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Sherman succeeds Franchione as Texas A&M coach

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M turned to a former
assistant to lead the program back to prominence.

Former Green Bay Packers coach Mike Sherman was hired at A&M
Monday, three days after Dennis Franchione resigned.

Sherman, an assistant head coach with the Houston Texans for two
seasons, will return to the school where he was the offensive line
coach from 1989-93 and in 1995-96 under R.C. Slocum.

"It's like coming back home," Sherman said. "I told my wife,
you can unpack the boxes on this move. I've moved about 10 times in
my career. You can put up the pictures and throw the boxes away,
because we're going to be here awhile."

Sherman signed a seven-year contract that will pay him $1.8
million a year.

"I've had opportunities at other jobs I didn't take," Sherman
said. "I've been a head coach. I know what it's going to take to
be a head coach. I understand the commitment and sacrifice my
family's going to have to make. So I'm not going to delve into
something unless I feel like we have a legitimate chance to win
championships."

The formal announcement came with plenty of symbolism.

Current and former players packed an auditorium to see Sherman
introduced. John David Crow, the 1957 Heisman Trophy winner for
A&M, shook hands with Sherman after the news conference, and Slocum
and Sherman posed for pictures.

Franchione alienated himself from many of the program's old
guard, and athletic director Bill Byrne said he hoped to rebuild
some of those connections by bringing Sherman back.

"We have a wonderful, rich tradition here," Byrne said. "I
wanted to make sure that whoever we had come in here would be able
to bridge the issues we had previously and build on strengths we
had in the past. Mike can certainly do that."

Slocum and Franchione had an icy relationship and Slocum didn't
pass up a chance to bring up A&M's successes before Franchione
arrived.

"If you look at the history of this school, in the decade of
the 1990s, we won almost 77 percent of our games," Slocum said.
"I also happen to think our best days are ahead of us. There is an
expectation that we take it a notch higher than what it's been."

Franchione, who earned about $2 million annually, took a
contract buyout and stepped down Friday, less than an hour after
Texas A&M upset rival Texas 38-30. Defensive coordinator Gary
Darnell was made the interim coach Saturday and will lead the
Aggies (7-5, 4-4 Big 12) through their bowl game.

On Monday, players were still stinging from Franchione's
resignation, especially junior quarterback Stephen McGee. He
canceled a weekend hunting trip and visited with Franchione at his
home Saturday.

"He's been the coach now for four years, so you can imagine the
relationship I've built with him over this time," McGee said.
"When you lose a guy like that, you can't just show up on Monday,
you've got a new coach and, 'Here we go.' It's going to take some
time for me to move on."

The 52-year-old Sherman hasn't coached in college since leaving
A&M to become an assistant in Green Bay in 1996.

Byrne said Sherman was the only coach interviewed for the
vacancy. The two talked on the phone shortly after A&M's win
Friday.

Sherman met with the Aggies on Monday morning. He has yet to
start assembling his staff.

"I want to get it in place as quickly as possible, but not at
the expense of making a bad decision," Sherman said. "These are
decisions that you want to last a long time and you want them to be
the right ones."

Sherman sat down individually with McGee later on Monday.

"He knew the relationship I had with Coach Fran," McGee said.
"He understood my loyalty and knew this time was really tough on
me. He respected that and certainly I appreciate him acknowledging
that, reaching out and taking the time. I know he's extremely busy.
For him to do that meant a lot to me."

Sherman became the Packers' head coach in 2000, and Green Bay
went 59-43 and won three NFC North titles in his six seasons. The
Packers also produced two of the four highest-scoring seasons in
franchise history under Sherman.

Sherman joined former A&M quarterback Gary Kubiak's Texans staff
after he was fired by Green Bay last year. He became the offensive
coordinator this season, after Troy Calhoun left to coach Air
Force.

"I'm a former Aggie and it means the world to me that he's
going to be the guy there leading that program," Kubiak said.

Sherman will finish the season
with the Texans before moving into his job with the Aggies full
time.

"We're all going to miss him, but we're all very proud of
him," Kubiak said. "The coaching staff and everybody who worked
here is better off because they had the chance to work with him."

A&M went 32-28 in five seasons under Franchione and couldn't
gain ground on the Big 12's elite teams, going 3-12 against
Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech. The Aggies haven't won the Big 12
since 1998.

Sherman called the program "a sleeping giant" and vowed to
turn things around.

"There is no doubt in my mind what can be accomplished here,"
he said. "I know a lot of coaches would say the same thing. But I
know the landscape here. I know the recruiting base. I know what
needs to be done."

This season began to spiral downward after Franchione's personal
assistant was caught sending out a newsletter with inside
information about the team to boosters for a fee. Byrne fired the
assistant, admonished Franchione and ordered the coach to shut down
his personal Web site.

Byrne said the school completed an internal investigation into
the newsletter -- called the "VIP Connection" -- and found that
Franchione "did not intentionally, knowingly, or directly
participate in actions that were inappropriate or in violation of
rules or policies."

Byrne said he never knew about the newsletters and acknowledged
that Franchione may have breached his contract by not reporting the
income he received from them. Byrne also said the newsletters may
have violated NCAA and Big 12 rules.

A&M's impatient fan base was already fed up with Franchione. The
Aggies finished with losing records in two of his first three
seasons. And while other Big 12 programs employed fast-paced,
pass-oriented offenses, A&M switched to an old-fashioned option
scheme.

The Aggies rank last in the Big 12 and 101st nationally in
passing offense, averaging 187 yards per game.

They're hoping Sherman can bring some of the Packers' offensive
fireworks to College Station.

In 2003, the Packers scored 442 points, just 14 shy of the
franchise record. The next season, Green Bay set team records for
total yards (6,357) and passing yards (4,449).

Few coaches have made successful transitions recently from the
pros to college.

Former Raiders coach Bill Callahan was fired Saturday after four
mediocre years at Nebraska. Former Bears and Dolphins coach Dave
Wannstedt has struggled at Pittsburgh.

Former Cowboys coach Chan Gailey was fired Monday after six
seasons at Georgia Tech. After two strong seasons under former
Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, Notre Dame set a
school record for losses this year.

Pete Carroll is one of the coaches who has had success at both
levels. He guided New England to the AFC East title in 1997 and has
led Southern Cal to two national championships since taking over
the program in 2000.

Sherman said the main difference between college and the pros is
the limitations on practice time -- which reduces how much a coach
can teach his players.

"Those are things we'll have to navigate through," he said,
"but I feel confident we'll be able to do that."