In 2013, North Texas football celebrated its centennial year with a dramatic turn-around, going from 4-8 the previous season to a 9-4 record in its first campaign in Conference USA. The Mean Green capped the season with its first New Year's Day bowl victory, a 36-14 win over UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, played at the historic Cotton Bowl.
It was a season that saw North Texas play seven teams that would go to a bowl. The Mean Green went 4-3 against those opponents, the most wins against bowl-bound foes in the history of North Texas football.
In a century of football, North Texas has won conference championships eight-consecutive decades. The Mean Green has amassed 25 conference titles, winning at least one championship in six of the seven leagues in which North Texas has been a member.
In 2014, the Mean Green will play the landmark 1,000th game in the school's history.
North Texas began playing football in 1913 and joined its first conference, the Texas Intercollegiate Athletic Association, in 1922. After four second-place finishes, North Texas captured its first league championship in 1931 under coach Jack Sisco, the second winningest coach in school history.
In 1932, the TIAA became the Lone Star Conference, and the Mean Green won eight of the next 13 league crowns and garnered berths in two long-since departed bowl games, the 1946 Optimist Bowl and the 1948 Salad Bowl.
North Texas did not play football during 1943-45 due to World War II, but won two more Lone Star championships upon the program's return.
The Mean Green spent the next eight years as a member of the Gulf Coast Conference, and in the league's eight-year history, North Texas never finished worse than second and won five championships.
The Mean Green's history in the Missouri Valley encompasses the careers of two of the program's most successful and celebrated head coaches: Odus Mitchell and Hayden Fry.
North Texas joined the ultra-competitive Missouri Valley in 1957, coming off two straight championship seasons in the Gulf Coast Conference. North Texas finished second in its inaugural season, then took the crown in 1958 and 1959.
Mitchell, the winningest coach in North Texas history, won the last of his 10 conference titles in his final season, in 1966. Mitchell coached at North Texas for 21 years, posting a winning record 14 times, including seven straight from 1946 to 1952, and finishing with a record of 122-85-9.
In 1973, Hayden Fry became the North Texas head coach and won the conference crown in his first year.
In 18 years in the Missouri Valley, North Texas won five championships and finished second six times.
After five years in the Big West Conference, in 2001 North Texas moved to a league closer to home and joined the Sun Belt Conference. Coming off six straight losing seasons and after starting 2001 0-5, the Mean Green shocked the league by winning five games in a row to capture the Sun Belt's first football title. They wouldn't suffer another conference loss until 2005.
Entering 2002, North Texas was no underdog. They had one of the top-ranked defenses in the nation, which sacked much bally-hooed Texas quarterback Chris Simms nine times. In conference play, North Texas hammered its first four foes to set up a showdown at Fouts Field with New Mexico State, with the winner taking the Sun Belt title. Each team held the lead in all four quarters of a thrilling game, but North Texas came out on top, 38-27.
North Texas went on to win two more Sun Belt championships and 26 straight league games, earning four trips to the New Orleans Bowl at the Superdome.
North Texas played in the first four New Orleans Bowls in the Louisiana Superdome. An inexperienced Mean Green lost to a veteran Colorado State squad in 2001, but North Texas was better prepared when it faced Conference USA champion Cincinnati in 2002.
The Mean Green fell behind, 7-0, but then took control of the rest of the half, led by the defense's season-high five interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. North Texas took a 17-7 lead at halftime, and extended the margin to 24-7 on running back Kevin Galbreath's 35-yard touchdown run. Cincinnati, however, stormed back to draw within five points midway through the fourth quarter.
But on the Mean Green's ensuing possession, Galbreath pounded away at the Bearcat defense on a drive that ran out the clock and preserved a 24-19 victory, sending North Texas fans pouring out onto Bourbon Street to celebrate.
Galbreath was named the game's Most Valuable Player for his 130-yard effort.
Much of the credit for North Texas's success from 2001 to 2004 went to the defense that was ranked in the top 10 nationally. But powering the Mean Green offense was a remarkable rushing attack.
In 2003, North Texas looked to Patrick Cobbs to replace Kevin Galbreath and his back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Cobbs exploded for 1,680 yards and 19 touchdowns, both North Texas single-season records, leading the NCAA in rushing and scoring.
A year later, however, Cobbs was sidelined by injury. In stepped freshman Jamario Thomas, who rushed for 1,801 yards in just 10 games, giving the Mean Green back-to-back NCAA rushing champions.
In 2005, Cobbs returned and again topped 1,000 yards rushing to become the school's all-time leading rusher, a mark he held until 2011, when Lance Dunbar's third-straight 1,000-yard season eclipsed Cobbs's career total.
When North Texas hired Dan McCarney, it knew it was getting McCarney's prodigious experience. It had only to look to Florida coach Urban Meyer, who hired McCarney to turn around the Gators defense. In his first year, McCarney's transformed defense held powerful Oklahoma to just two touchdowns in a 24-14 victory in the BCS title game.
But what North Texas also got was the vast championship pedigree that McCarney would assemble in Denton.
The most experienced staff in school history - and one of the most experienced in the nation - has coached in every major conference and 80 bowl games, including all of the BCS bowls. They have won titles in the Big 12, the SEC, Big 10, Conference USA, and WAC; and they have won three national championships.
And in just three seasons at North Texas, McCarney and staff ended a streak of nine-straight losing seasons and led the Mean Green to its first New Year's Day bowl victory.