I signed on for the long haul

When Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione met with the press this afternoon, there were a lot of things on his mind, including NCAA sanctions, a possible appeal and even the question of transfers. But he got the most important question out of the way first. <br><br>"Let me say this. One year ago I told you I wanted to be at Alabama, and I have not changed on that. I've taken over difficult situations before, but I signed on here for the long haul.

"I wanted to be here. Believe me."

Truthfully, not many college coaches have had to spend as much time as Franchione reassuring their fan base. But several factors have combined to make the message important. Franchione is, after all, a Kansas native with deep ties to Texas and the Midwest. Ties that up until a year ago, did not include Alabama.

Start with a highly regarded coach, throw in some unfair assumptions about Bama fans, and top it off with some of the harshest NCAA sanctions in decades. And you've got a situation where national pundits--and even many Alabama fans--simply assumed Franchione would jump at the first chance to leave.

"There seem to be never-ending questions about my situation," Franchione said. "But I came here with my eyes open. I knew there were circumstances that we'd have to adjust to.

"I've had different opportunities, but I have not wavered on that commitment. Just like a lot of this year's recruits and our players, I wanted to coach the Alabama Crimson Tide."

Despite the unexpectedly severe NCAA sanctions, Franchione is standing firm in his commitment to his players and the Crimson Tide family.

Kansas, Notre Dame and recently the Tampa Bay Buccaneers--Franchione's name has seemingly been linked to every vacant football job in mainland North America. "I can't help the rumors," he said grimly. "I can't help being the ‘soup of the day.' I wish I could, because I don't like having to deal with the rumors. And I know that some of (the writers) really don't like to have to chase those rumors either."

Franchione has grown philosophical about the unfounded reports, reasoning that there is no use wasting energy on something beyond his control. Instead, he focuses on what he loves. "I care a lot about our players," Franchione said. "I care a lot about our coaches. I care about this university and Crimson Tide football. It's important for me to feel appreciated and wanted, and I certainly feel that. I feel comfortable, and hopefully that will last awhile.

"That means a lot to me."

The past two years have been about as difficult as any Tide fans have ever endured, but Franchione's rock-solid commitment has become a rallying point. "The fans' support means a lot to me," he related. "I've said all along that I wanted to be at Alabama. That I wanted to coach the Crimson Tide. That I wanted to be a part of the legacy of Coach Bryant and Coach Stallings and the great coaches that have been here.

"I haven't changed on that. I never have changed. I know that where there is risk, there is reward. And I like to chase the reward."

Unless The University is at least partially successful in its appeal, those rewards will be tough to come by over the next few years. But Franchione is counting on the fans to do their part. "It's important to feel appreciated and wanted," he said. "I don't expect people to do anything out of the ordinary, but we need their support. The Crimson Tide nation needs to all come together and support these players.

"That's what families do."

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