Having eaten a Thanksgiving meal together the night before, an undoubtedly sleepy squad will board team buses at 3:45 early Thursday morning--and the plane isn't scheduled touch down in Honolulu until some 11 hours later. "I think the key is to understand the travel," Franchione said.
"It's important to get over there and have an opportunity to get yourself acclimated to the time change and to get the trip behind you. Leaving on a Thursday is not normal for us. We normally leave on a Friday, and so Thursday travel wise is pretty relaxed."
Upon arrival, the squad will head immediately to the stadium where the exercise will serve to work the kinks out of sore bodies from the long trip, while also starting the process of adjusting to the new time zone. "We'll go directly to the stadium to get a Thursday workout in, which will probably be good to get the trip behind us," Franchione said. "We researched how to do it very well. If you get over there in time and get yourself acclimated to the time change, get your body clock kind of in order, you've got a chance then to get on a normal schedule and play the way you should play."
Franchione has been through this before, having taken his New Mexico and TCU squads to the islands. He won both those contests, so he obviously has a good grasp of what is necessary to keep a team focused. "It's going to be important for us to handle the trip well," Franchione said. "Fortunately I've done this trip successfully a couple of times, so I have a little bit of idea about what to do and how to handle it."
Beyond the extraordinary difficulty of the trip itself, once in Hawaii the allure of the islands presents another--extremely tempting--problem. Franchione understands the reality of the situation. "You're not going to lock these guys in a hotel room and not let them have a chance to experience Hawaii, but there is a time to know when to enjoy the trip and a time to know when to get ready to play.
"It's much like a bowl game in that respect. The players will know that they have some time after the game. They have to understand when it's time to get down to business and when it's time to enjoy themselves."
The Tide won't fly back until 4 pm Monday afternoon, allowing almost 48 hours for the players to check out the sights and enjoy the "scenery." "Fortunately we've been able to build some time in on the backside of the trip for them, so the players know that once the game is over they'll have plenty of opportunity for some relaxation and everything," Franchione explained. "You have to be able to get your players to understand when you cross the line and start to get ready to take care of business. I think those things have been key for us in the other trips that we have gone over there."
After practice and dinner Thursday night, the exhausted athletes will be allowed to sleep in until 10 the next morning. By that time their internal clocks will be essentially reset.
After another trip to the stadium for a quick walk-through session, together the squad will visit the impressive USS Arizona memorial at historic Pearl Harbor. Franchione explained, "Friday morning we have always gone to the Pearl Harbor exhibit and that's been a great team-building exercise--a very meaningful part of the trip for our team. And then somewhere around Friday afternoon we start getting focused and ready to play the football game."
After lunch and some down time, the Crimson Tide will resume its standard Friday-before-a-game schedule. "Around three o'clock that afternoon we will get into our normal Friday routine (with team meetings)," Franchione said. "We'll get focused and get down to business to play the game the next day."
Saturday morning will follow a precise schedule, with the team adhering to the exact same routine it has utilized for every game this season.
And Franchione is taking the contest itself quite seriously. "I've been there before, and we need to realize going over there that it's not an easy place to play," he said. "We're going to play a good team. They have great support over there. Their crowd gets into the game.
"I certainly want our seniors to bow out on a positive--to finish the right way."
Following Saturday's game, the schedule calls for the team to return to the hotel by 6:30 that evening. And the next required item on the players' agenda doesn't occur until 4 pm the following Monday afternoon.
"After the game the players will have some free time," Franchione said. "We will come back Monday."
The team's specific itinerary follows:
Thursday, November 28
3:30 am, Team Meeting
3:45 am, Load Bus/Depart for Birmingham
5:00 am, Arrive at Birmingham Airport
5:15 am, Load and Board Plane
6:00 am, Depart for Oakland
9:15 am, Arrive in Oakland (refuel)
10:00 am, Depart Oakland for Honolulu
2:30 pm, Arrive in Honolulu
3:00 pm, Depart for Practice at Stadium
4:00 pm, Practice
6:30 pm, Load Bus/Depart for Hotel
7:30 pm, Position Coaches take Players to Dinner
10:45 pm, Lights Out
Friday, November 29
10:00 am, Wake Up/Spot Buses
10:30 am, Breakfast
11:30 am, Depart for Stadium
12:00 pm, Depart for Pearl Harbor
1:30 pm, Tour Pearl Harbor
2:45 pm, Lunch on Bus/Return to Hotel
3:45 pm, Position Meeting/Walk through
6:00 pm, Dinner Buffet
8:00 pm, Chapel
8:15 pm, Special Teams Meetings
9:00 pm, Offense/Defense Meeting, Video Test
10:00 pm, Snack
10:45 pm, Lights Out/Bed Check
Saturday, November 30
9:30 am, Wake Up: Fruit, Juice & Muffins
10:00 am, Position/Unit Meeting
11:00 am, Pre-Game Meal
11:45 am, Depart to Stadium
12:15 am, Arrive Stadium
1:42 pm, Specialty
1:57 pm, Skill Stretch
1:59 pm, OL/DL/LB Stretch
2:10 pm, Team Calisthenics
2:19 pm, Perfect Plays
2:35 pm, Leave Field
2:45 pm, Return to Field
2:45 pm, KAWC
6:30 pm, Return to Hotel
Sunday, December 1
On your own schedule
Monday, December 2
4:00 pm, Team Meeting
4:15 pm, Load Bus
6:00 pm, Depart for Oakland
Tuesday, December 3
12:45 am, Arrive in Oakland
1:45 am, Depart for Tuscaloosa
8:00 am, Arrive at Tuscaloosa Airport