2023 DCTF Magazine Preview: Texas A&M-Commerce Lions

Courtesy of Texas A&M-Commerce Football

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Dolezel takes the reins

When Texas A&M-Commerce began searching for a head coach after David Bailiff’s departure, the Lions needed someone to unite the current fan base with alums still bitter about changing their name from East Texas State when the Lions joined the Texas A&M System. The fan base also wanted someone known for offense.

Enter Clint Dolezel.

Dolezel is a member of the A&M-Commerce Hall of Fame after a standout career as the final quarterback for East Texas State before the name change. He’s well-aware of the program’s history. 

He arrives in Commerce after spending 13 seasons as a head coach in indoor professional football, where scoring points was never an issue. He won two Arena Bowl titles as head coach of the Philadelphia Soul, so he knows how to win championships too.

In the off-chance that he has a question, he has a support group that includes his cousin, Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell, and Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton; Dolezel attended several New Orleans Saints training camps when Campbell was on Payton’s staff in the Big Easy.

However, there are some key differences between indoor and 11-man ranks. For one, you have a larger staff in 11-man football.

“It’s nice to have a bigger staff. We can break things up into individual meetings with a position group coach and fix what we talk about during the team meetings,” Dolezel said. “We couldn’t break things up as much in arena football because I did so many things as coach. Now, I have so many things on my plate with the administration and the school that I’m learning to delegate more than I did in the past.”

Learning to delegate has been one of Dolezel’s biggest challenges. 

“In professional ball, I might talk with some sponsors sometimes, but I was mainly coaching football,” he said. “The hardest thing for me right now is finding the time to do a lot of things and still coach football. I want to be a part of everything. I don’t want to miss any meetings, but there are times when I have to miss them. That’s why it’s important to me to have a good coaching staff to keep things going in the right direction while I’m doing other things.”

One of Dolezel’s first decisions at A&M-Commerce was to retain most of the Lions defensive staff, including defensive coordinator Kyle Williams. But the offensive staff is new to the program, which was evident during spring practice.

“Our defense is way ahead of the offense because we’re installing new plays on offense,” he said. “It’s frustrating for the offense to struggle, but they’re getting to see a lot of different looks from the defense. That will only help us when the season starts.

“Fans won’t see much change on the defensive side of the ball. We have a few holes that we need to plug on that side, and we’ll look to do that in the portal after spring practice.”

Another challenge facing Dolezel is the Lions’ schedule. A&M-Commerce will play 10 FCS opponents and one FBS foe in Old Dominion, a demanding schedule for a program entering the second of its four-year transition to NCAA Division I.

“That schedule is something the old AD left us,” Dolezel said. “When you’re playing games like that on the road, you should get a lot of money for it, but we’re not. We’re not getting anything to play at Old Dominion, and we have a home and home with UC Davis with us going there next year. That’s pretty tough on the budget, especially when you’re in transition.”

But Dolezel understands the opposition won’t show empathy this year, and the Lions should be ready when they enter Southland Conference action.

“Our motto is ‘nobody cares.’ They expect us to win, and that’s how we live,” he said. “We’re going to play whoever shows up, and we’re gonna give them a tough time. We’ll be ready for conference opponents if we can stay healthy. We’re going to see as much talent in the first four games as we’re going to see in the Southland.”



There are many challenges facing Dolezel at A&M-Commerce, and it goes far beyond that insane 2023 schedule. The university is beginning its second year of transition to Division I and is still trying to get the infrastructure in place necessary to compete in the FCS. A move to DI requires significant investment into adding staff positions and upgrading facilities. The long-term success of the Lions at DI will depend on the financial support from the alums and fan base. 

Dolezel is the right guy to lead this program, and the Lions will not be outcoached or outworked during his tenure. But recruiting while unable to compete in the playoffs for 3 more years will be a challenge. An NIL collective could help solve some budget issues.

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