UNT, Dallas Cowboys partnership could end up costing more than $7.5 million

The Dallas Cowboys may have no bigger fans than Mean Green nation.

With every home game, with every win, the premier football franchise and its magical season bring more support and attention to the team’s exclusive new higher education partner — the University of North Texas.

“Obviously we are all rooting for the Cowboys to go all the way this year,” said Neal Smatresk, president of UNT.

Earlier this year, UNT officials signed a contract to pay $1.725 million over the next year and a half, and as much as $7.5 million over the next eight years, to be a “proud partner of the Dallas Cowboys.”

Through this agreement, the university gains marketing and exposure on a nationwide level, as UNT is promoted everywhere from the Dallas Cowboys website and stadium to the team’s radio and TV shows on game day.

It couldn’t have come at a better time for the university than now, as the Cowboys hold the best record in the NFL and rookie quarterback Dak Prescott has led the team to eight consecutive wins.

Officials say the goal of the partnership is not just to boost awareness of UNT, but also to bring students unique academic and athletic job opportunities with the world-renowned team.

“We are like the biggest university people have never heard of,” Smatresk said. “We clearly have to change that.

“And this is one of the ways we are going to do that.”

UNT made the first payment of $425,000 for the sponsorship agreement and is gearing up for the second payment, which is due Dec. 1.


UNT and the Cowboys agreed to team up earlier this year, but declined to release copies of the contract sealing the deal. The Star-Telegram received a copy of the contract more than two months after filing a Freedom of Information request for the document.

The initial contract between UNT and Frisco Management LP runs through mid-2018, but can be renewed through 2024.

Here’s a look at some of the partnership details:

▪ UNT, which now has the exclusive use of the “proud partner of the Dallas Cowboys” title, will have one appearance by a Dallas Cowboys key executive for at least two hours during four separate events each year.

▪ UNT and the Cowboys will develop an Academic Learning and Internship Program in which university and team officials work with students in areas likely ranging from broadcast journalism and hospitality to digital retailing and sports medicine. Students, particularly those at UNT’s New College at Frisco, will hear from Cowboys speakers and receive tours of the team headquarters at The Ford Center at the Star in Frisco as well as at AT&T Stadium, where the team plays games in Arlington.

▪ UNT may host up to 25 guests in the luxury practice suite at the Dallas Cowboys training facility and executive offices for one event each year. That annual event, which includes food and non-alcoholic beverages, will include a tour of the Cowboys training facility and executive offices.

▪ The college is mentioned on the Jason Garrett show and Vaqueros de Dallas, as well as in radio commercials and on billboards during and after each Cowboys game. Ads are in English and Spanish. UNT also receives a full-page ad in each Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine Game Day publication.

▪ UNT will be advertised on LED banner boards, marquee signs and more at the Star and the stadium.

▪ The college becomes the first-down brand for a quarter of every pre-season game the Cowboys broadcast.

▪ UNT receives four club seat tickets and three club parking passes to each pre- and regular season home game, but must buy these tickets for any post season games played in Arlington.

“This is something we are excited about on many levels,” said Rich Dalrymple, the Cowboys spokesman. “We are proud to have an association with a great university that has had a significant impact on our region for more than 125 years.

“This is an opportunity to align our organization with college students who are eager to learn and grow in many of the areas that a professional sports team can offer.”


UNT officials have long stressed that no tuition or state money will be involved in this partnership.

“We have any number of non-state dollars we collect and non-tuition dollars, which come from various services and contracts the university participates in,” Smatresk said. “This is the money that is loosely available for investments.”

UNT’s first payment of $425,000 was paid Aug. 1. The second payment in the same amount is due Dec. 1, according to the contract.

After that, two payments of $218,875 are due in 2017 and two are due in the first half of 2018, according to the contract.

The contract may be renewed after that, which would lead to four payments a year ranging from $225,441.25 to $253,736.25 through the years, potentially until 2024, the contract shows.

If the contract was renewed through 2024, UNT would pay the Cowboys more than $7.5 million.

Smatresk said it’s too early to know yet if student enrollment has gone up yet because of this partnership.

But alumni excitement and donor activity certainly has.

“We are getting terrific comments from alumni and donors, who say, ‘Wow, we feel like the university is really moving,’ ” Smatresk said. “The number of calls we got because of the down markers that said UNT on them … was phenomenal.”

The UNT System has four campuses: UNT in Denton, UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth, UNT in Dallas and the UNT College of Law in Dallas.

‘More than our money’s worth’

Cowboys officials say the partnership should bring long-term dividends throughout the community.

“Our location at The Star provides a convenient proximity to the UNT campus in Denton and the University’s classrooms and educational programs in Frisco,” Dalrymple said.

“Many of the Frisco ISD students who will use the Ford Center in years to come will be drawn to continuing their education at UNT so this was a natural fit, and one that we know will be productive for so many.”

As for UNT, Smatresk said the partnership will evolve and grow through the years.

And he believes it is worth every dime.

“We feel we are getting more than our money’s worth,” he said. “They are great partners and we are really proud of the fact that we are the institution they’ve selected.”

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley