Dec 6, 2002
By MICHAEL A. LUTZ
AP Sports Writer
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) - Dennis Franchione is back in Texas, taking over a program that has a bright enough future to make him walk away from his job at Alabama.
Franchione was formally introduced as the new Texas A&M coach Friday, a day after he bolted Tuscaloosa to replaced the fired R.C. Slocum.
"I'm coming here for a lot of reasons. Tradition and history is certainly a part of that," Franchione said, noting that the program hadn't had a losing season since 1982, when the Aggies went 5-6. "That's exciting to me, because it's my first time to take one over that has a foundation in place and not coming off a losing season ... in 30 years of coaching, that's a nice way to get started. I'm certainly ready for that."
Franchione agreed to a six-year deal, said Benton Cocanougher, special assistant to Texas A&M President Robert Gates. Details still had to be worked out, but Franchione will receive a salary between $1.5 million and $2 million annually, Cocanougher said.
Franchione is taking the opposite path that Bear Bryant took more than four decades ago, when he used Texas A&M as a stepping stone before going on to greatness at 'Bama.
For Franchione, a big raise, his ties to Texas and the prospect of another season on NCAA sanctions with the Crimson Tide were enough to make him jump at the Aggies' job. Franchione was the coach at Southwest Texas State in 1990 and 1991 and led Texas Christian from 1999 to 2000.
"I've always had a keen feeling and interest in this university at Texas A&M and the way they handle themselves, the type of people and program and university that they have," Franchione told Dallas-Fort Worth radio station WBAP on Friday morning. "It just worked out, and I felt it was a good fit for me, so here it is."
The Crimson Tide went 17-8 under Franchione, including 10-3 this season. But because of recruiting violations that occurred before Franchione arrived, Alabama is not eligible for a bowl this year or next.
Franchione had five years remaining on his Alabama contract, which was worth $1.1 million a season plus incentives. Alabama offered Franchione a 10-year deal reportedly worth $15 million, for an annual raise of about $400,000.
The 51-year-old coach took the A&M job without first talking to his players at Alabama, causing some ill feelings back in Tuscaloosa.
"It's a shock to all of us, of course, a great loss," athletic director Mal Moore said.
Tailback Ahmaad Galloway said the Tide players "are extremely hurt, about as hurt as you can be."
"A lot of guys paid the price and stayed here, but Coach Fran had a decision to make," said Galloway, a senior. "It's a decision that I can never understand or anybody else. When we all lay our heads down at night, we just pray that he made the best decision."
Earlier in the week there were signs that Franchione was on his way out of Alabama. He canceled speaking engagements Wednesday night in Columbus, Ga., and Thursday in Montgomery, Ala.
After completing contract talks in Dallas on Thursday afternoon, Franchione flew to College Station, where he emerged from a private jet onto a maroon carpet.
A&M board of regents chairman Erle Nye said he celebrated with school president Robert Gates and other regents Thursday when they learned that Franchione would join the Aggies.
"We think he's special," Nye said. "We think he brings some new perspective to add to a really strong program. I think (change) is healthy. Testing new ideas and having new perspectives is good."
Franchione's arrival ends a busy week at A&M that started Monday with Slocum's dismissal. The Aggies finished a 6-6 season last week with a 50-20 loss to Texas.
Tuesday, A&M hired former Nebraska athletic director Bill Byrne to replace outgoing AD Wally Groff. Groff was asked to resign by Gates and will complete his tenure Dec. 31.
Nye praised Slocum for handing his successor a clean, well-run program.
"We made great strides under coach Slocum," Nye said. "R.C. brought us all this and I think Coach Fran will do the same and we will go forward."
Before Alabama, Franchione coached at TCU in Fort Worth, amassing a 25-11 record with the Horned Frogs. Before that, he was at New Mexico from 1992-97.
Newly-hired Texas A&M head football coach Dennis Franchione answers a question during a news conference Friday.