North Texas interrupted the approach of winter on Monday by introducing its new football coach, a man with a message of hope that generally only spring can bring: “Why not us?”
Not even the school’s revered band, the Green Brigade, could have brightened the mood more at Apogee Stadium as VIPs of the school and city looked on for the formal introduction of Seth Littrell, who vowed greener pastures for a football program that has been mired in mediocrity for the better part of 10 years.
Littrell, picked over a pool of six to nine candidates, including TCU co-offensive coordinator Doug Meacham, was given a five-year contract to turn around a program that went 1-11 this season and 25-87 since 2005. Furthermore, no coach has won more games than they lost over their tenure at North Texas in more than 30 years.
Details of the contract were not disclosed, but athletic director Rick Villarreal indicated the pay rate is higher than the $600,000 base paid annually to Dan McCarney, who was fired after five games this season.
“I’m looking forward. To me it doesn’t matter what has happened in the past, good or bad,” Littrell said. “Each and every year is a new year. My focus right now is on this team. I’m extremely excited to get ready.
“We’re going to be relentless on the recruiting trail, and we’re going to develop our student-athletes. We’re going to put an unbelievable product on the field next fall.”
The 37-year-old Littrell is coming home, as he described it, a native of Muskogee, Okla., who wears the appearance of having decided his career path as a toddler of the Southwest plains.
He admitted that he’s more Waylon Jennings, more comfortable in jeans and boots rather than the suit, tie and dress shoes he wore on Monday.
And his preference for dinner at Villarreal’s house on Sunday: barbeque.
“I truly believe he has every attribute to go out and recruit players and motivate players and bring in the right kind of coaches,” Villarreal said. “He has an offensive style that can rack up points in a hurry, and I think that will be attractive to recruits.”
North Texas has shown glimpses of success over the years. The Mean Green, which competes in Conference USA, went to four straight bowl games in the early 2000s and won the Heart of Dallas Bowl after what many hoped was a breakthrough season in 2013.
Littrell and a staff yet to be assembled start their North Texas project behind the 8-ball on recruiting. To date, only two players have committed for February’s National Signing Day.
Littrell arrived at Denton highly recommended as one of the young bright offensive minds of the college football scene.
Littrell was the chief play caller of a highly successful spread offense at North Carolina the past two seasons after spending two years at Indiana. His offenses were among the best in the nation at both schools. The Tar Heels averaged 486.9 yards a game this season.
Among his achievements are helping lead seven teams to bowl games. He also played in two, including as a fullback and captain on Oklahoma’s national championship team in 2000.
At 25, he was hired for his first big job under Mike Leach, who tapped him to coach running backs at Texas Tech from 2005 to 2008.
“I’m forever grateful to Mike Leach,” Littrell said. “There’s not many guys who would believe in somebody and hire a young coach at a big-time university. He never blinked an eye. He taught me a lot. Offensively, he knew exactly what he wanted to do.
“And most importantly, there was no doubt in his mind. He believed, 100 percent, that we were the best on the field. And that’s something I’ve carried over to every place I’ve been.”