Alabama has had five head coaches lead the Crimson Tide to national championships. Wallace Wade, Frank Thomas, Bear Bryant, Gene Stallings and Nick Saban have all brought a title to Tuscaloosa. At the same time, Alabama has had some head coaches who are not remembered as fondly. One of these head coaches was Dennis Franchione.
After coaching Brian Urlacher as head coach of New Mexico, Franchione turned around Texas Christian. Prior to Franchione's arrival, TCU was 1-10 in 1997. By 2000, Franchione led the Horned Frogs to a 10-1 regular season record. His success caught the attention of Alabama, who was looking for a head coach to replace the fired Mike DuBose.
Prior to TCU's appearance in the Mobile Alabama Bowl, Franchione left the Horned Frogs to become the Crimson Tide head coach.
Franchione earned the reputation of being a coach who could turnaround programs. At New Mexico in 1997, he led the Lobos to their first bowl appearance since 1961. Pat Sullivan won 24 games in six seasons at TCU. Franchione won 25 games in the following three seasons.
Alabama was in need of a coach who could quickly put behind the bad memories of a 3-8 season in DuBose's final season in 2000. In Franchione's first season in Tuscaloosa, Alabama started slowly at 3-5.
However, the Crimson Tide won their last four games, including a 31-7 win over Auburn and a 14-13 triumph over Iowa State in the Independence Bowl. Franchione kept his reputation alive as a coach who could reverse the fortunes of a college football program.
In February 2002, Alabama received a two-year postseason ban (including the Southeastern Conference Championship Game) and scholarship reductions resulting from recruiting violations under DuBose. Despite this fact, the Crimson Tide rolled to a 9-2 record heading into the Iron Bowl against Auburn.
During the week of the Auburn game, rumors were rampant about Franchione leaving Alabama for Texas A&M. He dismissed reports in Texas newspapers that he would be named the next Aggies head coach. Franchione also stated his intentions to return to Alabama for the 2003 season.
The rumors may have distracted the Crimson Tide in the Tigers 17-7 triumph. A victory the following week against Hawaii gave Alabama a 10-3 record, and Franchione was 17-8 through two seasons with the Crimson Tide.
At the same time, Texas A&M completed a 6-6 season in 2002 and failed to appear in a bowl game for the first time since 1996. The final straw for head coach R.C. Slocum appeared to be a 50-20 loss to archrival Texas in the season finale.
After the season finale on Nov. 30, Alabama athletic director Mal Moore gave Texas A&M officials permission to speak with Franchione. Slocum was fired on Dec. 2 and three days later on on Dec. 5, Franchione resigned at Alabama and accepted the head coaching position at Texas A&M.
When Franchione accepted the Crimson Tide head coaching position in 2000, he signed a $1.1 million contract through 2007. After the successful 2002 campaign, he was offered a $15 million extension over the next 10 years, but declined.
Alabama fans were upset that a coach who just won 10 games and signed a contract through 2007 was leaving. What made the Crimson Tide fans angrier was how Franchione left. After signing with Texas A&M, he never returned to Tuscaloosa to tell his players he was leaving.
Instead, he related the news to his players through video. Not exactly the best way to leave Alabama in good graces.
Franchione's reputation as a coach who could turn around programs took a hit at Texas A&M. In his five seasons in College Station, the Aggies were 32-28 (including 0-3 in bowl games) with only one season with more than seven wins.
Even though Alabama was suffering through a 4-9 season in 2003, Crimson Tide fans probably took some satisfaction in Oklahoma's 77-0 win that season over Franchione's Aggies.
In 2007, Franchione resigned as Texas A&M head coach. After a short broadcasting career, he returned to the sidelines in 2011 as head coach of Football Championship Subdivision member Texas State.
One could understand Franchione's departure from Alabama since the NCAA sanctions against the Crimson Tide began after he was named head coach. But leaving a team without telling your players is just asking for criticism. Bobby Petrino would understand this after leaving the Atlanta Falcons for the University of Arkansas by leaving a letter for his players in the locker room.
Franchione had a winning record on the field at Alabama; how he handled his departure is something Crimson Tide fans hope a head coach never emulates.