North Texas and SMU jointly announced Monday the two sides have extended their on-going home-and-home series with four more games.
The Mean Green and Mustangs will meet Sept. 1, 2018 in Denton, Sept. 7, 2019 in Dallas, Sept. 5, 2020 in Denton, and Sept. 11, 2021 in Dallas.
The Interstate 35 rivals meet annually from 1922 through 1942, resumed their series on a near-annual basis from 1974 through SMU 1992, and then again picked up the rivalry on an annual basis in 2014.
SMU holds a 30-5-1 all-time lead and owns a 2-game winning streak, including a 34-21 win on Sept. 3 of last season. The pair will meet Sept. 9 in Dallas.
North Texas also announced a home-and-home with Texas Tech earlier this month.
In the year prior to Seth Littrell‘s arrival in Denton, North Texas went through an abysmal one-win season. Twelve months later, they participated in the postseason. A couple of months after that, the football program’s head coach has been rewarded for the immediate turnaround.
In a press release Friday afternoon, UNT announced that the university and Littrell have reached an agreement on a new five-year deal. The school’s Board of regents has already signed off on the contract.
With the new deal, the 38-year-old Littrell is now signed through the 20121 season.
There’s no official word yet as to what financial enhancements were included as part of the new pact. Last season, his first as a head coach, Littrell was paid $815,000. That number was third among Conference USA coaches in 2016 according to USA Today‘s salary database.
“We are excited to announce this new agreement with coach Littrell,” said athletic director Wren Baker in a statement. “Under one of the brightest young coaches in the country, our football program had the second-best turnaround in the nation last season and his performance was recognized by his colleagues and media members around the nation. This new contract represents an aggressive move to keep coach Littrell, his staff, and their positive momentum intact. This is validation of the successful efforts that Seth has led in the early stages of the turnaround of North Texas football.”
While the Mean Green finished the 2016 regular season 5-7, they were one of the five-win teams to qualify for a bowl game. It was the program’s first bowl appearance since 2013 and just the second in the last dozen years.
The four-win turnaround from the previous season was the second-best at the FBS level.
North Carolina’s reported poaching of North Texas’ coaching staff is officially official.
UNC acknowledged in a press release Friday that Mike Ekeler has been hired as the Tar Heels’ new linebackers coach. Ekeler will take over the job previously held by John Papuchis, who was promoted to defensive coordinator after Gene Chizik abruptly stepped down to spend more time with his family.
“We’re thrilled to add Mike to our coaching staff,” said head coach Larry Fedora in a statement. “He’s a well-respected, energetic coach who has worked with other members of our defensive staff in the past, which will make the transition to Carolina that much easier. He’s an outstanding coach and recruiter who will be a great fit for our program. We look forward to having Mike and his wife and kids join the UNC family.”
Ekeler spent the 2016 season as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the Mean Green. Prior to joining UNT, he spent two seasons as inside linebackers coach at Georgia.
He’s also worked on coaching staffs at USC (2013), Indiana (2011-12), Nebraska (2008-10), LSU (2005-07) and Oklahoma (2003-04). At the latter two stops, Ekeler served as a graduate assistant.
With Mike Ekeler off to North Carolina, Mean Green head coach Seth Littrell has announced the hiring of Jeff Koonz as linebackers coach.
Koonz arrives from Cincinnati, where he served as co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach through last season.
In addition to Cincinnati, Koonz also owns Conference USA experience at Louisiana Tech, where he spent four seasons on staff.
“We are extremely excited to welcome Jeff to our staff,” Littrell said in a statement. “He is a young, energetic coach with a lot of quality experience at Cincinnati, around the Big 12, and in Conference USA as well from his time at Louisiana Tech. He is an excellent teacher and we look forward to immediately hitting the ground running with him this spring. Jeff comes very highly recommended from two coaches I have a great deal of respect for in Sonny Dykes and Gene Chizik.”
Koonz will be asked to help improve a defense that ranked tied for 93rd nationally in yards per play allowed and 96th in scoring defense a year ago, which, to be fair, each represented 20-plus spot improvements from the Mean Green’s 2015 finish.
A Pac-12 school’s loss could end up being a gain for one from Conference USA.
This past week, Ellis Jefferson decided to transfer from Arizona State and continue his collegiate playing career elsewhere. That elsewhere could ultimately be North Texas, with the Denton Record-Chronicle‘s Brett Vito reporting that “it appears as if Jefferson has interest in UNT.”
Jefferson went to high school in Denton, and the wide receiver’s younger brother is following in his football footsteps at the same school. Vito does add one important part of the transfer equation: “The question now is if UNT has interest in Jefferson.”
Given the talent he’d be bringing, the answer would seemingly be yes.
A three-star 2013 signee, Jefferson took a redshirt as a true freshman. The next two seasons, the 6-4, 200-pound receiver showed promise as he caught a combined 23 passes for 304 yards in 2014 and 2015. He had a pair of receiving touchdowns for good measure.
His production dropped precipitously last season as he caught just two touchdowns for 21 yards in 2016.
Jefferson would be eligible to play immediately in 2017 as a graduate transfer. The upcoming season will be the receiver’s final year of eligibility.