DENTON, Texas -- North Texas fired coach Todd Dodge on Wednesday, declaring its decision to put a high school coach in charge of a Division I program a failure after 3½ dismal years.
Dodge was let go after a 1-6 start that left him with a record of 6-37.
"This is not based on the last seven games. This is based on a body of work of the last 3½ years," athletic director Rick Villarreal said. "At this point in time, we felt like we should be further along."
Offensive coordinator Mike Canales will be the interim head coach the rest of the season.
Dodge was hired before the 2007 season after going 79-1 and winning four state championships in his final five years at nearby Southlake Carroll High School, making North Texas the first upper-division school to elevate a head coach straight from high school since Notre Dame with Gerry Faust in 1981.
Faust's tenure at Notre Dame was considered a failure because he had a mediocre record of 30-26-1 at a tradition-rich school that expected to compete for national championships. North Texas took a similar gamble when it was just trying to contend again in the Sun Belt Conference.
The Mean Green replaced Darrell Dickey with Dodge after consecutive losing seasons that followed four straight Sun Belt championships, hoping Dodge's spread offense and unprecedented high school success would energize fans while they pitched a plan for a new stadium. The $78 million project went through and will debut next year, but it wasn't because North Texas was winning.
Dodge lost his first game to Oklahoma 79-10, the first of three times the Mean Green allowed at least 66 points in 2007. After one season, he fired the defensive coordinator he brought with him from Carroll, and all four high school coaches that joined him were gone before this year.
The 47-year-old former Texas quarterback never won more than twice in a season and entered this year with a mandate from Villarreal to win at least seven games.
Dodge was fired four days after a 34-10 loss to lowly Florida International that made a seven-win season impossible.
"With all the adversity, I wanted to be with my team through the whole thing," said Dodge, who was in the fourth year of a five-year contract that paid about $200,000 annually. "But that wasn't to be. It's disappointing, but not shocking."
North Texas lost three starters to injuries in each of the first three games and was on its fourth quarterback, a walk-on who had never thrown a college pass before this year.
Dodge also had difficulties off the field, starting his first year when players accused him and his staff of racial bias, although coaches were cleared by administrators. A year later, Dodge suspected some players were using drugs and tested all of them during the season.
"Once we hired Todd, I never thought of him as a high school coach again," Villarreal said. "It was just as a head coach, it didn't work. It wasn't never, 'Oh, we made a mistake because it was a high school guy.' The football side of it didn't work."
Dodge said he wasn't sure whether he would return to high school coaching or stay in college as an assistant. He said his failure to win at North Texas shouldn't speak for the next time a college program considers putting a standout high school coach in charge.
"Are there differences? Yes. Did it work? No," Dodge said. "I don't think that's any reason to think that there's not someone out there that's a high school coach in the state of Texas that aspires to be a Division I head coach that it can't happen with them."
While he waits for his next career move, Dodge will be a fan at North Texas games, watching his son Riley Dodge, a quarterback who also played for him at Carroll. North Texas next plays Oct. 30 at Western Kentucky, and the elder Dodge plans to make the trip.
"I told [the players] there won't be a bigger fan of theirs over the next five weeks," Dodge said.
After two years as the passing game coordinator at North Texas, Dodge started his high school head coaching career in 1994. He made three stops before taking over at Carroll in 2000. He was a quarterback for one of the original past-first high school offenses in Texas at Port Arthur Jefferson before joining the Longhorns in 1981.