the first time.
North Texas and Rice have played three times in non-conference games, with the Owls winning two of them. They square off as C-USA foes at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Denton. The Halloween game will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1.
While the x’s and o’s of the game can be dissected at another time, here’s a primer on North Texas, including the history, notable alumni, football traditions and fun facts.
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Location: Denton, Texas
Nickname: Mean Green
School Enrollment: 35,778 (fall 2012)
Previous Conference: Sun Belt
2013 Record: 5-3, 3-1 in C-USA.
Football Coach: Dan McCarney
How the school began
UNT was founded in 1890 as Texas Normal College and Teachers’ Training Institute. Joshua C. Chilton, the founding president, leased facilities above a hardware store on Denton’s square to establish a teacher training institute.
The university has gone through six name changes. The name University of North Texas began in 1988 after it was changed from North Texas State University.
To read the complete school history, go to the UNT history webpage.
Why Mean Green?
According to the university’s website, there are many spoken origins to the name Mean Green. The oldest written source comes from a 1967 Dallas Morning News article by Randy Galloway entitled “MEAN GREEN ON THE LOOSE! Defense Swallows Foes For NTSU.”
The article features defensive players; James “steals kids’ candy” Ivy, Lindy “cheats at marbles” Endsley, Joe “kicks puppies” Greene, Ret “slugs old ladies” Little, Charles “the hatchet” Beatty, Henry “tears up dolls” Holland, Bob “likes to let air out of wheel chair tires” Tucker.
The article describes that around campus, the “Mean Green” phrase originated from Sidney Graham, wife of the Eagles’ sports information director in 1966 and soon became a second nickname.
One of these players found additional fame in the NFL. “Mean” Joe Greene went on to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
As for how the Eagles nickname got started earlier…
A student petition was started in the fall of 1921 to decide on an official mascot name. A student-faculty council wanted to choose a name not used by any other major Texas school. Some of the choices debated were Dragons, Eagles, Hawks and Lions. The names were submitted to the student body in January 1922, and on Feb. 1, 1922, students voted for the Eagle.
100 years of football
The North Texas football program started in 1913 under the leadership of J. W. Pender. The team played and lost one game that season.
The university’s first football conference title came in 1932 when the Eagles won the Lone Star Conference, which launched the year before with five members. One of those members, East Texas State (now called Texas A&M–Commerce) is still a conference member today.
North Texas lasted in the LSC until 1949, picking up seven more titles in that era, and playing in the 1948 Salad Bowl game, where they lost to Nevada in Phoenix. It was the first of five Salad Bowls played.
The Mean Green landed in the Gulf Coast Conference with University of Houston, Midwestern University (now Midwestern State University) and Trinity University for about a decade, before moving to the more established Missouri Valley, starting a 17-year run that included 6 conference championships.
The last of those Valley titles was won by a coach by the name of Hayden Fry. The legendary coach went 40–23–3 record over six seasons from 1973–1978 before departing for Iowa.
North Texas was so-so in the 1980s and 1990s but coach Darrell Dickey got things turned around this centry. In 2001, North Texas won the Sun Belt and played in the New Orleans Bowl, only the third bowl trip in school history. The Mean Green went back to the New Orleans Bowl the next three years, beating Cincinnati in 2002 for the only bowl win in school history.
The university opened Apogee Stadium in 2011, the year current coach Dan McCarney took over as coach. North Texas joined the C-USA this season and won its first conference game earlier this month against Middle Tennessee State. They have since beat conference foes Louisiana Tech and Southern Mississippi.
Mean Green in the Pros
- “Mean” Joe Green, NFL Hall of Fame defensive tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers
- Brian Waters, NFL offensive guard for the Dallas Cowboys, who has been to six Pro Bowls. It was announced today he will miss the rest of the regular season with a triceps injury.
- Bill Schmidt, bronze medalist in the javelin at the 1972 Olympics
- Sandra Palmer, LPGA Player of the Year in 1975
- Tony Mitchell, rookie for the Detroit Pistons after being drafted 37th in the 2013 NBA Draft
- Lance Dunbar, running back for the Dallas Cowboys since 2012.
- Craig Robertson, linebacker for the Cleveland Browns since 2012.
Other North Texas alumni you may know
- Norah Jones, nine-time Grammy Award-winning vocalist and songwriter
- Dr. Phil McGraw, well-known television personality, self-help expert
- Norm Miller, chairman of Interstate Batteries
- Don Henley, founding member of the Eagles
- Larry McMurtry, Pulitzer Prize winning atuthor of “Lonesome Dove,” “The Last Picture Show,” and “Terms of Endearment.”
- Lorraine Miller, interim president and CEO of the NAACP
4 more Fun Facts about North Texas
- The first jazz studies program in the U.S. started at North Texas
- UNT has its own Eagle hand sign. Hold up your fist, make a “V” for Victory using your pointer and middle fingers, then extend your thumb and curl your fingers slightly towards your palm.
- UNT’s only win over Rice was 33-17 in 1998 at Rice Stadium.
- The first and only Ph.D. program in art education in Texas is at North Texas