"Hopefully I can help and assist him."
"Assist" is an apt description of North's principal responsibility. Director of Football Operations is the job title, and North enjoys (and wields) all the authority that phrase implies. But anticipating the needs of his boss is what he worries about the most. "You try to stay one step ahead of him," North said. "There are a lot of things to do, and sometimes you just have to bite your tongue and go on. I try to be sure that the pattern is laid, so that if Coach Fran needs something we know that it's being taken care of.
"He's got too many other things on his plate."
From player housing, to team travel, to scholarships, to recruiting---North's influence is felt throughout the football program. But he makes certain that all but the most unimportant decisions pass through Franchione's office. "That's one thing that we're careful of," North related. "We're always going to go through Fran on everything, because there's only one boss in this job.
"There's one chief, and we all know who that is."
North has spent his life in the coaching profession, including 12 years as a high school coach and then 16 years at the University of Oklahoma. North coached the offensive line on some of the Sooners' best teams. Following his tenure at Oklahoma, North held the same position at Arkansas for three seasons. When Danny Ford was let go at Arkansas, North was set to retire. But Franchione lured him out of retirement to join him at Texas Christian.
In addition to his designated duties, the word around the Alabama Football Complex is that if there's a tough task that needs to be taken care of quickly, North's the man for the job. And the tougher the problem, the more likely it will end up as North's responsibility. North commented, "I wouldn't say things get dumped on my desk. I was totally aware of what was going on when I accepted the job. In fact I probably don't have any more to do here than I had at TCU. But it's just bigger. It's more visible."
Accustomed to success at Oklahoma, North appreciates--but was not intimidated by--the pressures of coaching at Alabama. "I try to take the best care of our players that I possibly can," he said. "And naturally the best care of Coach Fran that I can. I want to see that everything works smoothly for those guys. That's my job."
North explains that his years of experience have taught him both the right and wrong ways to do the job. And staff members with a new idea make a point of running it by North before presenting it to Franchione. "I've known Fran a long time, and I get a feel for what he likes and what he doesn't like," North said. "He doesn't like surprises. I'm always trying to let our coaches know and the people around him, ‘Don't surprise him. Don't bring up something that he doesn't have any feel for. Always preface everything you're doing. Always prepare him for every situation.'
"I'm kind of a liaison with our coaches and outside people, just trying to be sure he's not given a situation where he's shocked or has a surprise."
On a daily basis crises both large and small end up in the Director of Football Operations' office. And from Franchione's point of view, it was absolutely essential that a capable and trusted man hold the job. "We've worked into that relationship of trust," North said. "When Fran first hired me, he didn't know that much about me, and I didn't know that much about him--other than what we had known in coaching. But by working with him, he knows that if he asks me to do something I'm going to do my best to get it done.
"And he knows that if there is anything that comes up that I need to have an answer to, I'm always going to him with it. I'm never going to do anything behind his back or circumvent him in any way that would embarrass him or this program. That's the key. That's trust. That's my philosophy.
"I'm going to do everything I can. If that's good enough, then great. If it's not then they'll tell me why."