The final session of the virtual North Texas Coaches Caravan went live on Facebook July 8 with Hank Dickenson, the Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director, to talk with Mean Green athletes and coaches.
Softball, track & field and Wren Baker, Vice President and Director of Athletics, joined Dickenson to outline the cancellation of spring sports and the expectations to return to competition for the 2020-2021 school year.
After an 11-3 win against Incarnate Word on March 9 and with a key conference matchup against Western Kentucky days away, Head Coach Rodney Delong said giving the news to his players that the season was coming to an end was emotional.
“It was hard because we really liked our kids and had a great group,” Delong said. “I had to face them in that locker room and tell some of the seniors their careers were done. It hurt me a lot. I hurt for them and players having good years to see it be cut short.”
Junior pitcher Hope Trautwein broke multiple school records in the spring, including a 21 strikeout complete-game shutout win against Texas A&M Corpus Christi, reaching 400 career strikeouts and moving to second in all-time in the program for strikeouts with 458.
Trautwein retained her eligibility to return to North Texas next season as a junior.
“I’m excited and I’ve had a lot of stuff I wanted to do at North Texas,” Trautwein said. “Now that I have a couple of extra years left to do it I’m excited to represent the program well.”
Seniors from 2020 will not return in 2021, but Delong and Trautwein both said the senior class was important in turning the program around.
Trautwein said she has high hopes for the incoming freshman class.
“Our senior class can’t be replaced because they were extremely special and helped the development of this program immensely,” Trautwein said. “We do have some great players coming in and it’s exciting. I’ve already touched base with a few of them and they’re going to make big waves in [Conference USA].”
TRACK & FIELD
North Texas track & field athletes had multiple runners and throwers finish in first place in and break school records in their respective events this past winter. The second half of the season with outdoor events was set to begin March 12 at Texas-Arlington.
Junior sprinter Lauryn McCollum received word the Texas-Arlington event was canceled and everyone had to return home immediately.
“I was really looking forward to competing for the spring and we got a notification that we weren’t competing that day,” McCollum said. “Not being able to tap into that was disappointing. But I also feel like this has been a good time for everyone to take a step back and reevaluate our priorities on what the sport means to us.”
McCollum came to North Texas out of Ranchview High School in Irving. Carl Sheffield, director of track & field, said McCollum led the team all season and helped her teammates progress throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“From the time [McCollum] has been here, she’s one of the biggest emotional leaders on our women’s team,” Sheffield said. “You talk about having to take a kid off the track hours before a competition and she was the rallying cry for them. Her biggest thing at that moment was figuring out what all this means and figuring out plans to move forward.”
Five athletes earned All-Conference USA honors in the first half of the season during the indoor competition. North Texas track & field did not compete in any outdoor events.
A WORD FROM WREN BAKER
Baker rounded out the meeting to discuss what the process of sports being canceled meant for him and how the athletic department plans to move forward.
“Things have changed quickly on the play front, certainly on the budget front and the impact the pandemic has had,” Baker said. “As we start to return people back into our facilities and start to plan stadium capacity it’s all very complicated. I’m really blessed we have a great team around us that’s done an unbelievable job patiently waiting through the information we know and don’t know to get answers to the student-athletes, coaches and fans.”
Baker said the athletic department and the student-athletes are willing to team up to educate and be open about changes to increase inclusion and diversity.
“The university and the athletic department are committed to using our influence to help bring some meaningful dialogue to educate and bring changes,” Baker said. “Our student-athletes are very passionate. They love each other and really seek to understand each other’s perspectives. If we take advantage of this opportunity to listen, learn and work together for advancements, we can make a difference in our athletic department, campus and community.”
As of Wednesday, most of NCAA sporting events are set to compete in the fall 2020 semester with rising cases of COVID-19 in the United States.
North Texas’ football opening game is set for September 5 at Apogee Stadium against Houston Baptist. Baker said the football season is still set on schedule but will enforce social distance and capacity restrictions for the safety of everyone.
Courtesy 2020 Coaches Caravan Livestream