First Off, welcome to the AAC.
I wanted to address SMU attendance. SMU AD Rick Hart mentioned in an interview that student attendance is up to 67% of undergrads. That is a tremendous percentage, but since there are only 6k undergrads, it is hardly noticeable in a 32k seat stadium. For comparison, at 67% UNT would have 26k students in the stands for games. That is almost capacity if I remember correctly. For SMU to fill Ford, it MUST rely on a winning team, an interesting opponent, ideal weather, no major competing events, sports, church, or youth, alumni in DFW, and a good chunk of Dallas area sports fans.
We've got a base of about 20,000 that show up regularly. This game being on Thursday, televised (which works both against and for you), and against a 1-5 Tulane attendance was about what one would expect.
I started attending SMU games in the late 70s. Attended SMU in the 80s. And have followed the school all through the dark years. Even playing at Texas stadium, without the benefit of a Texas or Arkansas, and not going crazy with free tickets, SMU could count on about 20-30k for UNT, UTA. Rice and TCU, depending on their records and time of year 25k to 40k. 30k to 50k for Baylor, Houston, and Tech. Didn't bring a lot of high profile OOC opponents to Dallas, although Boston College came in '86 - 26k, and Louisville '83 - 23k - neither school at that time were considered big time opponents.
The NCAA shut the program down in 88 and SMU decided not to play only away games in 89 as the NCAA demanded. No need to regurgitate everything, but SMU endured many bad conference moves, an unfriendly administration, and some bad coach hires.
Now consider TCU - which I believe is a wonderful example of what a small private university CAN achieve. SMU and TCU are very similar in size and wealth. My very first SMU game was a game against TCU, my sister was in her first year. My family attended most home games, and sometimes TCU games in Ft Worth. From that first game until I graduated in 87, SMU never lost to TCU. Even after the DP, TCU was a team we could sometimes beat, that was until about 2000 with the hiring of Dennis Franchione and then Gary Patterson. From that point the administration was determined to build a winning program, changing conferences and leaving behind SMU, Rice, who did not seem willing to commit to build. TCU now has a 20 year head start, P5 revenue, conference championships, bowl wins, and weeks of being ranked and in the national conversation. Why wouldn't the casual football fan in Ft Worth adopt the Horned Frogs?
2003 – (11-2; 7-1 CONFERENCE USA) 36k.
2010 – (13-0; 8-0 MWC CHAMPIONS) - 43k
2014 – (12-1; 8-1 BIG 12 CHAMPIONS) - 45k - Current Capacity
Note that TCU was growing attendance in both CUSA and MWC, neither of which, outside of a handful, brought many fans to Texas. Playing in the Big 12 is obviously a game changer. As an older alum, I sure miss watching games against Baylor, Tech, UT etc. Also, its much easier to invite friends if they recognize/support the opponent.
This is getting long. The point I wanted to make which is valid for both of us, attendance is always going to be a challenge, especially for a small private school. We MUST win and do it consistently for several years to attract more fans outside the family. UNT will likely need to do the same. However, with the size of the school and amount of alumni in the area, your stadium should be filled just within your family. But again, it all starts with winning. Nobody wants to go watch their team lose to schools known for everything but football. I've seen far too many, but kept holding on and hoping things would change.
Now, I can watch games EXPECTING SMU to win. That hasn't been the case since the early 80s. And its great.
I truly hope UNT can find a coach that will bring some sustained success and will get the University excited. I thought Dickey was your guy and hated to see him go. Anyway, good luck with your next coach.
Its an overly negative view on things, but he is not totally wrong to evaluate new conference members primarily by their out of conference wins, because that is exactly what decides the standing of the conference come committee decision time. If everybody is like NT under Mac, i.e. hitting the stride only once conference play hits, the conference will look bad and beating conference opponents starts looking meaningless to the comittee because nobody has marquee wins.
That said last seasons NCAA tournament win oughta be counted as some sort of non-conference win of quite high importance.