Year one of the Seth Littrell era would have been successful even without a bowl game

Year one of the Seth Littrell era would have been successful even without a bowl game

I am faced with a conundrum.

At the beginning of the season, I upset quite a few people by saying North Texas football would only be slightly better this year.

So I made a deal.

Here I sit at the end of November after 12 football games were played, and I find myself in a situation where I was both right and wrong. North Texas will more than likely make a bowl game, but the Mean Green did not qualify for one based on their record.

Instead, North Texas will probably go bowling thanks to their Academic Progress Rate, which is 10th in the country at 984. While there are nine schools with better scores, eight of them already have the six wins necessary for bowl eligibility, so APR is irrelevant.

Officially recognized in 2004, APR measures eligibility and retention of student-athletes. According to the NCAA, each student-athlete receiving athletic related financial aid earns one point for staying in school and one point for being academically eligible. A team’s points are then divided by the total they could have received and multiplied by 1,000 to get APR.

Essentially, the Mean Green can thank their grades for an opportunity to take home a bowl title for only the second time in 10 years.

If you think about it, it’s kind of funny. Seth Littrell posted five wins but had to be helped out by the grades North Texas earned under former head coach Dan McCarney. Oh, irony.

Junior running back Willy Ivery celebrates after scoring late against Southern Miss. Colin Mitchell

Junior running back Willy Ivery celebrates after scoring late against Southern Miss. Colin Mitchell

So, am I sorry for saying the Mean Green would not be incredible this year? No.

North Texas technically did not qualify for a bowl game and will be considered alternates if they are given an invitation on Sunday when the participants are announced. An asterisk is already donned by their name on the numerous bowl projections that have been released.

Don’t get it twisted, though. I like APR.

I think it’s fitting the NCAA rounds out its bowl schedule with teams that didn’t quite hit the .500 plateau because that is the reason we’re all here at college – to get an education. North Texas athletics has a history of being great at academics, so it is pretty cool to see that paying off.

The Mean Green should be rewarded with a bowl game for what was, in relation to their 2015 campaign, a remarkable season.

To go from one win last year to bowling the next is almost the ultimate turnaround, even if you had to limp in (almost literally) on APR. North Texas improved, and that is the most important thing. A foundation was laid in Littrell’s first year, and the Mean Green are set up for success in the future.

North Texas cut opponent scoring by 100 points while scoring over 100 more points than last year’s team. A young defense that got better as the year went by will return eight key contributors next season.

The offense will still have its engine in freshman quarterback Mason Fine and junior running back Jeffery Wilson, who was on pace to have a 1,000-yard season before knee surgery sidelined him for a couple of weeks.

Littrell had an iconic win at Army and won three games in Conference USA play. He had a successful season, even if the Mean Green would not have made it into a bowl game, which on paper they should not have.

Littrell promised New Denton, and he delivered, laying the groundwork for the future. That is the most important part of year one.

But you know what else is also important?

Me being right – and I was. I told you they would go 5-7, and I told you they would not be spectacular. So I’ll bask in that glory momentarily before getting ready to cover this team in postseason play.

See you when North Texas goes bowling.

Featured Image: Head coach Seth Littrell talks with a referee during the Southern Mississippi game after a penalty was called on North Texas. Colin Mitchell

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