Athletics Wren Baker Reflects on His First 150 Days

I apologize for not getting this out sooner but things got a little crazy surrounding athletics and so here is what I think about Wren Baker’s young tenure as Athletics Director at the University of North Texas.

North Texas Vice President and Athletics Director Wren Baker recently posted a listing of accomplishment over the Fall Semester along with an update of various projects that are currently in flight or were recently completed since he took the reins of the department in August of 2016. It’s important to know that not all these improvements are fan/alumni facing, so the concern over there not being a lot of movement is not deserving of the new Athletic Administration staff.

These are important updates that fans and alumni want and deserve. I hope Wren continues to post these types of updates on a regular basis, perhaps as often as twice a year (Winter and Summer?) as each major semester ends.

Accomplishments by North Texas Teams and Athletes

• After recording his 300th career win earlier in the fall, John Hedlund directed his women’s soccer team to its 12th conference title in his tenure.
• Only three active coaches in the NCAA have more consecutive winning seasons at the same school than John, who has 21 straight.
• We recently extended Coach Hedlund’s contract, keeping the man we affectionately call “Johnny Soccer” leading our program for years to come.
• Under first-year head coach Seth Littrell, football advanced to the ninth bowl game in program history by participating in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
• The thrilling overtime game was voted the sixth-best bowl game of this year.
• We have come to agreement on an extended contract with Coach Littrell. This contract extension was important to continue the forward progress of our football program.
• Susanna Lynch and Florian Lussy both earned all-region honors in cross country as both teams finished higher in the regional meet than their rankings going in.
• Freshmen A.J. Lawson and Ryan Woolridge have been recognized as Conference USA freshman of the week on five occasions this basketball season.
• 198 student-athletes earned a GPA of 3.0 or higher in the fall semester. That’s approximately 60% of our student-athletes.

Since this was published, A.J. Lawson was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team.

Projects Starting Up, In Flight or Recently Completed in the Athletic Department

• Athletic Facility Master Plan that will provide a facility road map for North Texas Athletics for the next 15-20 years.
Construction of a new track and field and soccer complex just south of Waranch Tennis Complex to be completed by December of 2017. We hope to release finalized design concepts very soon.
• “Fast track” design process for an indoor practice facility. Plans to be completed by May of 2017 with fundraising currently taking place.
• Athletic Center lobby renovation to better tell the story of North Texas Athletics and our rich tradition and history.
• Completion of a golf practice facility at Maridoe Golf Club.
• Revamped Lettermen’s Association to better serve and engage one of our greatest assets.
• Overhaul of athletic fundraising processes and structure. We will develop greater accountability and direction in order to meet the needs of a growing Division I program.
• Restructure of Mean Green ticket office and operations to better meet the needs of our patrons.
• Develop comprehensive year-round marketing plans for all of our teams and the 2017-18 season.
• Continue our work in building schedules that are attractive to season ticket holders, fans, current and future student-athletes.
• Finalize third-party multimedia rights deal that will provide new, guaranteed revenue to North Texas Athletics for years to come.
• Heightened focus and attention in the area of graphic design and our social/digital media platforms in order to strengthen the brand and reach of North Texas Athletics.
• Launch pilot program in late spring to address training table and nutrition needs for student-athletes. I believe this to be one of our greatest needs as we develop the talent needed to compete within Conference USA and other national peers.

What Does This Mean?

It sounds like planning for a new Track/Soccer facility is about to be finished and work to begin later this spring or summer.

Also, Wren Baker and some other members of the Athletics Staff in addition to Head Football Coach Seth Littrell traveled to several locations to view Indoor Practice Facilities to determine what features a future IPF at the Mean Green Village at NT might contain. From the sounds of things, we could see some sort of rendering later this spring with hopefully funding being secured soon and ground being broken within the next year or so.

North Texas and SMU agreed to extend the Football series through 2021. This is a great series for both teams as the schools are about 45 minutes away from each other making travel for both fan bases (and teams) very easy.

The Golf Practice Facility was a project that started under now former Athletics Director Rick Villarreal. Prior to this project, I do not believe the Golf teams did not have a dedicated facility to house their locker rooms and practice gear.

I’m excited to see what the Athletics Facility Master Plan will look like. Hopefully we will see this published later this year; perhaps during the summer?

Stay tuned as I am sure there will be some announcements made by the Athletics Department before summer begins on some of the initiatives mentioned above by Wren Baker.