Hey You UNT Fans Who Want Todd Dodge's Head: Now Is Not the Time for That
A lot of North Texas fans want Todd Dodge's head today. I think they need to back up and look at things logically rather than emotionally.
UNT's AD has said that if Dodge's team is competitive this season Dodge will be retained for next season. That is the stated criteria on which Dodge will be judged. Changing the criteria and firing Dodge would only make this job appear less stable and the administration appear less honest for incoming coaching candidates.
Based off that alone, Dodge will probably be back. His team has been competitive, probably nothing any fans or alumni do will change the criteria.
To me, it is not enough that fans begrudgingly accept the likely status quo while calling for Dodge's head on every forum.
This kind of behavior can do a lot of additional harm to the program and for that reason, I think they should stop.
I think that they should forget that his record record is the worst all-time record at UNT. They should stop throwing out the "he hasn't earned more time" and the "his record is worst than X coach we fired" arguments.
Not because those arguments aren't true or valid.
Rather, they should stop because those arguments hurt this team's chances to win this year, hurt the team's potential in recruiting in the upcoming offseason, and most importantly, are trumped by bigger issues.
This team is trying to move from being a team that is competitive to a team that can win every game. That's hard enough for a team with few seniors to do. They don't need the in-season distractions of alumni calling for their coach's head.
Obviously it hurts the team to have public calls for Dodge's head while the team is chasing recruits. Every three-star recruit that Dodge might lose hurts UNT over the next four years—even if Dodge is not here. That is something that really needs to be understood.
"I can't complain in season or after the season? Forget that!" Certainly you can complain. I am just encouraging you to do it in a way that it doesn't hurt the university. Write the president or the AD and voice your concerns—just don't be lazy about it and complain in forums that potential recruits or current players may read.
Complain all you want, just don't do it in a way that hurts UNT.
The Bigger Issues That May Lead You To Reconsider Complaining
There are a lot of factors that make a coaching changes something likely to set back the football program several more years.
UNT Needs a Big Name Recruiter To Outweigh All of the Other Issues at the School
The last coach was fired because his recruiting classes had fallen off a cliff.
Like him or not, most would agree Dodge is flat out a very good to great recruiter, especially in this area of the country. The fact this team had the worst defensive unit and special teams unit in the country last season on it's way to being the second worst team in FBS last year should have killed recruiting this season. That team was totally non-competitive.
In spite of that, Dodge brought in very promising players like Shavod Atkinson, Kelvin Jackson, Jamaal Jackson, Michael Outlaw, Kyle White, Hilbert Jackson, Tyler Statford, KC Obi, LaChris Anyiam, Daniel Prior, John Webber, Will Atterberry, and DeWayne Baziel.
Off the 2008 season, there is no way UNT should have been able to pull that kind of talent. That may be the best class UNT has had since the big class that ran off the titles in the early years.
And it isn't like UNT has recruited poorly over the other years of the Dodge run either, in spite of the record, the lack of stadium, the lack of TV exposure, and the lousy athletic budget. His classes have generally had a lot more talent than the classes of previous UNT coaches.
Maybe most importantly, Dodge and his staff have clearly gotten a lot better at targeting the right guys lately. They find guys who show the ability to play at the FBS level at some time in their UNT career and who UNT has a legit shot at landing.
The Riley Dodge Factor
If you run off Todd Dodge, you lose Riley Dodge.
I know a ton of fans would think that is perfectly acceptable considering the fragile flower Riley Dodge is today, but consider the fact that the younger Dodge added 10 lbs of muscle in the last year. If he can come close to that over the next two offseasons, he is going to be a much stronger and more durable player.
His mechanics and decision making vs. FBS speed will only improve. By next season he may have sufficient arm strength and timing to hit the deep ball.
In this system, by his senior year he may be a more mobile version of Ty Detemer. UNT has NEVER had that kind of player.
He could be the kind of player who gets UNT into a BCS bowl.
This Team Is Close to Breaking Through
The Mean Green aren't playing consistently well in a number of areas, but they are still about three plays away from being 4-2.
I'd argue even the Middle Tennessee game was there for them if they had stopped the Blue Raiders on that drive at the start of the fourth quarter. With a couple of breaks they could be 5-1 this year, even though they really haven't come close to playing their best full game yet.
If this team puts it together on both sides of the line for four quarters, they can hang with anyone in this conference.
This team is in the game every week. They just haven't learned to close yet.
That really has very little to do with coaching.
Learning to close games is a process that every team that doesn't have a senior dominated starting lineup has to go through. This Mean Green team is getting there.
You can see the progress. In past years, this team didn't think it belonged on the field with teams like Florida Atlantic; now they know they do.
This team has lost two fourth quarter dogfights in a row.
The FAU game is the first game since the Ball State game where UNT competed in the fourth quarter. If this is the start of a run of strong fourth quarters, this team will win this year.
Keeping Dodge vs. Starting Another Four-Year Rebuilding Program
Finally, one of the biggest issues is if you fire Dodge, you start over. That is almost always the case with a coaching change at a losing school.
New coaches force starters from the old regime to earn their playing time. A lot of players don't like that and quit or de-prioritize football.
Some good players will leave.
Players who have bought into the current offensive and defensive schemes may not buy into the new coach's schemes.
Underclassmen and committed recruits with talent who were recruited specifically for these schemes will likely bail for greener pastures. Are you prepared for the possibility of losing guys like Darius Carey, Lance Dunbar, Jeremy Mathis, Royce Hill, Riley Dodge, and others because the new coach wants to build with his guys?
Are you prepared to restart the clock on another four-year rebuilding plan?
The Pay Sucks, the Conference Sucks, the Job Sucks
UNT pays Dodge $265,000 a year to coach the worst team in the worst FBS conference in America.
Like all Sunbelt teams, the team is rarely on TV, hurting recruiting.
Like all Sunbelt teams, the travel costs are ridiculous, forcing member schools to play body bag games against the elites of the SEC to cover budgetary shortfalls. Injuries sustained and "emotional trauma" suffered in those games usually take 2-3 games to recover.
UNT fans don't have any emotional ties to the teams of the Sunbelt, stunting attendance at home games and bleeding potential operating revenue out of the program.
The team won't have it's new stadium until 2011, so if UNT were to fire Dodge and hire a new coach for next season, the new coach would have at least a year of dealing with the same recruiting kick in the balls Dodge has dealt with for his entire run.
The athletic budget is small and (looking at the history of the program) the alumni that graduate from this music school are largely disinterested in making regular or sizeable financial contributions to the football programs.
Fans and alumni may complain a lot, but even with 12,000+ students regularly in the stadium on game day the team rarely tops 22,000 in attendance—even though the majority of the school's 600,000-700,000+ alumni live in the Metroplex. The alumni have high expectations, but they really don't do much to help the university compete.
Really if we are honest about it, the students do just about everything that helps UNT compete.
Fifteen years from now, when the new stadium is built and the per student athletic fee has risen to something near the state maximum of $20 per class hour (bringing the athletic budget up to the levels of the top schools of the MWC), this will be a great job. At that point UNT will be targeted by the western Conference USA schools as a team they need in conference.
At that point the university will have great in-conference draws to a stadium that is designed to promote attendance. 28-30K a game may be likely then.
Today, with neither the stadium nor the large athletic budget in place, this is a lousy job.
That is just a reality UNT fans need to accept.
No Other Name Coaches Want This Job
Who is the name coach for UNT who will be able to recruit at the level Dodge has vs. tough competition for recruits from TCU's Gary Patterson and SMU's June Jones? Who do fans think will come here?
A name thrown around by Mean Green fans as an alternative to Dodge is Turner Gill. Gill is reportedly one of the highest paid coaches in the MAC now. Do you really think Gill would take a pay cut to take this job at $265K a year? Presently that is what UNT can offer.
Gill is on the radar of every athletic director in the Big 12 and all of the AD's in the western part of C-USA. All of those jobs pay a ton better and offer easier recruiting.
Why jump into the fire at UNT when he can sit patiently and be the next coach at Iowa State or Colorado?
There Are Better Arguments To Retain Dodge Than To Replace Him
Dodge is the best coach, the biggest name, and the best recruiter the university can afford today.
The team's increased competitiveness suggests Dodge has the program pointed in the right direction. The starting lineup is loaded with juniors and sophomores and is in every game vs. non-BCS schools, which suggest next season should be a great season for the team if we don't change coaches.
If he wanted to, Dodge could probably be an offensive coordinator at a Big 12 school making more money than he makes at UNT as the head coach. He was considered and possibly offered other FBS head coaching jobs (the news reports are fuzzy there) that paid more.
It seems very probable that UNT's former offensive coach cut the school a discount and took the job when the university's football program was at an all-time low point in talent with little chance to recover, simply to help out his friends in the administration at UNT.
He has out-recruited a bad situation and rebuilt the talent level that matter so much in college.
He was the face of the potential of the program that helped in landing the new stadium.
He has been loyal to the university. He has shut his mouth and worked even though the stadium he was promised by the University President and the Athletic Director to help him recruit won't be up until 2011. It was supposed to be here three years earlier.
Even though the job is a tough one, he may be the only name coach who wants to be here now—while it is a crappy job.
Let's Not Meddle
As fans of pro football, we hate Jerry Jones for his constant meddling that undercuts the coach and the team. Why are we doing the same to UNT?
Some alumni and fans have an axe to grind with the AD over the dismissal of the last coach and as such have had it in for Dodge. Some think Dodge is arrogant. Some just hate losing.
Regardless of the camp you are in, it is time to step back and make sure you are viewing things in perspective.
It is time to swallow bruised alumni pride and park our egos as fans at the door.
Logic suggests that Dodge gives this program the best chance to succeed over the next 18 months. If he can't win next year with a full assembly of his talent, a more physically mature and experienced Riley Dodge, then sure, fire him.
Kick off the new stadium in 2011 with a new coach. (After all, the coach UNT would be able to hire in 2011 with a stadium in hand would be a lot better caliber than the guys the university could chose from in 2010 without a stadium.)
Start over with a new coach when the new coach won't be compromised in his first year.
I personally think we owe it to Dodge to keep him around at least until next season, and if the team does well, beyond that due to his loyalty to UNT. Regardless of whether you agree with that, don't we owe it to the players to let them have their best shot to win? Especially this group that has been through so much losing; bearing the banner of the university we love.
Universities are always for the students first. The alumni have had their day. Fans can cheer, but we just get to share in the joy of the university's success.
Fans and alumni meddling won't make things better, so there is no good reason to meddle at this point.
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