“I think Coach Franchione--and I said this to the players--did an outstanding job for us the two seasons he was here,” Moore said during this afternoon’s press conference at the Alabama Football Complex. “But mostly I appreciated the way the players responded to him.”
Having flown to Texas this morning on a private jet provided by an Aggie booster, Franchione notified Moore of his decision to leave Alabama via telephone. “Dennis Franchione telephoned me this afternoon,” Moore read in a prepared statement to the assembled media, “informing me that he had accepted the head coaching position at Texas A&M University.”
Moore immediately added that he intended to move quickly in hiring a new head coach. “I have a short list of candidates,” he said. “I feel strongly that this hire should be an experienced head coach at the college level and a person that will have a long-term commitment to The University and one who recognizes our potential for championship football.”
Moore has been through the process before. Just two years back he first identified a then obscure Franchione as one of the up-and-coming coaches in college football and then quickly moved to bring him to Alabama.
It’s a safe bet that at least some of the candidates considered during the first search remain on Moore’s list, but as he did two years ago, he’s keeping the names to himself. “That is something I won’t say now. But I think you always try to keep a few names in your mind.”
Strong indications are that Franchione had been negotiating with Texas A&M for several days, if not weeks, through his agent. But though Moore has known for the last week that Franchione was seriously considering a move, he chose not to jump that ethical gun.
At a hastily assembled press conference this afternoon at the Alabama Football Complex, Athletics Director Mal Moore addresses the media.
“Absolutely not,” Moore replied, when asked if he had already contacted some of the coaches on his list. “Fran was our coach until this afternoon.
“But this is something that will have to be moved on quickly.”
At best the move from Alabama to A&M is a lateral one for Franchione, and Tide fans especially are left asking “Why?”
But despite having talked extensively with Franchione the past several days--including a long, reportedly emotional meeting Wednesday night--Moore declined to break a confidence. “(Coach Franchione) and I have talked about a lot of things,” Moore said, choosing his words carefully. “But that is something that I think you need to ask him. I’m sure you’ll have an opportunity to do that.”
Moore passed up another chance to criticize Franchione, taking the philosophical route when asked if he was surprised that a coach would leave a storied Bama program for the No. 2 school in another state.
“With the success that this team enjoyed this year, under the circumstances I wasn’t surprised that someone would pursue (Franchione),” Moore explained. “That’s part of football. We have outstanding coaches here, and as positions become available, these things can happen. This is part of this profession. When a team has the success that this team had, then coaches have other opportunities.”
With Franchione gone to Texas--and likely to take most, if not all, of his staff with him--who will take day-to-day charge of the team on an interim basis remains uncertain. “That is not set as yet,” Moore said. “We’re continuing workouts with the team and the strength coaches. We’ve asked all the players to continue to handle their responsibilities in the classroom.
“I will be available. I told all the players that if they need to visit with me, my door is open, particularly for the seniors.”
Reportedly, tomorrow Franchione will sign a five-year contract with A&M for $2 million dollars annually. But Moore clearly indicated that Alabama was willing to match those terms--if it would have done any good. “We made an offer to Coach Fran that I felt very comfortable with,” Moore said.
Moore informed the players of Franchione’s defection in a team meeting Thursday. The previous afternoon the Tide athletes listened as a letter from their now-former head coach was read to them.
Whether Franchione will return to Tuscaloosa to speak to the squad in person is uncertain. “I don’t know if he has any plans for that later,” Moore said. “(Defensive Coordinator) Carl Torbush talked to the team today.”