A familiar face made his return to Stephenville as the winningest coach of Tarleton State University’s NCAA era, Todd Whitten, returned to the Texan sidelines prior to the 2016 season.
He returned to Tarleton for the 2016 season and made an immediate impact by resurrecting a 3-7 season from the year before and led Tarleton into the final two games of the season with a chance to win the Lone Star Conference championship.
In a news conference on December 3, 2015, at 9:30 a.m. Athletic Director Lonn Reisman announced the selection of Whitten as head football coach. Whitten joined Reisman and President Dr. F. Dominic Dottavio at the announcement in the lobby of Wisdom Gym.
This marked the 28th head coaching change in the history of Tarleton football, as Whitten is one of 24 different men to lead the Texans. He now joins legendary coach W.J. Wisdom as one of two coaches with three different tenures as Tarleton’s head football coach.
“I feel like I’m coming home,” said Whitten. “I’m very excited to be back at Tarleton. This is a very special place and it’s an incredible job. I’m very thankful to be chosen.”
Whitten, a 28-year veteran at the collegiate coaching level, has been a head coach for 12 years, including seven years at Tarleton (1996, 2000-04, 2016) and five seasons at Division I Sam Houston State.
He currently boasts an NCAA coaching record of 75-57, including a record at Tarleton of 50-29, which gives him the second-most total wins in school history behind Wisdom (71). He also has a career record of 29-11 on the home turf of Memorial Stadium in Stephenville.
“I am very confident in Todd Whitten’s ability to win football games and reestablish our program into a contender – not just in the Lone Star Conference, but on the national level,” said Reisman. “In his career, Whitten has shown the ability to rebuild programs and make them very competitive.
“He brings a wealth of experience as a head coach at the Division I and Division II levels,” continued Reisman. “He is an innovator, he is creative, and he has one of the most tremendous offensive minds in the country. I have all the confidence in the world that Todd will bring enthusiasm and energy to our football program.”
During his first two stints at Tarleton, Whitten was no stranger to awards and championships.
Before taking over the program in 1996 for one season, Tarleton had a record of 4-16-1 since joining the NCAA in 1994. Whitten turned things around following a 1-10 season in 1995 by leading the Texans to a 5-5 record in his first season, which was enough to garner him the LSC Coach of the Year award for that season.
After a three-year hiatus as the offense coordinator for Wyoming and Sam Houston State, Whitten made his return to Stephenville to build Tarleton into a national powerhouse.
Whitten came back in 2000 and turned Tarleton around once again with a 6-5 record to open the new century.
In his second season, Whitten’s Texans entered uncharted territory with a 10-3 mark to claim the school’s first Lone Star Conference championship and division championship en route to their first trip to the NCAA playoffs. He would go on to boast a record of 17-6 over the next two seasons, each of which garnered his third and fourth LSC Coach of the Year awards, and Tarleton returned to the NCAA playoffs in 2003.
Whitten is a four-time Lone Star Conference Coach of the Year after winning the award in 1996, 2001, 2002, and 2003. He was also named the D2Football.com West Region Coach of the Year in 2001 after guiding Tarleton to the playoffs for the first time.
Before becoming a coach, Whitten was a star athlete at Dallas Kimball High School and Stephen F. Austin University – where he was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2001. He was a three-year starter at quarterback and a three-year starter in the outfield during baseball season.
He was drafted in the 17th round of the 1983 Major League Baseball Draft by Philadelphia out of Kimball High School, but declined to make his way to Stephen F. Austin. After his dual-sport career with the Lumberjacks, Whitten signed a free agent contract to play quarterback for the New England Patriots in 1987.
After playing for the Patriots in 1987, Whitten traded the helmet for the headset as he went back to school as a graduate assistant coach at Texas Tech to begin his coaching career. He earned his first full-time coaching job at New Mexico State in 1990, where he spent four seasons before heading to El Paso, where he spent two seasons at UTEP.
Whitten left UTEP for his first head coaching position at Tarleton in 1996 before leaving for Wyoming the following year.
After his second stint at Tarleton from 2000-04, Whitten returned to Sam Houston State for his first Division I head coaching opportunity. He spent five seasons with the Bearkats. From there, he spent two seasons at Lamar, one year at Arlington Heights High School, and the last three years at UTEP before coming back to Tarleton in December 2015.
Whitten earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Stephen F. Austin in 1987 and a master’s degree in sports administration from Texas Tech in 1990.
He resides in Stephenville with his wife, Dana. The couple has three sons – Brady, Blaze, and Tate – and a daughter, Maddie.