Franchione son follows dad into football head coaching ranks

Updated: August 13, 2005, 9:02 AM ET
Associated Press

BRENHAM, Texas -- A prized charity auction item at Blinn College's season-opening football banquet was a helmet carrying the signature of "Coach Fran."

Both of them.

"I just found out from my father he's copyrighted 'Coach Fran,' " Brad Franchione said, laughing. "Looks like I owe him some money."

Franchione, 31, is taking over the football program at Blinn, a junior college in Brenham about 40 miles down the road from College Station, where his dad, Dennis, the original "Coach Fran," is entering his third year as coach at Texas A&M.

"They say one of the greatest forms of flattery is for your son to follow in your footsteps," Dennis Franchione said. "And so I enjoy that greatest form of flattery, without a doubt."

For the younger Franchione, it's the first time he's in charge of a program after a journey through the assistant coaching bushes that began in 1992, when he was a student at New Mexico. He spent five years doing assorted grunt work while dad resurrected a program that had been moribund for more than a decade.

"He was tested heavily in those five years about this profession, and he never wavered an ounce," Franchione the father said.

Franchione the son went on to be a graduate assistant at Arkansas State, then an assistant coach at Fort Scott Community College in Kansas.

He made inglorious stops at East Central University in Ada, Okla., West Alabama, Tennessee-Martin and Bacone College in Muskogee, Okla. He spent last year coaching the defensive line at Texas A&M-Commerce.

Blinn was the national junior college champion in 1995 and 1996. After going 9-2 last year and making the playoffs, coach Scott Maxfield was hired away by Division II Henderson State. When Blinn officials were looking for candidates, they called their friends in Aggieland.

Franchione said he couldn't think of any Aggies to recommend. Then he ran the question by his staff, and they all suggested Brad.

"Don't patronize me," Franchione told them. Then he realized they were serious.

"Sometimes you don't want to get too carried away with how proud you are of your son," he said. "They convinced me, and I called back."

Brad Franchione became the selection committee's unanimous choice.

"There was no doubt in anybody's mind," said school president Donald Voelter, a committee member. "He's worked out great."

Life where the buck stops is a lot more challenging, the new head coach says.

"You find yourself thinking about things from a lot of different viewpoints," Franchione said. "As an assistant, you've always had the right answer. It's easy to be right when you've never had to go out and prove it.

"As a head coach, it's not that easy."

Dennis Franchione, a former coach at New Mexico from 1992 to 1997, says that when Brad was growing up, he was a computer and math whiz. He was a senior in high school when he called his dad and warned that he wanted to discuss something serious.

"I was braced for anything," the elder Franchione recalled.

Brad wanted to be a football coach.

At the time, the Franchione family was in Kansas and Dennis was in the midst of a 45-game winning streak at Pittsburg State, his alma mater. Franchione worried his son wasn't getting a look at both sides of the coaching life, which also includes losing.

Not too much later, the family went to New Mexico.

"I got to understand what he saw to be on the other end," Brad Franchione said. "He took over a program that needed major rebuilding. It wasn't instant success."

Mike Nesbitt remembers those days, too. He was the punter for New Mexico when the elder Coach Fran arrived; now he's the younger Coach Fran's offensive coordinator.

"They're a lot alike," said Nesbitt, who coached last year at Howard Payne in Brownwood. "They're not afraid of work. That's an understated quality."

There's also a similar upfront attitude.

"You might not like what he tells you, but he's going to tell you exactly where you stand," Nesbitt said.

There's also a facial resemblance between the two Franchiones, except on top. Brad has a full head of black hair, quite a contrast from the gray mane Dennis developed in his mid-30s.

"Too many third downs," Dennis Franchione said, chuckling.

"This whole experience has been a great father-son bonding experience because he's constantly asking me questions about this and that, and I feel fortunate to be a reference and give him some advice," Dennis Franchione said. "The first month he had the job, he called a lot.

"Then about March or April we were talking one day and he said, 'You know, Dad, I think I understand a little better what you've gone through all these years. I think I make more decisions before noon as a head coach than I did in a year as an assistant.'

"I said, 'I think you're getting a grasp of it.' "

As his father built an impressive record at Southwest Texas State, New Mexico, TCU, Alabama and now Texas A&M, the recognizable name "Franchione" in football circles was something "you get used to," son Brad said.

"Some people will hold it against me," he said. "Some people will love me who never know me. ... I've always wanted to be the best I could for him. When I was young he taught me one thing. He said he's taken a lifetime to protect the name and make it stand for something, to be thought of as class. It's the only thing he said he's given to me. And he's just asked that I protect it as he has. And that tells you a lot about a man and the way he runs a program."

"He's won a lot of games and there's a lot of reasons why. He has class, He's professional. He knows how to motivate others. And he drives them to be the best they can be. The thing he's done in my life is he's made me want to be the best in everything."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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