Denton, TX (Denton Record-Chronicle) - When Todd Dodge came to North Texas, it was seen as a grand experiment, one that only a few schools in NCAA history had dared try.
Dodge was arguably the top high school coach in the country during his time at Southlake Carroll and had a chance at UNT to prove that, unlike Gerry Faust at Notre Dame, he could translate that success to the college level.
UNT pulled the plug less than four years into the experiment Wednesday 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 Dodge's 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.
UNT's time atop the Sun Belt was fading into memory at the time after consecutive losing seasons, a trend Dodge was supposed to change.
Instead, the downward trend only 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 UNT's 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.
UNT relieved Dodge of his duties, despite those injury problems.
Dodge came to UNT with a reputation as an offensive innovator from his time at Carroll. The former Texas 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 Dickey's nine-year tenure. The Mean Green piled up more than 4,000 yards of total offense in each of Dodge's 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 UNT's all-time leader in receptions with 229.
That success offensively never translated into wins while 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 UNT's offense in what turned out to be Dodge's final season in an effort to improve the team's production. The Mean Green's 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 UNT's 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 NCAA's Academic Progress Rate report for the current school year after being penalized in the previous two years.