By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Texas State can't afford to pay head football coach Dennis Franchione the type of salary that he earned at some of the higher-profile stops in his 35-year career.
When Texas State officials added "incentives" to Franchione's five-year contract which has a base salary of $350,000 per year, they might have overlooked one they were offering without having to pay him for it.
He was missing it greatly in the three-plus years he had been off the sideline since his resignation at Texas A&M amid fire and controversy in 2007.
"Coach Fran" has a penchant for taking over an underachieving program and injecting life into it. He did it previously at Texas State, guiding back-to- back winning seasons in 1990 and '91 when the university was known as Southwest Texas State. After he departed San Marcos for the University of New Mexico and, eventually three other head coaching jobs on the Division I-A (now FBS) level - TCU, Alabama and Texas A&M - the Bobcats have posted a winning record in only four of the last 19 seasons.
He's returned to Texas State as the head coach and brought his hard hat again. This fall, the Bobcats will play their final season in the FCS and then move up to the FBS in 2012 as a member of the Western Athletic Conference. They will play a 12-game schedule - opening at FBS members Texas Tech and Wyoming - but are ineligible for the Southland Conference title as they transition out of the FCS.
The 59-year-old Franchione has both lived through many successes - a 187-101-2 career record, eight conference championships and nine bowl appearances - and learned from mistakes - he informed his Alabama players that he was leaving for Texas A&M via teleconference and departed A&M after it was revealed that some boosters were paying more than $1,000 for his newsletter that offered background on the team.
Anxious to enjoy a Texas State coaching position that he calls his last one, he comes into his new job with a more relaxed perspective. But he's hungry to restart the winning.
The Bobcats will open spring practices on March 5. They are coming off a 4-7 season, but return talented players such as offensive guard D.J. Hall, cornerback Darryl Morris and tailback Dexter Imade. Quarterback Tyler Arndt suffered an ACL tear last season and will return, but Tim Hawkins also hopes to get back into the mix for the top job.
Construction is about to begin on 13,000 end zone seats that will take Bobcat Stadium to 30,000 by the time the program hits the FBS level. There's plenty of challenges ahead and Franchione relishes attacking them.
In Five-a-Side - In the Huddle's monthly feature of "five questions, five answers" with an influential person in the FCS - Franchione discusses his return to coaching.
Let's kick off:
TSN: Coach, Texas State has had only four winning seasons over the last 18 years on the FCS level. As you build the program, what tells you that it's ready for the move to the FBS?
DF: I think the commitment. This is a Division I university in so many aspects. The academics are outstanding here, the size of the university, 32,000 students. The vision of the leaders of the university to move this program to Division I. It's my job now to lead them through this transition and put this program on solid ground.
I think the Western Athletic Conference is a great conference for us to go in with our neighbor, UTSA, going with us. A rivalry probably will develop in that game. I do think if we recruit well and manage well over the next few years that we can take this program, put it on solid ground and take it into Division I with a chance to thrive from that point forward.
We are in the middle of tons of football players, 350 Division I signees a year in the state of Texas alone. So the key ingredient I think that we have that maybe some people don't have is we have talent close by. We have great high school coaching in this state and we have lots of Division I players in this state. We've just got to get our 20 or so a year and compete well.
TSN: What were some of the telling comments that you received during the recruiting season, from players knowing that you're making the move to the FBS?
DF: Well, every one of them was impressed that we were making the move. I think that entered into their decisions, it elevated our recruiting. And then the fact (Texas State has) the facility upgrades to the stadium. This is a school that I've never heard anybody say they didn't like Texas State - the students, alumni, faculty, perspective students. It always seems that people have a great like for Texas State. And it is a wonderful community and city and university.
And now with this move to Division I, I think (it) enhanced our ability to recruit. And I think it will be better with the next recruiting class and the next ones when we actually have the facility further along and the fact that we are bona fide Division I. We're in a transition process for a year or two. But it made a difference this year and I think it will make bigger differences.
TSN: You said at your introductory press conference that you believe you are a better coach now than when you last coached in 2007. In what ways?
DF: I worked for ESPN, so I would get to a lot of games, a lot of Thursday practices, Friday practices, a lot of time spent with coaches. I was a little bit like a professor on a sabbatical in a way that I got to see how programs operated that you would never get to see if you were coaching during the season. It was a real education; it was an opportunity to watch Pete Carroll's program, to watch Jim Tressel's program, Urban Meyer's program, Auburn's program - you can go up and down the road, we did the best games in the nation on a weekly basis. It was fun and it was fun to watch how other people did things and say, 'You know, that would be good to do in our program.' So you pick up some things along the way and I think that has a chance to make you a better coach."
TSN: Can you talk about how some of your systems and schemes compare to what Texas State has been utilizing?
DF: To be honest, I have not watched one ounce of film of the previous team. I purposely wanted every player to have a fresh start. I did not want to go into spring practice with a preconceived idea on kids. It's my feeling that they will have a fresh start and the ones that were good will rise again and the ones that had struggles have an opportunity to put it behind them and get better. It opens up competition. I just felt like it would be unfair for me to watch film and cast a decision or thought on a young man based on what he did in a system I'm not familiar with. I've evaluated them every day since I've been here or our coaches have that we could in the weight room and going to class and being trustworthy and accountable in the offseason program, in the running and agility, and that's where we're trying to make our decisions based upon on what they're doing.
TSN: Do you enjoy having the reputation of somebody who comes in and builds programs?
DF: I suppose you can say that, that's what my niche has been in this profession. I enjoy that to a degree. I think I've had a formula or plan that has worked and has been successful. We've been able to implement it with adjustments at each stop along the way. I think this program the players have been awesome since we've been here. We've been met with open arms, it's like, 'Coach, tell us what you want us to do, we'll try to do it.' That's been tremendous fun from the very beginning with working with these players.