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The North Texas Mean Green football team represents the University of North Texas in the sport of American football. The Mean Green compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA). After competing in the Sun Belt Conference between 2001 and 2012, the Mean Green joined Conference USA on July 1, 2013. The team has attained several conference championships, including four consecutive Sun Belt Conference championships. Since Hall of Fame Coach Hayden Fry left after the 1978 season, the team's winning percentage has trended downward. From 2005 to 2012, the team went 22-71, a 24% winning percentage.
Though coach Hayden Fry left the school in 1978 with a 9-3 season, he also left it with a mounting athletics debt, and the team was subsequently demoted to Division I-AA status by the NCAA. In 1982, the university recognized that the athletics program had a deficit of $1.6 million and voted to join the Southland Conference. The program experienced little success in subsequent years, but in 1995, a coordinated campaign by donors to purchase large blocks of seats at Fouts Field spiked the average attendance enough for the school to enter Division I-A once again in 1995.
After the school joined the Sun Belt Conference in 2001, Darrell Dickey briefly revived fortunes in Denton, winning four straight conference championships. The Mean Green played in the 2001 New Orleans Bowl despite a regular-season finish at 5-6 after winning the Sun Belt title with a 5-1 conference record. After going 2-9 and 3-9 in his eighth and ninth seasons, the athletic department fired Dickey on November 8, 2006.
The school then hired Todd Dodge, who had been offensive coordinator at UNT from 1991-1992, on December 12, 2006. Dodge had been one of the nation's most successful high school football coaches, amassing a 98-11 record overall at Carroll High School in Southlake, Texas, including a 79-1 record over his last 5 years. His teams at UNT struggled to win, however, compiling a 6-37 record overall and a 3-23 record in conference play. After a 1-6 start to the 2010 season, the school fired Dodge. He was replaced by offensive coordinator Mike Canales as interim head coach. In 2011, the university hired Dan McCarney as head coach. McCarney was the head coach at Iowa State from 1995 through 2006; he then served as defensive line coach for both the University of South Florida and the University of Florida just prior to his hiring at North Texas.
On May 4, 2012, the school held a press conference announcing that it had accepted an invitation to join Conference USA beginning with the 2013-2014 season. Florida International University, Louisiana Tech University, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and the University of Texas at San Antonio will begin play in Conference USA in 2013 as well, bringing the conference to 13 members.