JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF
MARBLE FALLS — Marble Falls Independent School District Superintendent Rob O’Connor began the process of finding the next head football coach and athletic director at Marble Falls High School on May 2.
Todd Dodge resigned the position to take the same job at Austin Westlake, the school that made his father-in-law, Ebbie Neptune, a household name. Dodge said Westlake was the only job he would leave Marble Falls to take. His first day is May 5.
Dodge accepted the job at Marble Falls in January 2012.
“Life happens,” O’Connor said. “People can have the best of intentions of being with you for four or five years. But over a period of one, two, three years, the dynamics change. I never fault somebody for trying to improve themselves. He’s going back to (his wife) Elizabeth’s hometown. There’s a legacy and opportunity for him. Had the Westlake job not opened, coach Dodge could still be with us.”
The superintendent said even though Dodge is leaving, the rest of the football staff doesn’t have to follow him.
“The current staff is welcome to stay on board,” he said. “With the nature of coaching, we anticipate we’ll have some turnover, so we’ll make adjustments”
By law, the position has to be posted for 10 days before O’Connor can name a replacement, unless he chooses to hire from within. That means he could reassign a member of the current staff to take over the program.
“I’ll try to get a short list of potential candidates together and reach out to some top-tier coaches,” O’Connor said. “We’ll evaluate the application pool as well. We’ll open it up and see who applies. We’ll find those individuals interested in being here, who’ve taken the time and effort to talk to us.”
He said Dodge “is staying neutral in the process” of who should take over the program.
O’Connor said he didn’t believe it would be possible to hire a head coach and have a complete staff in place in time to conduct spring football drills. That’s because the University Interscholastic League gives 30 days in May to get in 18 practices.
“It’s a tall order,” he said. “It’s going to be a challenge and difficult at best. We’ll get our coaching staff established. Ultimately, it’s the head coach to make that decision. We’ll find the best candidate and let that develop the time line.”
The next Mustangs coach will have to pick up where Dodge left off, he said.
“I think the ideal candidate knows how to build a program and builds players’ confidence and maximizes players’ potential,” he said.
In addition, the ideal candidate would continue to build upon the success of the athletic department where baseball, softball, basketball, soccer and track and field have advanced to the postseason in the past several years.
He noted Dodge hired some outstanding coaches in other programs who have guided the Mustangs to the playoffs.
“I think Todd has improved the other programs as the athletic director,” he said. “That’s something not talked a lot about. We want to continue to make sure we focus on the boys and the girls side. The mentality with any given coach is you go recruit the best coaches possible and allow them to build the program they need in order to be successful.”
O’Connor said he believes the Marble Falls program has improved under Dodge’s guidance.
The Mustangs had two years of spring football, now have an up-to-date weight room with new equipment specifically designed for Marble Falls, and have had two years of summer strength-and-conditioning.
Marble Falls was 30 minutes away from qualifying for the playoffs in 2013. Had the Mustangs beat Leander in their last district game, they would have advanced.
“Our kids now understand the level it takes to be competitive, and they can play with anybody,” O’Connor said. “Coach Dodge improved the Xs and Os, they learned an exciting offense. To me the biggest gain is the players’ confidence in knowing they can compete.”
Dodge said he was happy to see more athletes play more than one sport, and O’Connor credited Dodge for that happening.
“We’re such a small school that every kid has to show up and contribute,” O’Connor said. “Every student has a place where they could help and figure out how to be successful. Coach Dodge put in two years’ worth of work in teaching our kids the mindset of what it takes to be competitive. It goes back to confidence.”