Saturday's first UNT scrimmage at Fouts Field drew around 100 fans, and several apparently gained admission despite earlier efforts to keep practices and workouts closed to the public. To anyone now who follows college football, that shouldn't be a surprise. The size of the program shouldn't mitigate whether to close workouts or not; it's a fact of life.
That said, I'm a little confused like some folks, but I can understand why that is. UNT coach Todd Dodge and the football staff are trying to keep practices closed without making a big deal of it or offending anyone. Ergo, the policy isn't one shouted from mountaintops.
Having the first week of workouts at Fouts, which the university doesn't lock while in use, added to the confusion. You can put up a sign or try to monitor entry, but that might or might not work. You can actually "close" a practice at UNT's Athletic Center.
Before Friday's first workout in pads, fans who either didn't understand the policy or didn't hear workouts were closed, first heard they would be turned away. Some called the athletic department, claiming Dodge invited fans to practices during his speech at the Aug. 2 kickoff barbeque. I can't say if he did or not; I was interviewing someone at the time.
At this point, those fans were referred to the football office, it being the final word on practices or scrimmages being open. For the latter, entry is granted for player families, close friends, etc. I'm not sure what exactly happened next, but the policy at some point was reiterated, though no one chose to monitor the gate Saturday. A "practice closed" sign was up.
That some people feel a little conflicted with a particular driving distance -- should I go all the way to Denton and then risk being told I can't come in? -- is understandable. But together, Dodge and UNT can outline a policy via the web that puts an end to any perceived vagueness.
In putting this to rest, here's Dodge's exact words a year ago when media and fans were turned away from the first scrimmage (the media policy since has been altered on scrimmages). To my knowledge, he's never wavered on the rule, which goes back to Southlake Carroll.
"I've always closed all of my practices after spring ball," Dodge said. "Anybody who was in the stands [at the scrimmage] was just family. That's what I instructed our people to make sure."
Athletic director Rick Villarreal said then that all practice policies are left up to his coaches. That hasn't changed either.