"It is important to handle the trip well. Fortunately, I have handled it successfully a couple of times."
Alabama, 9-3 on the year and ranked 14th in the nation, finished the Southeastern Conference portion of its schedule with a 6-2 record. That would have put Bama in the SEC Championship Game, but NCAA sanctions prohibit the Tide from post-season play. Thus Alabama will end its year with a regular season game at Hawaii on Saturday. The game will be telecast by ESPN. Kickoff in Aloha Stadium in Honolulu will be at 2:45 p.m., which is 6:45 p.m. CST. Hawaii is 9-2 on the season.
Franchione announced that senior defensive tackle Kenny King, who missed last week's game with a shoulder injury, would be able to play against Hawaii. That's particularly important since it was announced Sunday that sophomore Ahmad Childress, who started in place of King, suffered a broken wrist against Auburn and will not be able to play Saturday.
Franchione said, "Hawaii has a great offense and is a team ranked in the nation's top 25. They are third in the nation in offense, about where we are defensively. They are not easy to play there. The crowd really gets into it. They have won nine in a row at home."
If Alabama is able to get a victory and a 10-win season, it will be the 27th Crimson Tide squad to reach that plateau. "That's a large number because of the great tradition at Alabama," Franchione said.
Franchione has particular praise for his counterpart at Hawaii, June Jones, coach of the Warriors. "He has done a great job," Franchione said. "He's on the cutting edge of the run-and-shoot offense. Hanging up 500 yards of offense is just another day at the office. They've done it six times this year." Bama's coach said Jones fits the offense to the personnel. And, Franchione said, "He keeps the best players home. Hawaii has always had good players; good, tough players."
Good enough so that when Alabama's staff hits the road recruiting next Sunday, six of the seven Alabama assistant coaches allowed on the road will have returned to the mainland, but Mark Tommerdahl will stay in Hawaii recruiting between six and 10 Hawaiian players.
(Also on a recruiting note, wide receiver Matt Caddell of McAdory High School in McCalla became Alabama's 15th commitment Tuesday.)
Franchione said that Alabama "can't change our personality" for the high-powered Warriors, but said the Tide needed to be prepared to score a lot of points because Hawaii usually does. "They are pretty explosive and score pretty fast sometimes," Franchione said. "We'll probably see 50 or 60 passes and they still run for about 120 yards a game. Time of possession means little."
The Tide coach noted that Jones has said junior Hawaii quarterback Timmy Chang could win the Heisman Trophy as a senior. Chang has averaged passing for over 300 yards per game. Additionally, Franchione said, the Hawaii defense is very physical and the kicking game includes explosive return men.
The explosion in college football news last weekend was not in the game but rather after the game when Cincinnati played at Hawaii. After a Cincinnati player took a cheap shot at Chang, tempers flared. The result was a post-game brawl and Cincinnati officials claiming that Hawaii does not have good game security.
Franchione said Alabama administrators had made inquiries, but the Tide coach said, "That is not something that is a concern. Something like that can happen at a game. Their fans are good fans, very supportive of their team. I don't want to make one incident bigger than it is."
The Tide coach made it clear he is much more concerned about the opponent. "Our players have to understand that they are going to a difficult place to play," he said. "Hawaii is going to have some good players." And, he said, Hawaii takes great pride in being competitive against the nation's best teams.
Franchione had to deal with more questions about the status of his contract. He has said he expects to sign a new contract, which has been characterized as a 10-year, $1.5 million per year pact. But, he said, "Nothing has changed from last week." He also said, "I have a great contract." He is currently working under a contract with five years remaining at $1.1 million per year.
There have been numerous rumors citing unnamed sources that have Franchione headed to Texas A&M following this season. Last year the same unnamed sources had him going to Kansas or Notre Dame. Franchione has denied any interest in other jobs and noted that these rumors can be expected as recruiting begins. He said he had addressed the rumors with some prospects. It is believed that Franchione's agent is in Tuscaloosa meeting with University counsel in hopes of ironing out the final details of the new contract.
Franchione also went over the reasons for Alabama finishing the season in Hawaii. "It is a great experience we wanted to give our players and we were able to do so within the rules," he said. "We will do everything we can within the rules for our players. We didn't do anything any other of the 100-plus Division IA schools couldn't do. The seniors deserved it and we were happy to be able to give it to them."
Alabama's Tuesday practice was the first of the week. Bama will have another practice in Tuscaloosa Wednesday, then fly to Hawaii in time to work out Thursday afternoon. After a Friday morning tour of Pearl Harbor, the team will have its normal Friday workout and get into game weekend routine. And, Franchione noted, "We've been able to build in some time on the backside for our players to have fun." The team will not return to Tuscaloosa until Tuesday.