No doubt, Coach Fran has a plan

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 21, 2002

By all accounts, Tuesday was not a great one for those involved with, or even those who support the University of Alabama football program.

Unless you truly have been in a cave, then you know that the NCAA Appeals Committee affirmed all of the sanctions which it had handed down against the Crimson Tide program in February, including a two-year ban on postseason play and the crippling loss of 21 scholarships.

The news that there would be no relief from the sanctions immediately brought forth hostile reactions from alumni and fans who declared, perhaps in paranoid fashion but perhaps not, that the NCAA has a vendetta against the Crimson Tide, and that the Tide should perhaps sue the governing body of collegiate athletics.

Probably the most impressive reaction to come out of Tuesday's NCAA announcement came from Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione.

Asked about the NCAA verdict, Franchione simply said, "Talking about those guys (the NCAA officials) is a waste of time and energy. Nothing has changed from my standpoint. We have worked our plan based on last February's ruling and we will stay the course."

Whether you support the Crimson Tide gridiron program or loathe it, you have to be impressed with the calm and patient nature Franchione has displayed in the face of Alabama's NCAA storm.

Some may scoff at Franchione's words and say it is easy for the coach to pour out the warm and fuzzy sentiments considering he has already secured a long and lucrative contract to remain at the Capstone, but I feel Franchione is totally forthright in his comments.

I have spoken with some of Franchione's players and others close to the program, and one of the most frequent comments I have heard is how amazingly detailed the coach is.

We gained an insight into Franchione's attention to detail when he first arrived at the Capstone and we heard about "the book."

This, for those of you who don't know, refers to the massive book that Franchione has compiled and distributes to all of his players which covers even the most minuscule details such as learning the school's fight song.

By all accounts, Franchione is obsessive with details, and even though his Alabama teams have only produced a record of 9-6 heading into Saturday's battle against Southern Miss in Tuscaloosa, his teams, for the most part, have appeared prepared for battle, which you could hardly ever say about the Tide under former coach Mike DuBose.

Although the loss earlier this season to Oklahoma still is a bitter pill for most Tide fans to swallow, the gritty challenge posed to the powerful Sooners by the visiting Crimson Tide spoke volumes about the positive impact Franchione has already made at the Capstone.

When he first arrived in Tuscaloosa, Franchione was no doubt well-versed about the possibility of harsh penalties heading the Tide's way, and although few people expected the magnitude of the penalties which the Tide received, Franchione has never moaned and whined about his players and coaches having to pay for the sins of others, but instead has weighed Bama's signees carefully, has carefully evaluated which players to redshirt or not, and has attempted to compensate the best he could for what he realizes will likely be thin Bama teams over the next five years or so.

Make no mistake about it, there will probably be some very lean times before Alabama is fully able to recover from its latest round of NCAA penalties, but I personally feel that perhaps there is no one better to lead the Tide program through its probationary period than the calm and steady Franchione.

It was simply amazing that none of the current players on the Tide roster chose to jump ship when the penalties were announced back in February, despite the fact that they were likely not going to have the opportunity to play for a conference championship or go to a bowl game.

Those players, however, showed a tremendous loyalty to the Tide program, and were obviously impressed by the vision which Franchione has for Alabama football down the road, and there appears to be good things ahead for the Tide program.

A project involving the improvement of several Crimson Tide athletic facilities, no doubt a major key in keeping Franchione in the Bama fold, will result in a bigger and better Bryant-Denny Stadium among other items, and once Franchione's coaching staff is able to play with a full allotment of players, many feel the Tide will be on the same level with the Tennessees and Floridas of the football world once again.

While some may see the current state of Crimson Tide football in dismal terms at best, those with a vision for the future, such as Franchione, can actually see the proverbial "light at the end of the tunnel."

Stan J. Griffin is a reporter and columnist for The Andalusia Star-News.