DENTON (AP) — When he took the North Texas job, Todd Dodge knew this would be the trying time in his transition from championship-winning high school coach.
Dodge was prepared to deal with on-field struggles his first year with the Mean Green (1-7) while the Texas Class 5A power he built, and where his son is the senior quarterback, was having another great season.
Then came unforeseen allegations of racial bias against Dodge and his UNT staff by a disgruntled player suspended from the team after a sideline outburst. Two others — a player previously suspended and another who earlier quit the team — joined the complaint made to the NAACP.
A university investigation released Wednesday cleared Dodge and his coaches.
“The worst has been this last week, by far,” Dodge said. “People that write that about me, or make that accusation against me or my program, they don’t know me.”
Other players backed their coach.
“It wasn’t racism,” said senior receiver Brandon Jackson, who is black. “It was because they were being disciplined and they weren’t doing what they were supposed to be doing, and being disrespectful.”
Montey Stevenson said the coach has stood by the message he delivered when he first met the team last winter: They would be a family and do things right; and there were rules, abide by them.
“We all know Coach Dodge’s character,” Stevenson said. “He’s well-respected.”
Still, it’s been a tough first year for Dodge after making the rare from high school to the highest division in college football. It has been more than two decades since Gerry Faust made the move and coached at Notre Dame from 1981-85.
There have been lopsided losses, from the 79-10 opener at Oklahoma, to 66-7 at Arkansas, and 45-7 to Troy, which rolled despite seven turnovers.
Dodge was on the winning side of such scores in the prep ranks. He was 79-1 and won four state championships in the last five years at Southlake Carroll after the school moved up to Texas’ highest classification. The lone loss was by one point in the 2003 Class 5A title game.
While his son and former team are getting ready for another playoff run — “I enjoy being a father right now and going to watch,” Dodge said — the Mean Green have four games left with no chance of even a winning record.
“I knew what I was leaving, and I knew the job I was taking wouldn’t be overnight,” he said. “I knew what I was giving up. I knew what would be happening about November or December.”
That hasn’t kept Dodge, whose long-range plan hadn’t necessarily included being a college head coach, from hearing and considering some of things said by those who can’t understand why he left Carroll.
“There’s some question I gave up an opportunity to coach my son his senior year in high school for this,” Dodge said. “To be honest with you, that crossed my mind a little bit.”
But father and son will be back on the same field together soon.
Riley Dodge plans to sign with North Texas in February. The prep standout had initially committed to Texas, where his father was a starting quarterback in the 1980s, but decided he wanted to play for his dad again.
North Texas won four straight Sun Belt Conference titles from 2001-04 before consecutive nine-loss seasons cost Darrell Dickey his job. Athletic director Rick Villarreal found his new coach at one of the nation’s top high school programs, which happened to be just down the road.
“We knew this was not going to be a one-year building block,” said Villarreal. “We knew it was going to take time to build a foundation. … I don’t want to build a program for two years, or three years. I wanted somebody to build a program long-term.”