COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Like it or not Texas A&M fans,
Dennis Franchione says he's not leaving any time soon.
Franchione -- under fire for a blowout loss to Miami and news of
his secretive, for-pay newsletter to boosters -- gave a defiant,
emotional speech in an auditorium packed with his players Tuesday.
He said he has the support of athletics director Bill Byrne and has
no intention of stepping down.
"I love this job. I love these players. I love this
university," Franchione said, "and my desire is to remain here
and elevate this program to the highest level."
Franchione, whose $2 million-a-year contract runs through 2012,
last week admitted he provided inside information about his team to
an exclusive group of boosters who paid $1,200 to get it. That came
a week after a 34-17 loss to Miami that renewed cries from
big-money supporters for Franchione's firing.
A&M officials moved Tuesday's weekly media availability from the
usual small room to a large auditorium. The entire team filed into
the theater seats just before Franchione entered. He got a standing
ovation as he walked to the podium, with tears welling in his eyes.
"The last few days have produced many rumors and some misguided
speculation about my status as head football coach at Texas A&M,"
said Franchione, who has been peppered with questions about his
future since the Miami loss but said Tuesday "there is no more
need to discuss this matter."
"Bill Byrne, as my boss and the athletic director, has affirmed
me in every way, and has left no doubt, that he has confidence in
me and has every intention to help me succeed in building this
football program. And for that I am deeply grateful."
Byrne, on a previously scheduled visit to Washington, D.C.,
released a statement that stopped short of an endorsement.
"I want to reinforce to members of the media and to our
outstanding Aggie fans, I will not discuss matters pertaining to
head coaches during their seasons," the statement said. Byrne said
he looks forward to "working with Coach Fran as our head football
coach" as A&M prepares to play Oklahoma State.
Texas A&M (4-1, 1-0 Big 12) plays Oklahoma State (3-2, 1-0) on
Saturday at Kyle Field.
Franchione said he discontinued the insider newsletter after the
Aggies' triple-overtime win over Fresno State on Sept. 8. Byrne
said the school was "gathering all of the information" about it
and would "release it in its entirety as soon as we possibly
Texas A&M interim president Dr. Ed Davis said in a statement
that he's asked Byrne and David Batson, the school's NCAA
compliance officer, "to urgently look into the matter of the VIP
e-mail list to insure there are no violations of NCAA rules or
Athletics department spokesman Alan Cannon said the school has
started an internal review and will contact the NCAA when it's
Franchione is 29-24 in five seasons leading the Aggies, but he's
had a tenuous relationship with A&M's impatient fan base from the
beginning. It hasn't helped that he's 1-9 against Big 12 powers
Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska, though last year's 12-7 win in Austin
probably bought Franchione some time.
The Aggies lost 45-10 to California in last season's Holiday
Bowl and they were just as overmatched in Miami. When the Aggies
returned to College Station, quarterback Stephen McGee found a
nasty note from a fan on the windshield of his pickup truck.
That was nothing compared to the firestorm generated when news
broke about Franchione's exclusive team reports, which included
injury information and player assessments. Franchione admitted
after Saturday's 34-10 victory over Baylor that he made a mistake.
He said he's gotten support from many within the A&M community,
but some negative messages too.
"I think sometimes when you're in this role, some people forget
you're a human being," Franchione said, later adding, "I do have
feelings and I am sensitive and everybody needs to know that."
McGee, offensive lineman Kirk Elder and defensive end
Chris Harrington went to a movie Sunday night and decided afterward to
gather their teammates in a show of support at Tuesday's media
"When people start attacking your family like that, you've got
to pull together," said Harrington, a senior. "You have to stand
up and fight. Fran is part of the family. We're going to stand up
for him and we're going to play our butts off for him."
Midway through Franchione's news conference, the team got up and
filed out of the auditorium, with Franchione embracing almost every
one at the door.
"I'm only an effective leader if they want me to be the leader,
I think," he said. "And, certainly this was a statement to me by