|High school-to-college coach foundering in Year 2|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 29 October 2008 11:00|
North Texas - the alma mater of ``Mean'' Joe Greene, but a mostly irrelevant program in the nearly four decades since - would become prominent again by hiring Todd Dodge, the wildly successful high school coach at nearby Southlake Carroll.
He'd bring his offense, the one that caught Bill Parcells' attention.
He'd lure recruits, transfers and, ultimately, wins. Fans would flock to rickety Fouts Field, enough to justify and fund a new stadium.
Within a few years, UNT would climb past SMU and challenge TCU as the top program in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. A growing reputation and improved facilities might even lift the Mean Green out of the Sun Belt, perhaps into the same league as SMU or TCU.
Wrong. At least, so far.
Twenty games into this experiment, North Texas has two wins. Both were last season. With nine consecutive losses, UNT shares the nation's longest losing streak with Washington.
- The skid began by losing last season's finale to Florida International when it had the nation's longest skid. The Mean Green lost by 19 and have only come that close to winning once, a 35-23 loss to Louisiana-Monroe; they trailed 35-3 before rallying.
- They've led in only one game and it was only in the first quarter.
- They've been outscored 400-135. The 50 points per game they're allowing is up from 45.1 last year.
Good grief, they even have a defensive lineman named Charlie Brown.
It's tempting to call this a cautionary tale of what happens when you trust a college program to a high school coach. Notre Dame fans might even be snickering that it's The Curse of Gerry Faust. Some UNT alums wonder why they got rid of Darrell Dickey two years after winning four straight conference titles.
But before writing off Dodge as a failure, know this: The people who hired him still believe he's the right guy for the job.
``Everybody from my seat to the president, we're all behind him 100 percent,'' athletic director Rick Villarreal said this week. ``We feel comfortable giving this man time to do what he needs to do.''
Dodge knew he wouldn't continue the roll of 79 wins in 80 games that he left behind at Southlake Carroll. But he didn't expect 2-18 either.
best receiver quitting in midseason. The Mean Green have only 12 seniors and just three of them start. UNT has used an all-freshman secondary at times.
About a month ago, Dodge thought the problems ran deeper than football so he ordered drug tests for all 86 players; 15 tested positive. They're getting counseling and frequent tests to make sure they're keeping clean.
Dodge hopes every player gets scared of being caught and just says no. But he hopes the drug testing screams a bigger message: He's serious about molding the program his way.
``There are things going on here that are victories,'' Dodge said. ``It's not coming up in wins right now, but in the big picture those are the things that have to change before the winning can happen on the field.
``Believe me, I'm not naive enough to think that anyone's keeping score on how our kids act in the dorm or how they treat the ladies in the dining hall. I know it's about winning. The goal is to have both - to win with great kids doing things the right way. And I think we're headed in the right direction.''
Dodge only had 15 days to sign his first crop of recruits, so he took what he could get. He had a full year to put together this season's incoming class of 20 freshmen and four junior-college transfers.
serious he is about these players laying a foundation. The talks are ``brutally honest.'' He tells them why players were kicked off the team (``So-and-so was a habitual liar'') and which upperclassmen should be their role models. He also makes sure their spirits aren't getting broken.
``I'm not going to leave any stones unturned in their development, not only physically but mentally, socially, character-wise,'' he said.
It's worth noting that the group includes Riley Dodge, the coach's quarterback-son.
A two-time offensive player of the year in the state's largest high school classification, Riley was going to follow Todd's footsteps by playing for the University of Texas but decided to play for Dad instead. Todd says Riley and Missouri's Chase Daniel are the two best quarterbacks he's coached, but Riley is a good enough athlete that he played receiver when the team ran out of healthy bodies. Riley sustained a concussion and is getting a medical redshirt.
Todd Dodge expects to have things turned around by 2010, the junior year for his nine true freshmen and nine redshirt freshmen from '07. He's even more optimistic about 2011, which also happens to be the fifth and final year of his contract - and when North Texas could move into a new stadium. A funding plan recently passed and is awaiting approval by higher-ups.
rassing? Yes. I hate to lose,'' Dodge said. ``But I'm not going to get caught up in what my record is right now. Maybe we'll get this thing turned around with enough wins that somebody will notice the other things going on behind the scenes that I think are wins.''
Then he laughed and added: ``You just hope you do it in enough time before they fire you.''