North Texas will have one final home game this year after all.
The Mean Green were set to cap the regular season with a game at UTEP on Dec. 12. The schools announced on Friday that the game has been shifted to Apogee Stadium and will be played at 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 11.
The teams were originally scheduled to play on Oct. 31 in El Paso before the game was pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are understanding of the situation in El Paso and worked diligently with the UTEP administration to find an amicable solution to play the game,” UNT athletic director Wren Baker said in a statement. “We appreciate the cooperation of UTEP and Conference USA because we know what it’s like to go several weeks without playing and the difficulties of logistics in trying to play in this uncertain time. We wanted to make every effort to get this game in as long as we could do it safely.”
Moving the game to Apogee ended a weekslong process that saw the schools work to come to an agreement to play the game.
UNT officials declined to make the trip to El Paso to face UTEP earlier this season due to a spike in coronavirus cases in the city and offered to pay for the Miners to travel to Denton for a game at Apogee.
UTEP declined that offer and said they had a safe environment for the game to be played at the Sun Bowl.
“We never did consider that an option,” UTEP coach Dana Dimel told reporters about coming to Denton shortly after the game was called off. “We didn’t want to go four road games in a row.”
UTEP relented and agreed to cap the regular season at Apogee.
The agreement will give both teams what could be one last opportunity to play in a season that has seen the pandemic impact both programs.
UNT has had five games either canceled or postponed.
UTEP hasn’t fared any better. The Miners lost to UTSA 52-21 on Nov. 14 in the only game it has played since Oct. 24.
The Miners suspended all football activities on Sunday, when UTEP athletic director Jim Senter announced that the school had called off its game against Southern Miss that was scheduled for Friday night due to 11 positive COVID-19 tests within the program.
Senter later said that 10 of those 11 were false positives from an antigen test.
UTEP quickly reversed course and will now be able to play its game against UNT.
UNT coach Seth Littrell expressed confidence in the fact the Mean Green would get their final two games of the season against Louisiana Tech and UTEP in during his Tuesday press conference.
“I feel great about it,” Littrell said. “We’ve got guys with some bumps and bruises. It’s that time of the year, but health-wise, I feel good.
“We haven’t had any bad tests or anything like that either.”
UTEP also expects to be in position to play next week.
Bringing UTEP to Apogee will give the Mean Green a chance to rebound after back-to-back disheartening losses to Conference USA West Division rivals Louisiana Tech and UTSA.
The Mean Green fell to Louisiana Tech 42-31 on Thursday at Apogee in what was expected to be their final home game of the season. UNT lost to UTSA 49-17 on Nov. 28 in San Antonio.
Those losses dropped UNT to 3-5 on the season and 2-4 in Conference USA play, eliminating the Mean Green from the race for the C-USA West Division title.
UTEP (3-4) got off to a promising start after finishing 1-11 last season. The Miners opened the season by winning three of their first four games.
UTEP couldn’t keep that momentum going and lost its first three games in C-USA play, including close calls against Louisiana Tech and Charlotte. Louisiana Tech edged the Miners 21-17 before they fell at Charlotte 38-28.
UTEP can move back to .500 with a win over UNT in what could be both teams’ final game of the season. The NCAA has eliminated the normal requirements for teams to win six games to become bowl eligible.
UNT and UTEP will both be eligible for the postseason regardless of the outcome of next week’s game.