It has been a week since Texas A&M-Commerce decided to select former East Texas State Quarterback Clint Dolezel as the new head coach. The response was overwhelmingly positive, but has had some vocal critics, namely those who are wondering how a Coach who has had tremendous success in the Arena Football Leagues will be able to translate to the NCAA collegiate game. Let’s take a look at who Dolezel is, where he came from, and why this was the best hire possible despite how disastrous the school handled David Bailiff’s situation.
Hometown: Robinson, TX
High School: Robinson High School
Before ETSU: Cisco JR College
At ETSU: We got a real steal when Clint Dolezel decided to come to East Texas State. He was originally headed for Southern Mississippi, but a last second coaching change got him to find Commerce, TX on the map and he signed with Coach Eddie Vowell. Nicknamed “Catfish” for his country boy appeal as just a guy from small town Central Texas. In 1992, he took firm grip of the starting Quarterback job to lead the Lions to an 8-3 record, good enough for 2nd place. Dolezel had to follow some big shoes behind some great Quarterbacks in the Vowell era. Mike Trigg and Bob Bounds had both had terrific careers and winning seasons and were both in the professional arena now, but Dolezel found himself to be the strong armed signal caller who had a brain as strong as his throwing arm. Teammate and former Lion Wideout Billy Minor said “He could read a defense as easily as any of us could read a Dr. Suess book.” He left Commerce in the top 15 in career passing yards, single season passing yards (1,580 in 1993, which was a lot back then.) His also top 20 in single season passing touchdowns and career passing touchdowns. He only had 2 years to do that, which was pretty impressive. His final numbers were 3,152 passing yards and 23 touchdowns, both top 20 numbers. What is impressive is that he split time in the early part of the 1992 season with Greg Centilli, who had transferred from San Jose State, and battled injuries in 1993, having to miss 2 games. If he had been there with better luck, who knows what records he might have. He was All-Lone Star Conference Second Team at Quarterback for the 1992 and 1993 season and selected to play in the 1994 Snow Bowl.
As a Professional-
Dolezel was scouted by the NFL and there were some that believed he would be at the very least picked in the later rounds or sign a free agent deal. He signed out of ETSU with the Cleveland Browns, where all good quarterback careers go to die and went through training camp, but did not make the team. He signed on with the Milwaukee Mustangs in the Arena Football League and that is where his story begins.
From 1995-2008, Dolezel become of the one the most prolific Quarterbacks in the history of the Arena League game. At that time, the AFL started to expand into major Metro areas of the country and became a popular supplement to the NFL. Dolezel won an Arena Bowls, was a 3 time All-Arena selection. He was so prolific as a passer that he was offered another free agent deal in the NFL, this time with Chicago Bears in 2000. He went back to the Arenal Leagues and ended his career in North Texas, playing for the Dallas Desperados. His final career numbers were astounding, completing 65.8% of his 5,698 passing attempts for 44,564 yards and 931 career touchdowns as opposed to only 155 interceptions.
As a Coach-
His first stint as an Arena League Coach was as offensive coordinator for the Florida Firecats of the AF2 (the developmental league for Arena League Players). He was then named Head Coach for the San Angelo Stampede Express, but got back into the major Arena Leagues when he was named Head Coach for the Dallas Vigilantes. After a successful year in Dallas, he was named offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Soul in 2012 and then took over as Head Coach from 2013-2019. He won two more Arena Bowls as Head Coach and was inducted into the AFL’s Hall of Fame in 2012 and named the 8th greatest Indoor player in league history. Dolezel also took home Coach of The Year Honors in 2015 and 2016. In the AFL offseason, he traveled to China to Coach Indoor Football in Beijing, where he won the China Bowl in his one year coaching, but helping to develop the Arena League game in the Orient.
In 2019 The Arena Football League ceased operations and Dolezel became head coach of the Frisco Fighters of the Indoor Football League. The 2020 season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but in 2021, it was a great season with a 10-3 record that saw the Fighters finish in the IFL semifinals. Despite the offer for a contract extension, Dolezel decided to take a role with the Indoor League to promote and manage the game.
I am not lying when I say this. After Coach Bailiff announced he would not be returning to Commerce due to contractual disputes, many people wondered who the next Coach would be. I lobbied for Dolezel to be a new Coach. To me, he is a perfect fit. Here is why.
- He is one of us. He is an ET Lion. He understands the tradition and played it and lived it. He loves his Alma Mater and wants the best for it.
- He has been a winner everywhere he has been. He is a winner as a player and a coach.
- He has built teams from scratch. In the AFL, IFL, and all the non NFL leagues you have to find players and get what you can out of them. He has done that everywhere he has been.
- He is an offensive mind-If there is one thing we have needed over the past two years, it has been a more revitalized offense and a major shot in the arm. As a former Quarterback and offensive mind, many of the concepts of the powerful offenses that have been putting up points and racking up yards are ones that Dolezel specializes in implementing and running.
- He can adjust-For those who don’t know, Arena Football League teams have 8 people on offense and the fields are 50 yards long and 25 yards wide. Here is the kicker though, 2 of the 3 players that an Arena offense does without are offensive linemen, and will add a back or a receiver. The offense that Dolezel runs can easily implemented by just adding an extra skill player, especially a tight end or a second tailback. The offense can easily fit the personnel we have.
- He is keeping the Defense-Word is he is keeping the defensive staff, which coached up a top ten defense nationally. If this is true, this is a very shrewd move.
- I am sure that Dolezel is going to get the program fully funded. He knows what it takes to win, and he knows you have to spend money in order to do it. I believe that Dolezel understands what we need to be a winner in the Southland Conference and in all of Division I Football, and I believe he is prepared to pull out all the stops to do it. He is a winner, and he is one of us.