Franchione discontinues inside info newsletter for A&M boosters

DALLAS -- Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione said he has
stopped selling inside information on the Aggies in a newsletter to
boosters who paid $1,200 per year in subscription fees that helped
finance the coach's personal Web site.

About a dozen elite boosters subscribed for the past three years
to the e-mail newsletter, called "VIP Connection." It offered
Franchione's candid assessments of players and specific injury
information, details Franchione routinely declined to discuss
publicly because, he would say, it is not "our policy" to
disclose injuries.

Franchione made subscribers sign a confidentiality agreement and
said he doesn't believe any of the inside information was used for
gambling, the San Antonio Express-News reported Friday after
obtaining a copy of the newsletter through a "third-party

"We asked them to sign something," Franchione told the
newspaper. "And for them not to do that. Most of these people are
tremendously loyal Aggies."

Athletics Director Bill Byrne released a statement Friday saying
he was first made aware of the newsletter by a reporter two weeks

"When I saw a copy of an email, I called Coach Fran and
recommended this program be discontinued," Byrne said. "I
understand he stopped at that time."

In the same statement, Franchione said the e-mail list began
when a group of 12 to 15 boosters participated in a Kickoff Camp
that raised money for the school band, the library and the booster
club. The newsletter, he said, "came about as an extension of
trying to keep some dedicated and loyal fans updated throughout the
year on the football program."

"There was no intent to deceive anyone," Franchione said. "I
thought this was another avenue of trying to keep some of our top
donors informed about our football program."

The newsletter was written by Mike McKenzie, Franchione's
personal assistant. The two denied benefiting financially from the

In one newsletter, McKenzie wrote about six players being
unavailable to play against Montana State and listed their specific
injuries. A seventh player was "iffy" because he had not fully
recovered from a mild concussion, according to the newsletter.

The Texas A&M players mentioned by name in the newsletter had
authorized the school to release information on their injury
status, said Alan Cannon, an athletics department spokesman.

McKenzie also wrote about Franchione's assessment of the Aggies'
wide receivers.

"Privately, Coach told me last night that Earvin [Taylor] and
Pierre [Brown] are very steady but with average speed," McKenzie
wrote. "Kerry [Franks] has great speed, but [is] inconsistent in

McKenzie, who worked for Franchione at his previous coaching
stops at Alabama and TCU, is listed on the A&M staff directory as a
"special assistant to the athletic director." His newsletter
duties were done on his own time, Cannon said.

Franchione, who makes about $2 million per year in a contract
that runs through 2011, is 28-24 since taking over at Texas A&M in
2003. He has received harsh criticism from the program's ardent
fans since the team's 34-17 loss last week at Miami.

A spokesman for the university did not respond to attempts by
The Associated Press to reach top university administrators for

The boosters' money went to the company that operates
Franchione's personal Web site, coachfran.com, Franchione said. The
boosters will receive refunds, he said.

NCAA rules require coaches to report to the school any
"athletically related income and benefits from sources outside the
institution." It was unclear Friday if Franchione had done so, or
would be required to if all the boosters' subscription fees went to
the Web site company.

Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches
Association, said there's nothing in his organization's code of
ethics about writing newsletters to boosters. NCAA rules are
explicit about reporting outside income and proper dealings with
boosters, he said.

"I think every athletic director and head coach is very aware
and clear of those concerns and issues," Teaff said.

Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe, the head of the coaches
association's ethics committee, said it would be inappropriate for
him to comment unless it were clear a coach had broken rules.

"An investigation would need to take place first before the
ethics committee would be involved," Grobe said through a

Many college coaches have personal Web sites and some offer
inside information to those who pay for it. Virginia Tech coach
Frank Beamer offers a "Coach's Club" membership for $39.95 per
year that promises "the best, up-to-date, daily practice and
injury reports straight from Coach Beamer, right off the practice