We referred to UNT's struggles in today's aftermath of Rice's 77-20 victory as a "mess" Todd Dodge stepped into. Actually, it was more a question than a statement.
Anyway, there's debate over Dodge's culpability 16 games into the job, and if the paper that best covers his old team at Southlake Carroll is giving him a pass. Here are facts meant neither to indict UNT's former coaching staff nor mitigate the current one. They're just realities.
1. Dodge inherited a program that lost 19 of 24 games after going to four bowls.
2. As of 2007 national signing day, UNT had lost nearly 30 scholarship players with remaining eligibility since the 2002 season. Reasons varied, but a lion's share were academic and off-field issues. More players from the previous staff have left since Dodge's first spring and fall camp.
3. UNT's past three football grading periods (predating Dodge teams) for the NCAA's Academic Progress Report scored 907, 916 and 917. A score of 925 is deemed acceptable, and Dodge has five less scholarship players as a result. His tenure's first grading period (2007-2008) hasn't been released.
4. Two cornerbacks Dodge inherited leveled unfounded racism charges against his staff last year, thereby separating themselves from the team and depleting the secondary's depth since the middle of last season.
5. Since Dodge's first season, a starting wide receiver and starting safety he inherited have left the program with off-field issues.
6. At Rice on Saturday, Dodge started 11 inherited players. Both teams played lots of players in the blowout, and 18 of UNT's backups or special-teamers Saturday were inherited.
7. Four presumably impact offensive linemen Dodge inherited -- Josh Alexander, Nick Foster, Robert Peachey and Ajani Banks -- left the program after injuries, academic or other issues. Three would still be playing.
8. Dodge inherited an offense with more tight ends than any other specific offensive position.
9. Fans (and co-workers) implored Dodge to hire Gary DeLoach as defensive coordinator, and he did. DeLoach was the people's experienced choice. This is no statement on DeLoach, but remind me: Where is Dodge's gross negligence on that side of the ball?
10. Don't even get me started on Fouts Field. How the previous staff won there is a mystery, but it's a component of any "mess" you apply to the program.
As for Dodge getting a pass, he doesn't from us in these areas:
1. Turning the 2007 defense over to Ron Mendoza, who is now gone.
2. The loss of defensive end Alonzo Horton, who had a chronic, long history of academic problems that ultimately became UNT's problem at transfer time from a junior college. Horton's to blame, too, but his lack of progress towards an associate's degree was somehow missed. It happened to another one of Dodge's JUCO signees, but one of less impact. In five games at Tarleton State, Horton has 20 tackles (12 solo), seven tackles for losses and two sacks.
3. At a certain position, Dodge has more than compensated for his worst signing so far, a former player who turned out with poor academic and character qualities and was signed on the advice of a former prep coaching colleague. If that one's on him, it's of no consequence now.
In the category of withholding judgement:
1. An inability so far to sign or find impact interior defensive linemen, incidentally the thinnest high school position in Texas or many states. Many college players switch to defensive tackle from other positions. Just ask TCU.
2. Until it's determined UNT assistant Robert Drake is incapable of getting UNT's special teams to respond, and it's determined he will no longer coach that position, he deserves a chance to fix a full plate of problems.