Texas A&M coach said he's staying in emotional statement

Updated: October 2, 2007, 9:09 PM ET
Associated Press

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 can."

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 regulations."

Athletics department spokesman Alan Cannon said the school has started an internal review and will contact the NCAA when it's completed.

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 gathering.

"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 them."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press