The now-departed Dennis Franchione referred to "loyalty" quite often, pointing proudly to the fact that he has held on to a core group of assistant coaches for several years. But when it came to his recent jump to A&M, he apparently forgot to let his colleagues in on the decision.
Claims that Franchione, his family or his staff were unhappy in Tuscaloosa are false. The truth is that the coaches, their wives and children had all settled in nicely, thinking they could finally put down roots.
Les Koenning's wife and two children had stayed behind in Texas during 2001 so that his son, Les Koenning III, could finish out his senior season playing high school football for Les' father. But the Koenning family was the lone holdout, and with their arrival this year the entire staff had moved to Alabama, buying or building houses and preparing for a long stay.
The Alabama community welcomed Franchione's staff warmly, and The University did its part as well, paying them handsomely. With salaries ranging from $105,000 and up, the former Tide coaches were among the highest salaried staffs in college football.
By all accounts most of the former Tide coaches were surprised by the move. Some--including more than one coach from Franchione's original TCU staff--were quite angry. They liked Tuscaloosa. They liked coaching in the SEC. And as much as anything else, they liked the prestige that came with coaching for the Crimson Tide.
When Franchione winged away to Texas on that private jet, devastated fans and players immediately hoped that many members of his staff could be persuaded to stay. Transitions are never easy, but with holdover assistants providing continuity, hopefully things would go smoothly.
Defensive Coordinator Carl Torbush became a rallying point. Players, assistant coaches--and many fans--hoped he'd be hired as head coach, keeping many members of last years staff and providing comfortable familiarity for the athletes. But that plan would only have worked if Torbush had been hired immediately, which obviously did not happen.
But in spite of the fact that many of the previous staff clearly wanted to stay, Texas media reported yesterday that with the exception of Coordinators Carl Torbush and Les Koenning, the entire group (on-the-field staff) has moved to College Station to coach for Texas A&M.
How could that happen?
The answer is simple: family.
With the exception of Torbush who was previously head coach at North Carolina, every assistant made more last season than he ever had before in his career--almost twice as much in some cases. And it's a safe assumption that A&M will match their Alabama salaries.
Yes, many would have preferred to stay in Tuscaloosa, but no one could guarantee them a job.
Tide Athletics Director Mal Moore could have kept them on, but that's simply not how things are done in football. Alabama's new head coach (whoever that may be) will have full authority to hire his own staff. Certainly former assistants would have been interviewed, but there could be no guarantees.
As proven college coaches, almost certainly every man could have found another job. But where? And for how much?
A salary of $100k+ a year will strike the average fan as generous compensation. But ask yourself this question. What would happen to your family if you worked for that salary for two years, buying a house based on that income, and then had to take a pay cut of $40,000 or more?
Every assistant had to look out for his family first.