Most coaches are intensely focused on football, and view boosters, alumni and media responsibilities as unwelcome distractions from football, necessary evils at best and obstacles to effective job performance at worst. Does Nick Saban have time for that shit? He does not, and neither do most other bosses who see zone blitzes when they close their eyes but can't remember what their kids look like from August through February.
But Dennis Franchione, as you are probably aware by now, is not most coaches. Does he not have assistants to handle the Xs and Os? He served his time as a hands-on grunt, and that can't be the life he chose, can it? If ever he had an opportunity to establish Fran the Brand, a diversified, 21st Century approach to becoming an across-the-board gridiron mogul, now must be the time. Team? Check. Rabid fan base? Check. Now, how does an enterprising coaching diva take maximum advantage of his lofty position and the high demand of that money-soaked demographic?
Just tryin' to make a buck. What is this, Russia?
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For years, Franchione has run his independent site CoachFran.com in the open, defying the university-backed overlords that govern the public face of more indifferent coaches who do not have time for that shit. We knew that. It took a humiliating drubbing on national television, though, before we became privvy via some fuming insiderz to the full extent of Coach Fran's behind-the-scenes communications empire, namely the well-chronicled "VIP Connection" e-mail newsletter sent to a select group of gossip-hungry subscribers for a mere $1,200 a year, written by Fran aide Mike McKenzie and distributed behind the university and athletic department's back for at least the last three years. Hush hush, nudge nudge, wink wink, check check, say no more, etc.
For the most part, this is just weird and funny, but when the story broke mainstream two weeks ago, A&M was immediately barraged with Freedom of Information requests, most of which proved futile because the e-mails weren't sent from university computers. Still, from news reports, its own investigation and cooperation from certain members of the "VIP" camp, A&M collected what it could and responded this morning with a lengthy run-down of violations and fallout.
First things first: here are the e-mails the university was able to recover in PDF form. Peruse them at great personal risk, mostly of mounting boredom.
Now, on with the consequences! (all emphasis is mine):
1. Directed Dennis Franchione to discontinue the CoachFran.com web site.
2. Directed Dennis Franchione or any company under his control to no longer employ any staff members that could be construed as representing Texas A&M or providing information or reports relative to his position as head coach at Texas A&M.
3. The institution will issue a letter of admonishment to Dennis Franchione.
4. The institution will reduce the permissible number of off-campus contacts (NCAA limit of 6) for each referenced prospective student-athlete by one for each impermissible reference to the prospective student-athlete.
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Current content of CoachFran.com:
Well, fine, it's all over now. But what about the money? TAMU had to respond specifically to NCAA Rule 11.2.2 re: reporting outside income:
Upon employing Dennis Franchione, Texas A&M University was aware of the external internet interests of Dennis Franchione, and it specifically included stipulations in Section 10 of his contract that outside income includes income generated through internet web sites. Through the 2005-06 academic year, Dennis Franchione has not reported the revenue/income received through the Internet web site, CoachFran.com, and the "VIP Connection." He should have, but Dennis Franchione mistakenly thought that he did not have to report this income until he actually received proceeds from the third party web site consultant company that exceeded expenses incurred for maintaining and running the web site. Therefore, he did not report the revenue to the institution. Dennis Franchione did not directly receive any of the proceeds until June 26, 2007, and he would have reported the income as part of the institution's upcoming 2006-07 outside income report.
Response from NCAA:
The NCAA membership services staff confirmed that the funds maintained by a third party web site consulting company to offset the expenses for CoachFran.com were income and should have been reported to appropriate institutional authorities in the interest of full disclosure, institutional control and the monitoring of employee activities. Therefore, Texas A&M University will report a violation to the NCAA.
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Later, if you really want to know, the report breaks down Fran's expenses thusly:
This seems like a lot of trouble for $9,000 for a guy making over a million a year, but then again, the job security is not great. You have to wring every penny out of that gravy train while you're still on it, I guess.
Recruiting? We all love it, those awesome teenagers destined to fill our coming autumns with excitement and a heightened sense of self-worth. But you can't talk about it:
Occasionally, the "VIP Connection" contained the name of prospective student-athletes or mentioned information specific to a prospective student-athlete without stating the prospect's name.
Response from NCAA
The NCAA Membership Services staff has informed the institution that several of the comments discovered to have been made in the "VIP Connection" are contrary to this provision and should be reported as violations.
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On the conference level, the Big 12 doesn't care much for teams undermining its officials - though, in a pinch, its member administrators will call for the results of certain games to be overturned when called by a crew from another conference - a memo that apparently didn't reach McKenzie's desk or arrived with a big `disregard' stamp on it:
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A&M was waxed by Tennessee 38-7 in the 2005 Cotton Bowl, and there's no explanation for the fine young athletes of College Station taking a beating like that unless there are bona fide shenanigans, right? Au contraire, sez the resident Association support staff: there's no evidence of knowledge on the part of Franchione or McKenzie that any of the VIPs were using the information for the damnable act of wagering or that there was any unusual dissemination of info from closed practices before that Cotton Bowl. So no violations there. Though McKenzie did, you know, pretty well enjoy his time in "play-scripting meetings," which were not exactly off-limits:
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Final note: among the 23 (entirely uncooperative) individuals listed as super secret "VIP" subscribers, only two names are likely to mean anything to anyone outside of the A&M community, and those only from their last name: Kim Franchione, Coach Fran's wife, and Ashley Franchione, one of their two daughters. Since these are already super secret VIPs on a daily basis and have no need whatsoever to subscribe to a "secret" newsletter, their inclusion on the list can only mean they were being charged for the info, too. Well, maybe it can't only mean that, but we're going to assume it unless specified otherwise. Cuz a man's gotta make a living, doesn't he?