DENTON, Texas -- Gerry Faust he ain't.
Thank your Fighting Irish Almighty for that.
First, Todd Dodge isn't a screamer. Second, he has a clue. Third, he has a future.
|Jamario Thomas will be one of the weapons at Todd Dodge's disposal. (US Presswire)|
"It was happening right when I was coming out of high school," the Mean Green's 43-year-old coach says of Faust's questionable hiring in 1981. "I'm aware."
The rest is fog because on Christmas Day, Dodge was still coach of the seven-time state champion Southlake (Texas) Carroll High Dragons. The next day, he was 20 miles down the road, in charge of his own Division I-A program. One of a handful of high school coaches who have ever made the jump to college head coach.
Maybe the only one who left better facilities and a better program behind. Southlake has an indoor facility. North Texas has some fine indoor lighting. Southlake is 79-1 the last five years. North Texas won the Sun Belt five years ago, finishing 5-7.
Southlake has won 48 consecutive games and three straight state titles in a row. Last month's victory over the school his father-in-law used to coach (Austin Westlake) made it four titles in five years and state-record tying seven overall.
Dodge packed up his whistle having gone 98-11 in seven years in a place where high school numbers like that mean more than in any other state.
"In the big picture it's a sad thing for some of the teams I coached at Carroll," Dodge said. "If they didn't win it all, they'd be thought of (different) in their town."
Who among us wouldn't take -- without having to move -- a substantial pay raise for a job with less pressure and less expectations?
At North Texas, tailgaters might riot with joy if the Mean Green go 7-5 in Dodge's first season. Even that was impossible when athletic director Rick Villareal arrived in 2001. Tailgating was illegal.
"They all just started laughing," Villareal said of his first staff meeting. "They went and got the policy manual. There it was. I called the president and said, 'If I don't do anything, I've got to change this.'"
He did and North Texas has been starting to matter. Former coach Darrell Dickey delivered four consecutive Sun Belt titles before enduring pretty much the worst year of anyone's life.
In February, Dickey had his gall bladder removed. Then he was diagnosed as a diabetic. Then he suffered a heart attack. Shortly after a 3-9 season, Dickey was fired.
"I should have redshirted," he said.
Dickey can predict what is going to happen now. Dodge is going to get the things he didn't. Bigger budget. Better facilities (a new stadium already is in the works). More love.
That is a given. Dodge is a real, live Texas football hero. Being the University of Texas quarterback in the mid-80s got him ready for, well, everything.
"Everything about you as a man will be exposed," Dodge said. "Character, toughness, resilience. There's times when you walk around town and everybody wants to love you up. It's ridiculous. Other times, you walk around town and you're a leper."
Dodge is so tuned in to the position that he swears he can stand outside a middle school in the morning and pick out the starting quarterback. And whether he won or not.
Giovanni Vizza is about to find out. The San Antonio Alamo Heights product switched his commitment from Nevada to be Dodge's first quarterback recruit.
More love? North Texas averaged less than 16,000 per game last year. That's about 30,000 less than Southlake drew for a playoff game.
High school football is so big in Texas that the Mean Green can expect an attendance bump from Southlake fans coming over to watch Dodge on Saturday afternoons.
"Because they know what they're going to see," Dodge said.
|Dodd's Top '07 Classes|
|6. Notre Dame|
|10. South Carolina|
They're going to see a brand name -- at least in these parts. Dodge's spread offense ("Dodge Ball") has produced wins, players and copycats. Missouri essentially adopted Dodge's scheme, then landed his quarterback Chase Daniel to run it. Daniel finished eighth nationally in passing last season as a sophomore.
But like with Faust, there are questions. Can he recruit? Consider the swift transition from high school to college coach. Dodge needed to check with North Texas' compliance department to make sure he could attend Tuesday's Southlake football banquet. Was he their coach or was he a coach sizing up recruits?
Dodge was cleared to attend. Still, in less than a month he essentially wrapped up this year's class of approximately 22 relying on his Texas high school contacts.
The only way he can do better next year is to land one Riley Dodge, his son, who will be a Southlake senior. Unfortunately for North Texas, Riley's talents are probably suited to the BCS conference level.
Can he coach? That's the ultimate question. But, again, this is where Dodge diverges from Faust. Dodge spent two years as North Texas' offensive coordinator in 1992-93.
Mitch Maher, the quarterback from those two years, still holds the school's career passing record.
Dodge is an accomplished speaker, both in football and in the corporate world. His 10 Game Day Expectations can hold rapt a roomful of teenagers or insurance salesmen.
He turned down an opportunity to interview at Rice a couple of years ago. He did go hard after the tight ends job while Bill Parcells was with the Cowboys.
"Tell me why you would even interview him?" Villareal asked Parcells when the AD was checking out Dodge.
"Did you ever hear of a guy named Charlie Weis?" Parcells shot back. "I hired him from a high school in New Jersey. What Todd Dodge is, he's a football guy. He understands the game and the culture that surrounds it?
You're already thinking of Villareal's next question: Why didn't Parcells hire Dodge?
He was better than a tight ends coach.
And maybe better than a North Texas coach. If everything goes right for both parties, this is a starter job for Dodge. If he succeeds, he'll be off to the next job.
And North Texas will be on the map.
Not a bad Faustian bargain.