Franchione denies reports of buyout; Tuberville dodges questions
The Texas A&M job was a hot topic at two college football news conferences Tuesday, and the coaches at the forefront were doing their best to dodge the questions.
In College Station, embattled Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione said reports that he was negotiating a buyout of his contract were untrue.
"I am not going to get into the rumor game with you guys," Franchione said. "There are no facts to that and I'm not into it. I'm sorry that you guys have to deal with it."
Meanwhile, in Auburn, Ala., Tommy Tuberville declined to discuss reports that his name is high on the Aggies' wish list of candidates if Franchione is fired. Tuberville said he's worried only about the 18th-ranked Tigers' upcoming games against Georgia and Alabama.
"As I told our players, that's the least of our worries or anybody's worries," said Tuberville, a former Texas A&M defensive coordinator. "The players, the coaches and the fans look forward to these two games, and we're not going to ruin it by discussing any of that stuff because anything I say will be looked at, turned around and flipped around. It doesn't make any difference."
Tuberville said he will meet with Auburn president Jay Gogue and athletic director Jay Jacobs after the season as usual to discuss the program and any possible contract negotiations, "and we'll go from there."
Jacobs was in meetings Tuesday afternoon and not immediately available for comment.
Media outlets including ESPN reported Monday that Texas A&M was looking to end Franchione's tenure after five years. His contract pays him $2 million per year and runs through 2012.
The Aggies (6-4, 3-3 Big 12) play at No. 7 Missouri (8-1, 4-1) on Saturday, and Franchione refused to talk about anything but that game.
"I know you have your work to do and your questions to ask, but I'm a non-participant in this," Franchione said.
Franchione bristled when he was asked if he expected to be A&M's coach next season.
"You want to talk about Missouri, you want to talk about the games, I'm willing to sit here with you," he said. "You guys go ahead and speculate on all the other things. That is not my concern at this point in time."
Franchione, 56, has faced growing discontent with A&M's fan base as the Aggies have fallen behind the Big 12's elite teams and slipped out of the national spotlight. Under Franchione, A&M is 2-12 against main rivals Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma.
The criticism intensified a month ago, when Franchione was caught giving inside information to boosters who paid $1,200 to get it. The e-mailed newsletters, dubbed "The VIP Connection," contained news about players' injuries, their academic standing and Franchione's blunt assessments of their skills.
Athletic director Bill Byrne was not aware of the e-mails and Franchione apparently violated his contract by not reporting the income the newsletters generated.
Byrne admonished Franchione for the newsletter and ordered him to shut down his personal Web site. The school launched an internal investigation and sent the findings to the NCAA, acknowledging some secondary violations. Byrne said last month he would consider the e-mail scandal when he evaluates Franchione at the end of the season.
Amid Monday's reports about Franchione's status, the school released a statement that said Byrne still planned to wait until the season ended before evaluating Franchione. The statement said there were "false rumors" circulating about the program.
The Aggies didn't practice Monday, but the players spent the day wondering about Franchione, too. None of them heard from the coach but assumed that the reports weren't true.
"We would've been the first to know," senior guard Kirk Elder said Tuesday. "There would've been some kind of notification to the players."
Hiring Tuberville would be expensive. It would cost $6 million to buy him out of the seven-year, $18 million deal he signed after the Tigers went 13-0 in 2004. Tuberville is making $2.6 million this season.
Like Tuberville, Auburn's players insist they're focusing on Saturday's game at No. 10 Georgia, then will turn to the season-ender in two weeks against No. 21 Alabama. The Tigers (7-3, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) started hearing the rumblings about Texas A&M, though.
"We're not going to let it be a distraction," defensive end Quentin Groves said. "We're just going to go out and play football. Right now, he's Auburn's head coach and he's our head coach.
"If it happens, it happens. We've got Georgia. We can't focus on, 'Is he leaving or is he going?' "
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.