The University of North Texas fired head football coach Todd Dodge on Wednesday, less than four years after he was hired away from Southlake Carroll High School.
Dodge was arguably the top high school coach in the country during his time at Southlake Carroll. When he came to North Texas, it was seen as an experiment, one that only a few schools in NCAA history had dared try. It was a chance to prove that unlike Gerry Faust at Notre Dame, he could translate high school success to the college level.
UNT pulled the plug when it became apparent the gamble was a complete failure.
Dodge never won more than two games in his first three seasons at UNT, which is 1-6 just past the midway point of his fourth season. He finished with overall record of 6-37 for a winning percentage of 13.9, the worst in the history of major team sports at the school.
Offensive coordinator Mike Canales will take over as the interim coach for UNT, which will begin the search for Dodgeís replacement immediately.
Dodge took over at UNT after the 2006 season, less than two years after the Mean Green won the last of four consecutive Sun Belt Conference titles under former head coach Darrell Dickey.
UNTís time atop the Sun Belt was fading into memory after consecutive losing seasons, a trend Dodge was supposed to change.
Instead, the downward spiral became worse for UNT, which is now 11-54 since the 2004 New Orleans Bowl.
Dodge finished 2-10 in his first season and went 1-11 in his second year, marking just the fifth time in school history the Mean Green had failed to win multiple games in a season. A win over Ball State to open the 2008 season brought hope that UNT would turn the corner, but the Mean Green lost its next game to Ohio in double overtime and never recovered.
UNT athletic director Rick Villarreal set down at mandate that Dodge win seven games this season to keep his job. Dodge had a shot after beating Florida Atlantic on the road Sept. 25.
The Mean Green had a three-game home stand following its win over the Owls, but lost all three games while struggling with a series of injuries that played a key role in yet another down season.
Chase Baine became UNTís fourth starting quarterback two weeks ago when he replaced Riley Dodge, who broke his wrist in a loss to Louisiana-Lafayette on Oct. 2. Dodge is among 14 key players UNT lost to serious injuries this season, including 12 that are considered season-ending.
Todd Dodge came to UNT with a reputation as an offensive innovator from his time at Carroll. The former UT quarterback helped popularize the spread offense in Texas high school football.
Dodge had some success in implementing the offense at UNT, which used a power running game throughout Dickeyís nine-year tenure. The Mean Green piled up more than 4,000 yards of total offense in each of Dodgeís first three seasons.
Wide receiver Casey Fitzgerald, a former walk-on, led the nation in receptions per game in 2008 with an average of 9.42 a game, and finished his career as UNTís all-time leader in receptions with 229.
That success offensively never translated into wins as the Mean Green struggled in other aspects of the game. UNT finished last in the country in scoring defense in consecutive seasons in 2007 and 2008 and also struggled on special teams.
Dodge not only brought his offensive system with him from Carroll, he also brought four high school coaches who worked with him at the school in addition to an assistant from a non-scholarship Division III college and another who had been out of coaching 13 years to fill out his original staff.
All but one of those coaches had left the school by the beginning of this season and were replaced by experienced college assistants.
Canales took control of UNTís offense in what turned out to be Dodgeís final season in an effort to improve the teamís production. The Mean Greenís loses continued to mount, despite those changes.
While the Dodge era never produced the success he or UNT officials wanted on the field, he had a key role in improvements in the program. Dodge aided in UNTís campaign to build a new football stadium.
The $78 million venue that will seat approximately 30,000 is scheduled to open for the 2011 season. UNT also improved its performance academically under Dodge, who helped the program avoid scholarship penalties on the NCAAís Academic Progress Rate report for the current school year after being penalized in the previous two years.
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