DENTON, Texas -- Todd Dodge was hired as coach at North Texas on Tuesday, making the rare jump from high school to Division I-A after an unprecedented run of success at Southlake Carroll.
Dodge, a former Texas quarterback, has coached Carroll to a 77-1 record in Texas' highest classification. The Dragons have won 46 consecutive games and are two wins from their third straight state title and fourth in five years. They have a 50-game regular-season winning streak and are the only school to win a state title in their first year in Class 5A.
"I'm representing Texas high school coaches," Dodge said in a news conference in front of about 150 North Texas boosters and fans. "It's not very often that a guy like me gets an opportunity like this."
Dodge was the offensive coordinator at UNT in 1992-93 before returning to high schools to start his head coaching career. Last year, he interviewed with Bill Parcells for an opening on the Dallas Cowboys staff, and he turned down an invitation to interview for the opening at Rice.
"All those were flattering," said Dodge, who admitted he thought the call from Parcells was a joke being played on him by a fellow coach. "Last year about this time Rice called and showed interest in me. It was one of those deals that didn't fit my family at the time."
Dodge replaces Darrell Dickey, who was fired midway through a 3-9 season that left him with a 42-64 record over nine years.
Dodge was hired for his first stint at North Texas by Dennis Parker, who was a successful high school football coach who made the leap to collegiate coaching with the Mean Green.
"The goals and standards that coach Todd Dodge have established for his football program are exemplary as evidenced by his record of successes and national reputation," athletic director Rick Villarreal said. "He has a passion for the Mean Green and we are confident that he is the coach to elevate North Texas' football program."
Under Dickey, the Mean Green went to the New Orleans Bowl as Sun Belt Conference champion four straight times from 2001-04 and featured a pair of running backs -- Patrick Cobbs and Jamario Thomas -- who led the nation in rushing. But a second straight losing season was marked by dwindling attendance, bottoming out at 9,806 in the finale.
North Texas averaged almost 16,000 fans per game, or about 30,000 fewer than the crowd for Carroll's 22-21 victory against Euless Trinity in a playoff thriller at Texas Stadium last month. The 46,339 fans for that game are thought to be the second most for a high school game in Texas.
The Dragons have been generating that kind of buzz for a several years with their four-receiver, no-huddle spread offense, also known as "Dodge Ball."
But Dodge is confident that the excitement he created in the high school ranks can be brought to North Texas because of the wealth of recruiting talent in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
"I think this will be a team the metroplex will embrace," Dodge said. "I want this to be a team people will be excited to come out and watch play."
If the hiring of a high school coach to run a Division I program raises questions, it won't be the first time Dodge's credentials were scrutinized.
He had a losing record as a head coach when he started at Carroll, which won a state-record 72 straight regular-season games in smaller classifications from 1986-94. Dodge lost his first three games, but he's 96-8 since.
The latest triggerman -- Dodge's son, Riley -- has the Dragons rolling along at 14-0 heading into the Class 5A Division II semifinals Saturday against Allen. He will now have a different coach for his senior season next year, but the family won't have to
move. Dodge's new office will be about 20 miles north of his old one, and his decision will raise questions about a possible reunion in college.
Todd Dodge will coach Carroll through its playoff run, and Riley Dodge will remain at Carroll to play his senior season.
Riley Dodge's two predecessors landed at Division I schools, highlighted by Chase Daniel, the Missouri starter who led the Tigers to a 6-0 start and will play in the Brut Sun Bowl in El Paso in a couple weeks. Riley Dodge is projected as one of the state's top quarterback prospects for the 2008 recruiting season, according to Jeremy Crabtree of rivals.com.
"I'm going to continue weighing my options," Riley Dodge said. "There are a couple of schools I've been looking at. But North Texas has to be way up there now."
Dickey was fired just weeks after suffering a heart attack, prompting criticism from a prominent booster who demanded that the school rename a new practice facility after Dickey. UNT officials have said they plan to honor the request.