John Hoover

Sporting News: How ‘godsend’ Mason Fine has helped resurrect North Texas’ football program — and restored civic pride

Sporting News: How ‘godsend’ Mason Fine has helped resurrect North Texas’ football program — and restored civic pride

DENTON, Texas — Full cost-of-attendance for out-of-state students at the University of North Texas runs about $36,000 a year.

Mean Green quarterback Mason Fine has repaid the school for his scholarship several times over — even if it was the only scholarship offer he got.

In 2015, when Fine was a record-setting high school quarterback at Locust Grove, Okla., North Texas averaged just 13,631 fans per home game. A total of 68,155 went through the turnstiles that year. In 2018, when Fine was winning his second consecutive Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year award, UNT brought in 23,355 fans per game, a total of 140,131 and a 71 percent increase in ticket sales.

HOOVER: Mason Fine, once unwanted, now unstoppable at UNT

“For a long time, I think everybody looked at North Texas from the outside and said, ‘That’s a place that ought to be pretty good: great location, 40,000 students, a rapidly growing area of the country,’” UNT athletic director Wren Baker recently told Sporting News. “And Mason has been a key part in helping turn the program around, which in turn has had a huge influence on the university. Record-setting donations, not only in athletics but at the institution, (and) freshman enrollment is up like 15 percent this year.

“Is he solely responsible for that? No. But has he played a big part in probably the No. 1 marketing tool of the university’s success? Yeah, he’s had a huge impact.”

When Fine was a freshman way back in 2016, the school created a social media hashtag: #NewDenton.

New Denton indeed: Next week, the football program will open its indoor practice facility, which cost $16 million. In January, a brand new track and soccer stadium was christened — part of a master plan called Light the Tower, which will add a new basketball arena, a new softball stadium, a new indoor tennis facility and a new natatorium over the next 20 years. UNT also hopes to add the sport of baseball, and a new baseball stadium, of course.

That’s quite a change from when Fine and coach Seth Littrell arrived for the 2016 season. North Texas came off an 1-11 season in 2015. For the final home game, a 20-17 loss to UTEP — UNT’s leading passer that day went 7 of 15 for 48 yards — only 8,305 fans showed up. Now there’s that many fans tailgating in the Blue Lot three hours before kickoff.

“It was a little different then, no question,” Baker said. “I mean, everything. The demand on parking, the demand on tickets, the concessions — it’s a multiplier.”

To read the rest of John E. Hoover’s report at Sporting News, click here:

 

John Hoover
@JohnEHoover

John Hoover wrote for the Tulsa World for 24 years before joining The Franchise, where he was co-host of "Further Review" and "The Franchise Drive." Now he's The Franchise college football insider: Oklahoma's state Heisman rep, a voter in the FWAA Super 16 poll, an FWAA media access liaison, and a Big 12 writer at Sporting News and Lindy's preseason magazine. In his time at the World, Hoover won numerous writing and reporting awards, including in 2011 National Beat Writer of the Year from the Associated Press Sports Editors for his work covering the Oklahoma Sooners. From 2012 to 2016, Hoover was the World's lead sports columnist and won national awards in 2012 and 2014 from the National Athletic Trainers Association for reporting on sports medicine and in 2015 won first place in sports columns from the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists. After receiving a journalism degree from East Central University, Hoover worked at newspapers in Ada, Okmulgee, Tahlequah and Waynesville, Mo. He played football at Ada High School and grew up in North Pole, Alaska. Hoover and his family live in Broken Arrow.

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