By BRAD KEITH
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part series with new Tarleton head football coach Todd Whitten. In the first part, Whitten speaks of returning to Tarleton, change at the university and recruiting.
STEPHENVILLE (December 10, 2015) — A lot has changed in the 11 years since Todd Whitten last sat in the head coach’s office at the Tarleton State football field house.
There are new buildings on campus, with others under construction and still more on the drawing board. There are 12,000 students enrolled in the university, compared to about 7,000 when Whitten left following the 2004 season to be head coach at Sam Houston State.
Whitten admits even he has changed the last decade.
“I’ve gotten a little older, a little fatter and maybe a little more bald,” he quipped Thursday morning.
But the football field house and Memorial Stadium – for now – have remained largely unchanged.
So, Whitten said, has the formula for winning football games.
“I know we can win here, and I think we can win sooner rather than later. We can get this thing back on track,” said Whitten, still getting comfortable in his old office six days following a press conference formally re-introducing him as head coach. “The formula for success hasn’t changed. You have to surround yourself with good people, good coaches, and do everything you can to put them in position to win. I think most of it happens on the recruiting trail.”
And Whitten claims there is no better school in the Lone Star Conference to recruit athletes to than Tarleton State.
“This is absolutely the best location in this conference in terms of being in the middle of players. We’re close to the (Dallas-Fort Worth) Metroplex and to Waco-Temple-Killeen, and we have access to West Texas,” said Whitten. “We’re right in the middle of the state, and to me, that’s the perfect location.”
Authorization from the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents to spend $24 million in stadium renovations also helps.
“As a football coach, it doesn’t get any better than that. There’s nobody in the Lone Star Conference who can talk about that the way we can,” Whitten said. “I know when they get done it’s going to be tremendous.”
Of course, Whitten also knows Tarleton is currently behind on the recruiting trail.
“The junior college signing period is coming up, so there’s not a lot of time left for that, but we are out right now working, trying to get some things done,” he said. “Mainly, it will be high school guys and then some Division I transfers.”
Whitten said recruiting is always a priority, and will be especially emphasized in January.
“After the first of the year we will have our staff in place, then we’ll really get out there and get going finding players,” he said.
Whitten said he has not made any staffing decisions yet, but expects to have some by the end of next week.
“I’m not very far along in that process, and I know we have quite a few good guys around here. I just don’t know enough yet to make those decisions, but I know our building has great people in it,” he said.
Tarleton was 45-23 under Whitten in 1996 and from 2000-04. He won four league or division coach of the year honors while guiding the Texans to a share of the LSC league-wide championship in 2001 and to three LSC divisional titles.
Whitten was named head coach a third time last Thursday, December 3, before the Friday morning press conference at Wisdom Gym. He replaces Cary Fowler, who was 30-32 in six seasons and guided Tarleton to a share of the LSC championship in 2013.
Whitten will get to coach his son, Tate, who will be a senior receiver for the Texans next season.
“That’s great. Getting to see him every day, getting to interact with him and be involved in his life on a daily basis, I’m going to enjoy that and make every moment count,” Coach Whitten said. “That’s one of the reasons my wife, Dana, and I are tickled to death to be here and don’t ever want to leave again. I have a special relationship with (athletic director Lonn Reisman) and have for 20 years, and we have family here. This is the perfect place for us to settle.”
And, hopefully, win.
“I just wish I could turn the clock forward about six weeks when we’ve got everything settled here,” Whitten said. “I’ve only met with the team one time, and I’m anxious to get to know the kids better and to get out there recruiting and doing the things we need to be ready to win.”
Whitten also discussed the ever-changing state of football in the Lone Star Conference. Visit The Flash on Friday for part two of this mini-series.