North Texas fires Todd Dodge

North Texas fired head coach Todd Dodge, who had the lowest winning percentage in school history, on Wednesday morning.

Dodge, who was hired in 2006 after winning 79 of his last 80 games at Southlake Carroll High, had a 6-37 record at North Texas. The Mean Green are 1-6, ensuring that Dodge won't get to the seven-win mandate set by athletic director Rick Villarreal.

"It wasn't based just on the record this year," Villarreal told ESPNDallas.com. "It's based on a body of three and a half years. Any way you look at it, it's six wins in 43 games.

"There are good things that Todd did that we are thankful for and appreciate, but as far as what's going on between the lines, we need to be better."

Dodge's fate was sealed with Saturday's 34-10 loss to Florida International at Fouts Field. The Mean Green, who have lost 14 players to injuries, were forced to start fourth-string quarterback Chase Baine.

"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."

Offensive coordinator Mike Canales, who is in his first season with the Mean Green, will take over as the interim coach as UNT begins its search for Dodge's replacement.

Villarreal said UNT's search will focus on candidates who have "significant and successful experience" at the college level. He said UNT will target several candidates who have head coaching experience but would not preclude current coordinators from the search.

The Mean Green are 11-54 since winning the Sun Belt and playing in the New Orleans Bowl in four consecutive seasons under former coach Darrell Dickey. UNT will complete its facility overhaul with a $78 million stadium that opens next season.

"We've got to find a head coach who is going to sell North Texas football in this region," Villarreal said. "We've shown that we made a commitment to Division I football at this institution. We think this can be a great job. We think we have all the ingredients to make this a place where a coach can have great success."

Former Southern Mississippi coach Jeff Bower is considered a leading candidate. Bower had a 119-83-1 record at his alma mater, including 14 winning seasons, before he was forced to resign at the end of the 2007 season. Villarreal is a Southern Miss alum who was an administrator there before coming to UNT in 2001.

Other potential candidates include former South Florida coach Jim Leavitt (95-57 in 13 seasons) and former Iowa State coach Dan McCarney (56-85 in 12 seasons).

Dodge 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.

Tim MacMahon is a reporter and columnist for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his mailbag. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.