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Embattled A&M coach resigns after 5 rocky seasons

11/24/2007 - Texas A&M Aggies

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Dennis Franchione came to Texas
A&M to restore the glory to the Aggies. He left with a mediocre
record and an embarrassing scandal on his resume.

Franchione resigned as the Aggies head coach on Friday, ending a
rocky five-year tenure less than an hour after his team beat
archrival Texas 38-30 at Kyle Field.

The school announced Franchione had accepted a buyout, but
refused to give details.

He finished 32-28 at A&M, far short of the expectations when he
replaced R.C. Slocum in December 2002. Off the field, Franchione
was caught this season selling inside information about the program
to big-money boosters in a secret newsletter.

By then, most of the program's fervent fans had already turned
against him and it was only a matter of time before the divorce to
become final.

Franchione's contract ran through 2012 and paid him a base
salary of $2 million per year.

Dressed in a gray suit, Franchione stepped to the podium after
beating Texas for a second straight season and ended all
speculation.

"We appreciate the opportunity we have had at this great
institution, to work with this administration," he read from a
prepared statement. "We have made many lasting friendships."

The Aggies (7-5, 4-4 Big 12) finished the regular season with
four losses in six games. Franchione, who will not coach the Aggies
in their bowl game, did not take questions from reporters.

Swarmed by cameras on the field after the game was over,
Franchione pushed through the throng to embrace junior quarterback
Stephen McGee, his staunchest supporter during this tumultuous
season.

None of the Aggies were available for comment after Franchione
spoke.

"We have an outstanding group of young men on this team and
especially great people," Franchione said. "We want them to know
that we love them, feel blessed for our time together, and will
miss them."

Franchione hooked arms with McGee on the field to line up for
one more post-game "yell," a timeworn A&M tradition. He found his
wife, Kim, and tightly clenched her hand as he walked slowly off
the field, embracing more than a dozen players and friends along
the way.

Athletic department spokesman Alan Cannon said the players did
not know about Franchione's intentions until after the game.

A&M went 19-21 in Big 12 games under Franchione and lost 12 of
15 games against rivals Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Texas. They still
haven't won the Big 12 since 1998.

Late in Slocum's tenure, the Aggies slipped to the middle of the
league -- unacceptable at a place where Bear Bryant once coached and
A&M was power in the Southwest Conference.

Franchione had a reputation for turning programs around, but not
much changed after he arrived.

The Aggies went 4-8 in Franchione's first season, including a
77-0 blowout loss to Oklahoma. It was A&M's first losing record
since 1982 and the grumbling from the fans were already starting.

A&M opened the 2004 season with a 41-21 loss to Utah, then ended
it with a 38-7 loss to Tennessee in the Cotton Bowl. A promising
start in 2005 disintegrated when the Aggies lost their last four
games and finished 5-6.

As Franchione brought in his own players, A&M was repeatedly
exposed by faster, more athletic teams. After beating Texas in the
2006 finale, the Aggies lost 45-10 to California in last year's
Holiday Bowl, the program's worst-ever postseason defeat. A 34-17
loss to Miami on Sept. 20 began this year's downward spiral.

While many of the teams in the Big 12 moved to high-scoring,
passing offenses, A&M stuck with an old-fashioned, option running
attack. The Aggies came into Friday's game ranked last in the Big
12 and 108th in the nation in passing offense, averaging 171 yards
per game.

A&M's defense ranged from average to awful under Franchione -- it
was ranked 88th in the nation this season, a far cry from the
"Wrecking Crew" days of the mid-1980s and '90s.

Last year, Franchione likely earned himself one more season by
beating Texas 12-7 in Austin. As sweet as it is to beat the hated
Horns again, it didn't earn him a longer stay in College Station
this time.

"We have enjoyed 35 years in coaching, and we'll consider our
time in Aggieland to be a rewarding part," he said. "We wish the
best to everyone here."

A week after the loss in Miami, a newspaper reported that
Franchione's personal assistant had been sending out e-mails with
inside information about the program to boosters who paid $1,200 a
year to get it. Embarrassed athletic director Bill Byrne suggested
Franchione breached his contract, admitted NCAA rules were broken
and vowed the messy scandal would be part of Franchione's year-end
evaluation.

Byrne said after Friday's game that the school had completed its
investigation into the e-mail scandal. He said the school was
convinced that Franchione "did not intentionally, knowingly, or
directly participate in actions that were inappropriate or in
violation of rules or policies."

Byrne added that he thought Franchione was guilty of
"inadequate supervision and oversight."

Franchione's failure at A&M was puzzling, given his strong
record of reviving programs.

New Mexico was 9-50 in the five seasons before Franchione
arrived in 1992. The Lobos had three winning records in six seasons
under Franchione and went 9-4 in 1997.

In 1998, Franchione moved to TCU, which finished 1-10 the
previous season. The Horned Frogs -- with LaDainian Tomlinson in the
backfield -- never had a losing record in Franchione's three seasons
and went 10-1 in 2000.

Franchione spent the next two seasons at Alabama and the Tide
went 10-3 in 2002 before he bolted for A&M, what he called his
"dream job" at the time.

After he resigned, Byrne was the only man speaking for him.

"I want to express my regret and gratitude to Coach Franchione
for his courage in making this decision, and putting the interests
of his players and this institution ahead of his own interests,"
Byrne said in a prepared statement. "We wish Coach Franchione the
very best moving forward and we are grateful for all of his hard
work and effort while he was here at A&M."