Franchione Again Denies Kansas Rumor

The University of Alabama football team returned to the practice field Wednesday, but the big news wasn't about football players. Alabama Head Coach Dennis Franchione once again had to issue denials of the story that will not die, that he was a top candidate for and had an interest in another coaching job.

A story in the Kansas City Star, citing an unnamed source which may or may not have been one of the 12 sources cited in an earlier internet report along the same lines, said that Franchione had "ongoing discussions with Kansas during the four-week search process and" been interested in the job as late as last Sunday. The story also said Franchione had "at least one face-to-face meeting" with Kansas Athletics Director Al Bohl.

The story also said that Franchione tried to extend the deadline for making a decision on the Kansas job to see if he might get the job at Notre Dame.

Bohl declined to discuss the hiring process. Craig Kelly, Franchione's agent, was quoted in the story as having no knowledge of Franchione being a candidate for the Kansas job. Kelly represents another coach who was a finalist for the position.

Franchione had previously denied having had any interest in the Kansas job and had also said he would not address the matter again. However, because this story was from a reputable newspaper, not a talk radio show or internet site, Franchione answered questions from Alabama sports reporters following Wednesday's practice.

Franchione said, "This story is off the wall."

Franchione has just completed his first year as head football coach at Alabama. He said, "I wanted to be here. I took this job at a time of challenge. I have enjoyed my year here. My family likes it here.

"The story is inaccurate."

Franchione said he knows Kansas Athletics Director Al Bohl well, dating from when Franchione was head football coach at New Mexico and Bohl was a finalist for the job of athletics director there. He described Bohl as a friend. But, in answer to a question about the reported face-to-face meeting, Franchione said, "I never had a face-to-face discussion about the Kansas job."

The Tide head coach said he had many friends in Kansas and had heard from a number of people in Kansas, his home state, in which people told him, "Fran, they would love to have you at Kansas." He said "Even my sister called me."

But, he said, "Kansas did not make an offer."

And just to head off any further talk, Franchione said, "And I have had no contact with Notre Dame. I have no idea what Notre Dame is doing. I saw the names [of coaches being considered by Notre Dame] on ESPN and I wasn't one of them."

He said, "It's irritating and disruptive. It's disrupting to our team and to recruiting." Franchione added, "I just want to coach my team, take care of recruiting, and get ready for a bowl game."

However, the bowl game, if any, will not take center stage at least for a while. On Thursday The University will release information pertaining to its response to the NCAA Letter of Inquiry charging irregularities in the Crimson Tide football program.

Alabama is bowl eligible by virtue of having won its last three games to get to 6-5. However, the Tide will not know if it is in a bowl game until after Saturday's Southeastern Conference championship game between Tennessee and LSU and the subsequent Bowl Championship Series and other selections Sunday. Most believe Bama will meet Boston College in the Music City Bowl in Nashville December 28.

Meanwhile, a team that is bowl eligible is allowed to practice without knowing its bowl future.

Thus, Alabama was out for about two hours Wednesday in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts, the first on-the-field practice since last Thursday's 28-15 victory over Southern Mississippi.

"It was good to get back to practice today," Franchione said. "We spent all of today working on ourselves, which is really all we can do. We had a couple of good days of weightlifting and running this week, but it was good to get back on the field."

Most of the Crimson Tide assistant coaches are on the road recruiting. Defensive Coordinator Carl Torbush and Offensive Coordinator Les Koenning along with graduate assistants conducted the practice with Franchione.

Franchione said, "We had a limited staff, so we spent a lot of time on team drills. We kept all of our younger players longer than rest of the team and we got some good work with them today."

The Crimson Tide will practice again Friday and Saturday.  Should the Crimson Tide be extended a bowl invitation, the team will concentrate on final examinations next week (there will be some weightlifting and running) and resume its normal practice schedule on Sunday, December 16.

Franchione said there would be no "progress reports" as such on the status of tailback Santonio Beard, who was suspended for Alabama's final game because of a charge of driving under the influence. Franchione said, "He knows what he has to do," and that Beard either will or will not satisfy the undisclosed requirements to re-join the team. He is practicing. The coach noted that when Alabama's team buses returned from Birmingham after defeating Southern Miss that Beard was there to greet his teammates. "He didn't have to do that," Franchione said. "I was proud of him."

The coach said that the players of the game against Southern Miss were offensive backs Andrew Zow (quarterback) and Ahmaad Galloway (tailback), offensive lineman Wesley Britt (tackle), defensive lineman Jarret Johnson (tackle), defensive back Brooks Daniels (rover) and special teams members Lane Bearden (punter), Antonio Carter (returns), and Chris James (coverage).

Although he is limited in what he can say about recruiting, Franchione said in answer to questions that he thinks it is going well, in part because of the good start the staff got in getting early commitments and in part because of Bama's winning streak at the end of the season. He said that the cloud of NCAA penalties is still a hurdle in recruiting. He said Bama is attempting to sign "basically every position," though he said because of the performance of young offensive linemen only one man will be signed in that area.

As a part of self-imposed penalties for NCAA infractions, Bama has only six coaches on the road recruiting at one time, one less than permitted, and is expected to sign only 17 players, eight under the allotted 25.

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