"The Contract" is the one that everyone is waiting for Alabama Head Coach Dennis Franchione to sign. However, the document first presented to Franchione's agent was not the agreement that Franchione and Bama Athletics Director Mal Moore shook hands on some months ago.
It is likely Franchione will sign a contract, perhaps as early as next week. His agent is going to be in Tuscaloosa this week fully intending to work out the final details with the staff counsel of The University.
It would not be reasonable to expect Franchione to pledge to the Alabama faithful that he "will sign" a contract when he doesn't yet know what that contract is going to say. Until both sides agree to the points to be included, there is no contract. And Franchione has been as forthcoming as he possibly can in saying he expects to be able to sign a contract. He has also said repeatedly that he and his family love being at Alabama and that he hopes to conclude his coaching career in Tuscaloosa.
Meanwhile, he continues to coach the Crimson Tide with five years remaining on his original contract.
By now almost everyone knows that Mal Moore approached Coach Fran last winter about a new contract, one that would give him a raise from his present $1.1 million to a 10-year deal that would average out to at least $1.5 million per year. Franchione, as would be expected, was agreeable.
Then the Board of Trustees and/or Alabama's legal team decided that if Alabama was going to give so much Franchione needed to give something, too. And they meant more than just being an excellent head football coach; more than being the one man everyone believes is the single person who can hold Alabama's football program together during the diffcult years of NCAA probation.
Although Alabama is a state in which non-compete clauses are extraordinarily difficult to enforce -- particularly when such a clause would threaten one's livelihood -- Alabama asked Franchione for a five-year non-compete clause. That is, that if he left Alabama, he would not coach at another college for five years.
Franchione's agent would have been declared incompetent if he had advised Franchione to sign such a document at the age of 51. It would effectively end his coaching career.
Being a college football coach isn't like most jobs. A man who has a hot dog stand in one area of the country might sign a non-compete clause when he sold it, but that wouldn't mean he couldn't go across country and open up another hot dog stand.
To be a college coach is to be in the national arena. It is likely that no coach in America has a non-compete clause in his contract. And what if it's just that he can't compete against Alabama? What if he goes to UCLA and then Alabama and UCLA meet in a bowl game? Or want to schedule a series?
Ironically, Franchione is the one considered by many to be stonewalling on the contract issue, when actually it is University negotiators that seem to have complicated -- perhaps threatened -- a deal that without the non-compete clause was agreeable to both the head football coach and his boss, the athletics director.
No one knows what, if any, compromise will be made. But if The University stands firm on this issue and Franchione is lost as Alabama's head football coach as a result of that stance, it would not be unreasonable to expect The University to be looking for more new employees than just football coaches.