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Original Issue

College Football

Last Straw?

An ill-advised newsletter to boosters raised more questions about the future of Aggies coach Dennis Franchione

MIKE GUNDY has a new best friend. The Oklahoma State coach made national news on Sept. 22 for his three-minute rant at a Daily Oklahoman columnist who had been critical of a Cowboys quarterback. But Gundy's meltdown was overshadowed last Thursday when reports broke about a fellow Big 12 coach who had exhibited, if possible, even poorer judgment.

According to the San Antonio Express-News, Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione has distributed a secret e-mail newsletter to a dozen boosters since 2004. For $1,200 a year, the subscribers to VIP Connection received, among other things, scouting reports and injury updates—this despite Franchione's policy of refusing to discuss the status of injured players with the media.

It isn't just hypocrisy that has Franchione in hot water. Information on injuries, of course, is a valued tool of gamblers. Whether or not the VIP Connection readers were using the info for betting—Franchione "asked them not to do that," he assured the Express-News—the appearance is awful. Little wonder Franchione suspended the newsletter as soon as its existence was made public.

It's not like the guy needs the money: Franchione's $2 million-a-year contract runs through 2011. And though he didn't profit from the newsletter—its revenues were used, he said, to support his website,—Aggies fans were left wondering: What was he thinking?

That same question hung in the air on the night of Sept. 20, when A&M no-showed on national TV in a 34--17 loss at Miami. Aggies coaches were pilloried after that game for repeatedly—and to no avail—trying to outrace the Hurricanes to the outside. Meanwhile, Jorvorskie Lane, A&M's 268-pound battering ram of a back, essentially got the night off, carrying twice for two yards.

"We didn't perform well in the Miami game," Franchione said on last Friday, "and I know to a person on the coaching staff and the squad we're feeling good about getting back on the field." He concluded with, "Gig 'em, Aggies!"

And so the home team did the following afternoon, upping its record to 4--1 with a 34--10 victory over Baylor. Lane got a much heavier workload—24 carries for 123 yards. Who says Franchione can't learn from his mistakes?

The odds seem excellent, however, that Franchione will find himself out of a gig come 2008. The meat of A&M's schedule awaits, including dates with Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Texas, against whom Franchione is 2--10. His latest gaffe gives A&M athletic director Bill Byrne ample reason to follow the advice of another website:

ONLY AT SI.COM The latest news and analysis from Stewart Mandel.

Three and Out

1 What's in a name? At No. 9 in the coaches' poll, South Florida (4--0) is two spots below Florida (4--1) despite wins over then No. 5 West Virginia and at Auburn, the same team that knocked off the Gators in the Swamp last Saturday.

2 A 38--20 loss to Indiana dropped Iowa's record to 16--15 since the school signed coach Kirk Ferentz to a contract extension in late 2004. From 2002 through '04 the Hawkeyes went 30--7 under Ferentz and shared two Big Ten titles.

3 After relying on its defense, Florida State (3--1) may have found an offensive spark last Saturday. Mobile junior QB Xavier Lee came off the bench against Alabama to gain 260 total yards and throw for two touchdowns in the second half of a 21--14 win.



BACKTRACK The embattled Franchione relied on Lane (below) in a win over Baylor.



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