"If politics have to enter into your job too deeply," he said. "Then I'm not sure you've created a good job situation to win. ">
"If politics have to enter into your job too deeply," he said. "Then I'm not sure you've created a good job situation to win. ">

Conversation with Fran: the decision maker

Given recent events at "that school down the road" and the resulting turmoil on its coaching staff, it's interesting to hear Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione's perspective. Obviously during his 19-year career as a head coach, he's dealt with the problem of outside interference before. <br><br>"If politics have to enter into your job too deeply," he said. "Then I'm not sure you've created a good job situation to win.

"Certainly not as good as a coach should want."

Every school has its share of meddling boosters--deep-pocket donors and even trustees--that think their business acumen and school loyalty somehow make them experts on how to run a football team.

But according to Franchione, an experienced head coach knows how to handle the problem. "You create a situation where there is a common goal that we all work toward," he said. "We can all have input and thoughts, but someone has to make the final decision.

"That's me."

Though their personalities and backgrounds are otherwise widely disparate, Franchione and Auburn Head Coach Tommy Tuberville do share one thing in common. Both were hired to revive then moribund programs. And each brought with him a trusted and loyal staff to help do the job.

Of course after being embarrassed by Alabama 31-7 in front of Tiger fans and boosters, Tuberville loyalty isn't quite what it used to be. Both Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone (with Tuberville for seven years) and Defensive Coordinator John Lovett (also a seven-year Tuberville vet, and whose wife even sported a "War Eagle…Baby" T-shirt in her media guide photo) were summarily dismissed following the 2001 season.

Reportedly, Tuberville took the action under pressure from Auburn trustee and long-time program booster, Bobby Lowder.

During his more than 25 years as a football coach, Franchione has learned that developing loyalty and mutual trust on a coaching staff is essential for long-term success.

Franchione has made a habit of paying as little attention as possible to the goings-on at Auburn, but his thoughts would definitely apply. "I think sometimes when programs go through a tough season, you need to sit down with your athletic director and review what got you in that position," he explained. "You talk about what needs to be done to move the program forward.

"But here at Alabama there is no outside pressure. Certainly nobody has said anything to me about firing anybody."

It's not that the Crimson Tide doesn't have wealthy and influential supporters who also have a passion for Alabama football. Quite the opposite. Men like Sid McDonald, Joseph Fine, Gary Neal Drummond, Ollie Delchamps and Paul Bryant Jr. work diligently both publicly and in private to further The University's interests.

But they leave the coaching to the expert.

Franchione explained; "There are probably trustees at Alabama that could be more influential, if they wanted to be. But they don't try to do that. There is not anyone out there that tries to influence me that way.

"Of course I don't know that I could work under those type conditions."

Franchione isn't saying that Alabama fans--both influential and otherwise--don't constantly bend his ear on every conceivable subject. From what the players should wear on road trips to who will start in next Saturday's game, Franchione hears it all.

But there is a difference between graciously listening to the well-intentioned fan--and what can unfortunately occur when individual trustees are are allowed to accumulate too much power.

"It's part of my job to listen to people," Franchione said. "You always listen to what people have to say. But if someone tried to tell me I should fire one of my coaches, I'd tell them that they need to come to practice every day and watch them coach before they tried to make that assessment.

When faced with the task of hiring a head coach last winter, Athletics Director Mal Moore was determined to bring an experienced and proven winner to Alabama. Once on board, Franchione was given full authority to manage the program.

"I will always respect people's opinions. After all, we've got to make it all work together. But people have to trust that I'm always going to do what's best for Alabama football."

Though Franchione has been immune from micro-managing by trustees in regard to his coaching staff, he is very much aware that every fan in the state has his own opinion about player personnel.

Especially when it comes to who should start at quarterback.

"Everybody in Alabama had a thought on who our quarterback this past season should have been," Franchione acknowledged with a laugh. "But not a single one of them came to practice every day and watched them practice. They didn't know the players like we did."

One of the reasons Franchione came to Alabama was the passionate loyalty of the Crimson family. And as a college football fan himself, he understands the pleasure Tide followers derive from a reasonable level of armchair coaching.

But Franchione is nothing if not "in charge." "Somewhere along the line the fans have to have some trust and belief that we're going to play the best player to win," he said. "And the same thing applies to the coaching staff."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Next topic in the series: the rewards and responsibilities of being head coach at Alabama.

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