On Saturday, September 3, the Mean Green will kick off the 2016 football season against the SMU Mustangs at Apogee Stadium. Mean Green Game Day is right around the corner!

It’s been four years since UNT’s Interim Athletic Director Hank Dickenson and I dreamt up Mean Green Game Day. We shared some common goals in its creation, and we still do.

11_617_game_spirit_154 webFirstly, we hoped to ignite a passion within Denton for its green team. I’ve shared in this column before about Tim’s and my baptism into Texas A&M football when our son Chris was in the Corps of Cadets there. Chris has graduated now, but our awe of what happens in College Station on game day has never dimmed. The entirety of College Station pulses with energy and enthusiasm for the Aggies. It was impossible not to be sucked right into it. Game day was fun, an incredible experience whether an Aggie fan or not.

Hank and I want to make that happen in Denton. Our vision was (and still is) Apogee Stadium packed; restaurants and bars booming with business from non-ticket holders; signs all over town and in business windows, promoting “Go Mean Green!” and fans donned in Mean Green gear.

We partnered with the A-train and made getting to the game a cinch. Super-nice motorcoaches run routes, stopping all along the way, from the downtown station around the square, through the Fry Street area and then to the pedestrian bridge that connects the Fouts and Apogee tailgate fields.

Another of our goals is binding students more solidly to UNT and to Denton. We hope to incite a deeper student engagement in the overall Denton experience, beyond their academic life on campus. It’s crucial that students connect and have pride in their alma mater. Denton must be part of the story they remember forever. We are building ambassadors for UNT and Denton.

Shaping alma mater stories leads to our final goal: inspiring alumni to revisit Denton. Even recent alums are in for a DCTA A-train, Heart of Dallas Bowl Game Daysurprise when they come back and see the changes on campus and across the city.

Mean Green Game Day is growing each year. It is an expensive venture, though. The buses are free to riders, complete with Mean Green ambassadors revving up crowds with Mean Green spirit. Wayfinding signs, banners in businesses, pompoms and streamers are all part of the campaign’s provisions to amplify a uniquely Denton game day experience.

So who foots the bill? Mean Green Game Day is a cooperative project. When we were first brainstorming how to bring it about, Hank was confident the business community would catch the vision and get on board. He and I hit the pavement, going door-to-door to talk up the idea. The first year, 22 businesses jumped in. By last season, 34 participated. Each business invests cash into the campaign in exchange for Mean Green décor, game day T-shirts for their staff, and inclusion on bus route wayfinding signage. Plus, they all offer Mean Green-themed specials and discounts. It’s a win-win all the way around.

The Mean Green Game Day goals are important to reiterate because they demonstrate how Hank Dickenson thinks and works. This campaign thrives, as do many other civic projects he leads, because of Hank’s relationships in Denton.

Mean Green Game Day is one of many ventures on which Hank and I have collaborated over the years. He has chaired the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and currently sits on the CVB’s Advisory Board, both roles where he’s been intricately involved in our initiatives. He has invested in Denton for more than 20 years, and not just to tout the Mean Green (though he never misses that opportunity). The fact is he loves this city and UNT.

Recent changes in the North Texas athletics landscape have altered Hank’s title from Deputy Athletic Director to Interim Athletic Director. It’s my understanding that a nationwide search is underway for the new one. I just wonder, though, why everyone doesn’t see what I see. We’ve got our guy!

Like hundreds of you, I’m a Hank fan. He’s in the trenches with us, giving more than his 100 percent to uphold our Denton way of life. I don’t pretend to know what the experts look for when seeking the next Athletic Director, but I do know Hank Dickenson. He knows sports and bleeds them all. He’s been wrangling UNT Athletics for more than two decades, through ups and downs, wins and losses. And he’s still here.

As the team readies and Mean Green Game Day ramps up for year five, let’s do it with the best man on top.

Go. Mean. Green.


Featured Image credit: Mean Green Athletics