The Butte Hall of Fame is bringing Dan Hodge back for another celebration.
And this time, it’s for a much more fitting and deserving honor.
The longtime and highly successful Flathead High School track coach, who was inducted into the Mining City’s sports hall in 1997 on the team level for his membership with the 1961 football and 1963 track state championship squads, has been selected as an Old Time member (having competed and coached 50 years ago).
Festivities begin Friday night in Butte with the official ceremony on Saturday evening.
Hodge will have his plaque on display at the Butte Civic Center and he will receive the coveted Green jacket, which is given to individual Hall of Fame members.
“That surprised me,” Hodge said of going in, again.
“I didn’t know I had even been nominated.”
Hodge received a phone call early one evening from Bill Foley, the Hall of Fame chairperson, informing him of his election.
“When I asked who nominated me, (Foley) didn’t have a clue (who did it),” Hodge said.
But Hodge has a pretty good idea it was his high school track coach Charlie Merrifield, who retired in 2013 after 50 years.
“Because of my athleticism and my coaching, the two of them,” he said of what landed him in the Butte Hall, again.
Hodge’s athletic career began in 1953 as center fielder with the Moose Little League baseball team in Butte. The Moose won multiple city titles.
He was a three-sport high school standout for the Bulldogs in football, basketball and track. He set a school record in the 180-yard low hurdles and was an all-state honorable mention quarterback.
A successful collegiate career followed at Montana State University, where he earned first-team All-Big Sky honors as a defensive back and was a school record holder in track (triple jump — 48 feet, 6 inches).
“I had some good guardian angels down there keeping track of me, watching what I have done over the years and spoke of me positively,” Hodge said of going into the Butte Hall for a second time.
“I had good friends, good parents. I was on a good track for life. The track I was following always had good people.
“It’s (Hall of Fame honor) good for me and it’s also good for the people around me that have been supportive of me.”
Hodge’s coaching success has resulted in eight Montana Coaches of the Year awards. He was inducted into the Montana Hall of Fame in 1998.
He was a National High School Track Coach of the Year finalist four times and won it in 1992.
He entered the National High School Coaches Hall of Fame in 2015.
“I think they are all totally different,” he said.
“They are for different aspects. The Montana stuff is for winning here. The national is for longevity, success and record.”
He credits Butte’s strong work ethic for shaping his success.
“I didn’t want to let my friend downs,” he said.
“I didn’t want to let my coaches down. I was fortunate to get good grades for a scholarship. I wanted to prove I was really worthy of that.
“It’s like everyone likes to cast a bad shadow on Butte,” he continued.
“Butte people always find a way to succeed.”
Hodge’s father worked in the Butte mines for 42 years.
“Don’t work in the mines. Get an education,” he said of what was stressed to him while growing up.
“We don’t want you under ground. One summer I worked down there. It was dark and creepy.”
From there, Hodge enjoyed success as an athlete and coach.
“I didn’t think I would still be working with athletes 45 years after I started,” he said.
“The rush was to get 30, 35 years possibly, but I’m still doing it. It’s the only job I’ve ever applied for.”
“Absolutely,” he said of feeling lucky.
“When I first started coaching track, Joe McKay was the girls coach. He won, won, won. The boys lost, lost, lost. The goal was to become just as good. It took quite a few years to do that.”
Hodge’s track squads have won seven state titles, placed second seven times and third five times.
He started coaching track, along with football, in Kalispell in 1972.