NCF Nation: Dennis Franchione

Gary Patterson, Jerry KillUSA TODAY SportsLongtime friends Gary Patterson, left, and Jerry Kill will face each other as head coaches Saturday.
The 7-11. That is what Dennis Franchione's wife, Kim, calls the football office because of time coaches arrive and depart.

But when Franchione had two young Kansans on his staff at NAIA Pittsburg State in the late 1980s, the office might as well have been called the 5-1. Jerry Kill and Gary Patterson typically put in those types of hours.

"I used to tell them to go home," Franchione, now Texas State's coach, told ESPN.com this week. "They were there early and stayed late, longer than anybody. You knew they were going to be successful because of the way they approached it."

Work ethic fueled both Kill, Pittsburg State's defensive coordinator from 1985-87, and Patterson, who replaced Kill in 1988. Both had grown up in small towns: Patterson in Rozel, northeast of Dodge City; Kill in Cheney, west of Wichita. Both played linebacker in college (Kill played for Franchione at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas).

About the only difference: Patterson stuck with defense, while Kill switched to offense before entering the head-coaching ranks.

They became friends and have remained close for more than a quarter-century. Kill was Patterson's best man at his wedding. Until recently, they spent every year swapping football ideas.

"We came up the hard way," Kill said this week. "We worked hard to get where we're at. It's why we've been good friends."

Kill laughed.

"There aren't very many people from two small towns in Kansas to be where we're at. We come from common folk."

Both have accomplished uncommon things and now lead Power 5 programs that meet Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas. Patterson, who guided TCU to an undefeated season and a Rose Bowl championship in 2010, is in his 15th season as the Horned Frogs coach. Kill has helped Minnesota to consecutive bowl appearances.

"Both of us are highly competitive," Patterson said, "so this week is difficult."

The friends wish they weren't meeting this way. They might rather take on Oregon and Florida State than stand on opposite sidelines at Amon G. Carter Stadium.

In May 2013, when Patterson heard rumors about a home-and-home series with Minnesota, he immediately called Kill.

"You know anything about that?" he asked.

"Nope, we're not playing you," Kill replied. "No way that's happening."

The coaches soon learned their friendship wouldn't stop their bosses from a nice schedule addition. TCU will return the game next September when they open the 2015 season on a Thursday night in Minneapolis.

"It's not something you want to do," Kill said, "but you know what? Ain’t changing that. It's happened, so go play."

Part of the reluctance is how much time Kill, Patterson and their staffs have spent together over the years. Tracy Claeys, Kill's longtime defensive coordinator and fellow small-town Kansan (Clay Center), has made almost annual pilgrimages to TCU to study with Patterson.

When Claeys first become a coordinator, while working for Kill at Emporia State, he attended 10 of TCU's 15 spring practices.

"The way we we've played, [Patterson] probably wouldn't want me to say I've learned anything from him because we haven't played as well as he has," Claeys joked this week. "I've learned a tremendous amount from him and his staff."

Although TCU uses a 4-2-5 alignment and Minnesota operates from a 4-3, Claeys estimates that 90 percent of his defensive philosophy is drawn from Patterson's. Because of the games, Claeys' trips to TCU have been put on hold.

"I've missed that," he said.

Kill and Patterson nearly reunited on TCU's staff in 2001. Patterson had replaced Franchione as Frogs coach after serving as his defensive coordinator at both TCU and New Mexico. Kill, a head coach at two Division II programs, had the chance to become Patterson's offensive coordinator.

But after consulting with Franchione, he decided to remain a head coach and went to Southern Illinois.

"He's one of those guys I have the utmost respect for," Patterson said of Kill. "When we get done coaching, he’ll be a guy, along with his wife, we’ll go on trips and always stay in touch."

Franchione remains in close contact with both of his protégés. The first two scores he checks on Sundays are TCU's and Minnesota's.

He hopes to catch the start of Saturday's game before Texas State begins its final preparations to face Navy.

"They're what America's all about," Franchione said of Patterson and Kill. "They've done it the right way, they've done it with class, they're appreciative of everything. I don't think there's any part of them that doesn't remember being a [graduate assistant] and eating peanut butter and jelly."

Kill and Patterson haven't talked ball very often lately, but Kill knows what to expect Saturday from his friend, the "defensive genius." He's certain Patterson devoted part of spring ball to prepping for Minnesota, and an open date before the game likely didn't hurt.

"We're both cut from the same cloth," Kill said. "We go 100 miles an hour."
1. The Penn State Board of Trustees released another explanation Monday of its decision to fire Joe Paterno. After board members said in January that he failed to meet a moral obligation to do more when informed of the child-abuse accusations against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, the board said Monday that Paterno showed a “failure of leadership.” How long before the board issues another explanation in its continuing attempt to deflect responsibility for its failures?

2. Of the 58 seniors in fall sports awarded a $7,500 postgraduate scholarship by the NCAA, only three play FBS football. That means three players out of about 12,000 on FBS rosters had the chops to earn this scholarship. Let’s hope that is less a commentary on the state of FBS academics than it is a compliment to BYU running back Bryan Kariya, Ball State wideout Briggs Orsbon, and Navy guard John Dowd. Make what you will of this: Kariya and Orsbon both have 4.0 GPAs and are married. Dowd, the slacker with the 3.91 GPA, already has won an $18,000 postgraduate grant as a Campbell Award finalist.

3. When I visited Arizona last week, Virginia Tech running backs coach Shane Beamer came through to watch Rich Rodriguez’s Wildcats. Beamer is part of one of my favorite stories regarding coaches making spring visits to other staffs. In spring 2003, as a graduate assistant at Tennessee, Beamer and other Vols coaches visited Texas A&M. Head coach Dennis Franchione welcomed everyone, and then threw Beamer out of the meeting. Why? That fall, the Aggies would play the Hokies, coached by Beamer’s dad Frank.

Introducing Texas A&M to the SEC

February, 8, 2012
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Texas A&MBrett Davis/US PresswireIn the SEC, Texas A&M won't be fuming under the long shadow of former Big 12-mate Texas any longer.

Missouri had its day on Tuesday. Today, it's Texas A&M's turn.

The SEC welcomes both schools into the league this coming football season, and consider this our introduction to the Aggies on the SEC blog. We get an assist from Big 12 blogger David Ubben.

Let's get right to it.

Chris Low: It wasn't a big secret that the SEC wanted to get into the state of Texas, and there were rumblings that the SEC had an offer on the table for both Texas A&M and Oklahoma two summers ago. Did you think it was a foregone conclusion that Texas A&M was going to join the SEC at some point?

David Ubben: I don't know if I'd call it a foregone conclusion, but nobody in the league was more tired of the often Texas-driven nature of the Big 12 than the Aggies. The SEC, from its perspective, was a way to surpass the Longhorns, too. Although I think Missouri's move was more about leaving the Big 12, I think the Aggies really wanted to be in the SEC as much as they wanted to leave the Big 12. If Mizzou had its way, it would probably be in the Big Ten right now. For A&M, there's been an SEC lust for decades. Now, it's happening. The Aggies couldn't be happier. We'll see whether that happiness sticks around on game Saturdays in the fall.

CL: David, my take on this round of expansion for the SEC is that Texas A&M fits culturally a lot better than Missouri. Maybe that's just me, but Texas A&M has the feel of an SEC school with its passion for football. That said, I'm probably one of those rare people who's been to a Texas A&M basketball game in College Station but never to a football game at Kyle Field. It was back when Bernard King (the other one) was playing for the Aggies, and it was the night before Dennis Franchione left Alabama to take the Texas A&M head football job. I'm sure this will shock you, but nobody was out on press row during the basketball game. Instead, all the Texas A&M-based media members were on their phones back in the media work room trying to track down the Franchione story. I can assure you that something like that would never happen in the SEC during a hoops game. Well, at least not at Kentucky.

[+] EnlargeTexas A&M
AP Photo/David J. PhillipThe Corps of Cadets made Texas A&M's Kyle Field one of the Big 12's most impressive venues.
DU: That sounds about right. And you're definitely in the minority on that one. Kyle Field was the best game atmosphere in the Big 12 by far, and it'll be missed. In that sense, it definitely fits in the SEC. I'd agree with you on the cultural aspect. We'll see how the SEC takes to the Aggies' Yell Leaders aka lack of cheerleaders. It's an old joke in the Big 12, but I guarantee a few SEC fans will be in for a rude awakening next season after failing to do their homework before game day. Unlike Mizzou, the Aggies don't have to deal with a big shift in recruiting strategy. They'll have more access to Louisiana, I think. They also play a physical brand of football, unlike Mizzou. What's the biggest challenge facing the Aggies as they leave for a new league?

CL: Just managing the grind of the SEC and going through those three- and four-game stretches when you're playing Alabama one week, Florida the next, then Auburn and then Arkansas. The Western Division is stronger than it's ever been. You're talking about three teams from one division that finished in the top five nationally this past season in the final polls. You can be a pretty decent football team in that division and struggle to win six games. Just ask Mississippi State. Especially with a new head coach and putting in new systems on both sides of the ball, I wonder whether this first season for the Aggies will be rough. Simply making a bowl game may be an accomplishment. What would be your prediction, David, for the Aggies in Year 1 in the SEC?

DU: Agreed on that front. I felt bad for Arkansas this year. The Razorbacks were a heck of a lot more than a decent football team but finished third in the division, getting boxed out of the BCS thanks to arbitrary rules. I predict a rough start for the Aggies. I'll give them a break and say 6-6 with a spot safely in the bottom half of the SEC West.
Patrick Peterson won the Thorpe Award last year as the nation's best defensive back and currently sits atop Mel Kiper's Big Board as the best prospect for the upcoming NFL draft.

He could have played for Texas A&M -- for a price.

According to a report by colleague Kelli Naqi, a Texas football trainer under scrutiny for his practices while running a recruiting service, asked Texas A&M for money to secure Peterson's commitment to the Aggies in 2007.

From the story:
Van Malone, the former defensive secondary coach at Texas A&M, told ESPN that [Will] Lyles phoned him in 2007 after Peterson had visited the College Station campus.

"A few days after the kid's visit, Will calls and says, 'If you want this kid, there are other schools that want this kids as well. They're willing to pay a certain amount of money, around the $80,000 mark,'" Malone said. "He said that was something we were going to have to beat as a university to be able to obtain the services of this kid."

Peterson originally committed to Miami before playing out his career at LSU, who coincidentally beat Texas A&M in last year's Cotton Bowl, but Malone, now at Tulsa, told Lyles that Texas A&M doesn't pay for players.

Lyles' services have been under scrutiny lately after a report surfaced that Oregon had paid $25,000 to a recruiting firm that employs Lyles. Subsequently, Lache Seastrunk, a running back from Temple, Texas, signed with the Ducks.

Malone chose not to tell then-coach Dennis Franchione or anyone else at Texas A&M about the request from Lyles.
"A Texas A&M spokesman said the university was unaware of Malone's comments about Lyles. Malone said he never told then-Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione about Lyles request because he planned to continue to recruit Peterson without going through Lyles."

That's not the ideal response you'd like to see, and in cases like this, schools would rather not have their name come up in anything revolving around Lyles. There's been plenty of smoke surrounding his services lately, and now, it looks like at least a little bit has crossed over into Big 12 country.

It should be interesting to see what else emerges from Lyles and his relationships and interactions with others across the league.

Franchione resigned from his post at Texas A&M in 2007 after five seasons coaching the Aggies. He was 32-28 overall and 19-21 in Big 12 play.

He hadn't been a head coach anywhere since, but was hired by Texas State in January 2011.

Lunchtime Links

January, 21, 2011
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Happy Friday!

It should be a happy one for TCU safeties coach Chad Glasgow, who is set to become Texas Tech's defensive coordinator.

Now Idaho wants to jump the WAC ship.

Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora has hit the recruiting trail hard.

Dennis Franchione completed his staff at Texas State with some familiar TCU names.

Andy Dalton is already hard at work preparing for the NFL draft.

Marshall could get talented twin recruits.

SMU is putting together the top recruiting class in Conference USA.

UConn assistant Todd Orlando has emerged as the leading candidate to become FIU's defensive coordinator.

FAU is switching to a 3-4 defense to help combat the spread.

Former Toledo football player Adam Cuomo pleads guilty to a sports bribery charge.

Lunchtime Links

January, 10, 2011
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Thirty-four bowls down, and the big one to go. Don't forget to join me and our college football experts as we live chat the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game tonight between Auburn and Oregon.

Now on to some links:

Nevada closed out the 2010 season with a championship, and opened 2011 with a bowl championship.

Colin Kaepernick is the poster child for Nevada football.

At TCU, a winning tradition is the mission.

Four-star recruit Harvey Langi announced he will sign with Utah.

Back to the future with new Texas State coach Dennis Franchione.

Tulsa offensive coordinator Chad Morris is headed to Clemson.

But is Tulsa coach Todd Graham staying put?

San Diego State's recruiting could hinge on Brady Hoke's future.

UTEP has big questions at quarterback, offensive line to answer.

Northern Illinois is running behind schedule because of coaching changes and probably won't sign a full recruiting class.

Middle Tennessee's top 10 plays from 2010.

UNLV narrows coaching search

December, 22, 2009
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The UNLV coaching search appears to be a two-man race.

UNLV’s new athletic director Jim Livengood was supposed to interview three candidates -- Dennis Franchione, Montana coach Bobby Hauck, and former Colorado coach Gary Barnett. But according to a source, Barnett, who is in town to do radio for the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, had his interview cancelled. He was supposed to speak with UNLV officials Monday, the day Franchione also interviewed.

Hauck was interviewed on Sunday and reportedly will reportedly have a second interview.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a decision on a new head coach could come today and a formal announcement could come Wednesday. The school reportedly doesn’t want it to conflict with tonight's MAACO Bowl Las Vegas.

The paper reported that the Board of Regents has called a special meeting for Wednesday to approve the contracts for Livengood, who was hired last week, and the new coach.

Underdog Aggies like their odds against UT

November, 25, 2009
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Mike Sherman likes boxing analogies.

[+] EnlargeJerrod Johnson
Brett Davis/US PresswireJerrod Johnson said playing the Longhorns has more meaning than other games.
The Texas A&M coach who showed his team video of the George Foreman-Muhammad Ali fight earlier this season to spark an upset victory over Texas Tech is looking to another pugilistic reference to describe his underdog team’s chances against Texas on Thursday night.

“This is Rocky Balboa versus Apollo Creed,” Sherman said. “It’s one of those types of deals, where we have a chance to play against a top-notch team that certainly has not stumbled one time this year. They've played very well in every ballgame. It's going to be quite a challenge for us, but it's one we're looking forward to."

The Aggies have proved to be difficult for the Longhorns over the years -- particularly at Kyle Field.

A&M has won eight of the last 12 games over the Longhorns there, including the most recent meeting in 2007.

In that game, Dennis Franchione’s team rediscovered the forward pass too late to save his job, but not before beating the Longhorns, 38-30.

The year before that in Austin, the Aggies physically punished the Longhorns in another striking upset, claiming a 12-7 triumph in a game in which they knocked the Longhorns out of the Big 12 South title chase and Colt McCoy out of the game.

Those memories and others through the years have A&M players excited about playing the South Division championships, despite the fact that most prognosticators don’t give them much hope.

“One of our motivations every year is beating Texas along with every other team,” Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson said. “But for me to say this game doesn’t have a little bit more meaning than the rest, I’d be lying to you. Whatever they do after us, I wish them the best. But when they play us, we definitely like our chances and we’re going to go out there with all we have.”

The 6-5 Aggies qualified for their first bowl game since 2007 with a victory over Baylor last week. But their season has been marked with remarkable inconsistency. They have won games by 35, 37, 22, 25 and 35 points. And they’ve lost games by margins of 28, 48 and 55 points.

But despite that wild variation in performances from game to game, the Aggies are convinced they will be ready for the 11-0 Longhorns.

“Texas is a really good, solid team, but every year when we play them, we feel like it’s even,” Texas A&M defensive end/linebacker Von Miller said. “This year, it’s no different. We’ve got some young guys, but they don’t act like young guys. It’s Texas week, everybody is up for the game and it’s the biggest game of the year for us.”

The Aggies are the only Big 12 team to have a winning record against McCoy during his career with the Longhorns. Those two earlier losses have marked him with determination to even his mark against the Aggies in Thursday’s game.

“We've got a lot of goals ahead of us and we haven't taken care of business like we wanted to in the past in this game,” McCoy said. “We don't really talk about '06 and '07. We don't like to think about that. We talk about being the best we can be and finishing what we started. That's enough motivation for us. We've got a lot at stake.”

Since 2000, the Aggies are only 56-52 and have fallen far behind the Longhorns and Oklahoma in the Big 12 South’s pecking order. In recent years, even Oklahoma State and Texas Tech have lapped them.

But Sherman is making progress in his second season. He’s already played 19 freshmen and six redshirt freshmen this season, including prime playmakers like running back Christine Michael and wide receiver Uzoma Nwachukwu. Johnson has developed into one of the most statistically proficient quarterbacks in the nation.

“To their credit, these guys have responded to the challenge,” Sherman said. “That speaks volumes. I wish we didn’t have to deal with all of the ups and downs this season has presented to us. But I think they’ve done a great job of handling the adversity they’ve faced in the context of the season.”

Texas coach Mack Brown relishes playing in what he calls one of the most historic rivalries in college football.

“It's great," Brown said. "It's loud. It's a rivalry. They've got great fans and I'm sure it's going to be a great environment."

Other Texas teams have tripped up in that environment, even as heavy favorites.

But senior defensive end Sergio Kindle said this Longhorns team is excited about the challenge of staring down the Aggies in their own backyard.

“Playing at Kyle Field, that 12th Man is serious. And when they get going, A&M starts feeding off of it,” Kindle said. “But we’re ready. We’re looking at that game as the only thing that’s in front of us now.”

What to watch for in the Big 12, Week 13

November, 24, 2009
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The Big 12’s final weekend of the regular season will feature several key games over a three-day period that will have serious national championship and BCS ramifications.

And we might be seeing two coaches riding off into the sunset.

Here are 10 things to look for in the Big 12’s games this week.

Can Texas' tackling problems be resolved? Will Muschamp was very angry with Texas’ missed tackles against Kansas as the Longhorns allowed 97 extra yards on nine whiffs against the Jayhawks. Some of it was because of the athleticism of Kansas players like Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier. But the Longhorns will be facing a stronger unit in the Aggies with skill-position players like Christine Michael, Cyrus Gray, Uzoma Nwachukwu and Jeff Fuller. Muschamp has had his unit working before daylight this week intent on improving their tackling and swarming techniques. It will be an important exercise to get them ready for the better teams they will face during the rest of the season.

Will the Kyle Field jinx bite Texas again? The Aggies will be excited about their chance at springing an upset to ruin the Longhorns’ national title hopes. Kyle Field has been a difficult place for the Longhorns in the past as the Aggies have won eight of the last 12 games there since 1985. But after losing his first game there in the Bonfire game in 1999, Mack Brown won his next three games in College Station before losing there in 2007 in Dennis Franchione’s last game. Texas players say that the incessant noise from Aggie fans makes it difficult to run their offense. Can Colt McCoy do things differently in his second start there after his loss earlier in his career?

How Nebraska reacts to winning the Big 12 North title last week: Bo Pelini started preaching about Colorado soon after the victory over KSU pushed his team into the title game. He’s emphasized that beating the Buffaloes is the final goal his team needs to accomplish before it starts preparing for Texas and the Big 12 title game next week. Despite the coach’s pleading, it would be understandable if the Cornhuskers didn’t approach the road game on a short road week with unbridled intensity. But a veteran defense keyed by Ndamukong Suh, Phillip Dillard, Matt O’Hanlon and Larry Asante should have the Cornhuskers focused against the sputtering Buffaloes.

Dan Hawkins' possible last game in Boulder: The embattled Colorado coach’s job has been in question since a slow start after he boldly predicting his team would challenge for the Big 12 North title. Instead, the Buffaloes were the first team in the conference eliminated from bowl consideration. The Buffaloes showed some promise in last week’s narrow loss at Oklahoma State, although they repeatedly made critical mistakes and penalties that kept them from winning. Will the Colorado coach be able to circle the wagons and get his team to play one final strong performance? Or is it already too late for him to save his job after a disappointing 16-32 career record?

Will Oklahoma State turn the tables on Oklahoma? Throughout the years, the Sooners have been the team playing for championship and BCS bowl opportunities while their cross-state rivals were playing for bowl positioning and winning seasons. The roles have been reversed this season as the Cowboys play their biggest game since the start of the Big 12 in Bedlam this year. If OSU can win this game, they likely will qualify for a BCS at-large berth with a strong shot at the Fiesta Bowl. Whether the experienced Cowboys can snap the Sooners’ nation-best 29-game winning streak remains to be seen. But Mike Gundy’s chances of winning at Owen Field have never looked stronger -- even with quarterback Zac Robinson's uncertain status.

The Oklahoma defense can’t possibly be as bad as the one that showed at Texas Tech, can it? The Sooners suffered through a humbling performance in Lubbock last week, allowing their most points, yards, rushing yards and passing yards of the season. They will be challenged by a determined Oklahoma State team on the verge of its biggest team accomplishment in years. Bob Stoops and Brent Venables will appeal to the pride of their defense, the backbone of the team this season. It will be interesting to see if the Sooners respond “in a big way,” as Stoops likes to say.

Baron Batch versus the weak Baylor rush defense: The junior Texas Tech running back is coming off his best performance of his career after ripping Oklahoma for 136 yards last week. He should find an inviting opponent against Baylor, which ranks 100th nationally in rush defense and ranks last in the conference allowing an average of 185.91 yards per game. He’ll be important in dictating the Red Raiders’ offense as they play for better bowl positioning with a victory.

Baylor’s determined defensive duo plays its last game: Middle linebacker Joe Pawelek and free safety Jordan Lake will never make a bowl trip with Baylor, but both will go down in history among the greatest players in school history at their positions. It will be an emotional game at Cowboys Stadium for both senior leaders. And both will be challenged by Texas Tech’s sizzling offense in a competitive final game in college football.

Danario Alexander’s big-play exploits: Missouri wide receiver Danario Alexander has been the most explosive receiver in the Big 12 this season, ranking third nationally in receptions and average yards receiving. Alexander has two games remaining -- the regular-season finale against Kansas and a bowl game -- to reach the school career record as he needs 297 receiving yards over those two games. Considering his recent surge in Missouri last six games, he’s got a great shot after averaging 160.7 yards per game with 57 receptions for 964 yards (a 16.9 avg. per catch) and eight touchdowns during that period. And he’ll be playing a struggling Kansas secondary that ranks 88th in pass defense and was blistered for season-worst totals of 396 passing yards and four touchdown passes last week against Texas.

Is this the end for Mark Mangino? Embattled Kansas coach Mark Mangino is a victim of a “witch hunt,” according to Texas Tech coach Mike Leach. But the internal investigation into the program appears to have developed enough dirt that likely will have enough substance to cost Mangino his job. The howling became louder when the Jayhawks have lost their last six games after starting the season 5-0. They can still rebound and qualify for a bowl berth by beating Missouri in Kansas City. Mangino has won four of his last six games against Missouri. And none would be sweeter than Saturday’s game if he could pull it off with his team on the mat and claim an upset over his school's biggest rival.

Franchione pitches for the UNLV job

November, 20, 2009
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Dennis Franchione wants to get back into coaching and he thinks UNLV might be the perfect situation.

Franchione, the former Texas A&M coach who was bought out in 2007, told the Las Vegas Sun that he’s ready to get back into the game and that he thinks the Rebels would be a good fit.

"I've turned two schools around in that conference -- New Mexico and then when I took over TCU in 1998," Franchione told the paper. "So I'm really familiar with the conference and the area, and I feel like (UNLV) is kind of a sleeping giant, and there's no reason I can see right now that it couldn't be successful and win some games."

Franchione coached New Mexico and TCU while both schools were in the WAC and left both programs better than when he found them.

While Franchione has shown interest in the Rebels, the Rebels have not hinted -- at least publicly -- that they are interested in him. Interim UNLV athletic director Jerry Koloskie said he’s had multiple people contact him about the position, but UNLV president Dr. Neal Smatresk said that he’s eager to hire an athletic director before looking for a football coach.

Mike Sanford, who was fired last Sunday, will coach his final game on Nov. 28 against San Diego State.

Battle of Brazos has rare bowl implications this season

November, 17, 2009
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The two schools are separated by only 84 miles as the crow flies along Texas State Highway 6.

Baylor and Texas A&M have been longtime rivals, playing a 99-game series that predated their memberships in the Southwest Conference. Both joined the Big 12 together in the continuation of a bitter rivalry that has been played yearly since 1945.

It may not seem as heated now as in the past when Grant Teaff squared off with Jackie Sherrill or later, R.C. Slocum. Even the Guy Morriss-Dennis Franchione rivalry developed into a good one with some barbs thrown from both sides on both sides.

AP Photo/Dave EinselTexas A&M head coach Mike Sherman Aggie's can gain bowl eligibility with a win over Baylor.

Saturday’s game will have some meaning unlike many recent Baylor-A&M games because both teams still have legitimate bowl hopes.

Baylor senior safety Jordan Lake grew up in a family where his father was a former Baylor student. Like all Baylor students, they reveled in the Bears’ 41-20 victory last season in Waco that ranked as their biggest triumph in the series since 1980. And they also delighted in the Bears' wild 35-34 overtime triumph in 2004 after A&M had thumped them in College Station by 63 points the year before.

“My dad always had a dislike for A&M,” Lake said. “From the beginning, I knew there was a rivalry tension there. And the way we’ve played the last couple of years has helped it rise to where it was back in the 1970s and 1980s.”

Mike Sherman and Art Briles appear to have a respectful relationship heading into Saturday’s game that will be played for some big stakes at Kyle Field.

Both teams have simmering postseason hopes heading into the game, although both have fallen dramatically in recent weeks.

Baylor (4-6) started the season strongly with an opening-game victory at Wake Forest. But the Bears lost their home opener to Connecticut and Robert Griffin went down with a season-ending knee injury the following week as the Bears have tailed off since then.

Their 47-14 loss to Texas last was their fifth in the last six games and actually seems closer than it really was. The Longhorns jumped to a 40-0 lead before Baylor scored two late touchdowns on the Texas backup defensive unit.

A&M (5-5) has faced similar recent struggles and bottomed out in their blowout 65-10 loss at Oklahoma.

The Aggies had enough problems against the Sooners in simply cleanly fielding punts or kicks. A&M fumbled or muffed five kicks to spark Oklahoma’s 42-10 halftime lead. That run of struggles enabled the Sooners to run off 51 straight points en route to the wide margin of victory.

It marked the second time this season that an opponent has hung at least 60 points on the Aggies and the third time that they have lost by at least four touchdowns.


AP Photo/L.G. PattersonBaylor head coach Art Briles needs to beat Texas A&M to have a chance to go bowling.
Those blowout losses haven’t undermined the progress of a young team that features 27 freshmen and sophomores in its two-deep roster.

“We’re fine,” senior safety Jordan Pugh said. “We just look at it as something that we’ve got to fix. We looked forward and moved on."

A victory would push the Aggies into their first bowl game under Sherman. But A&M players have simpler thoughts about Saturday’s game.

“It’s just important for us to win, period,” Pugh said. “Getting a bowl game would be fun, but winning is our major focus now.”

To gain bowl eligibility, the Bears would have to win their first game at Kyle Field since 1984 and then defeat Texas Tech next week at the new Dallas Cowboys’ Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Playing meaningful games in late November is new for a Baylor program that hasn’t gone bowling since 1994. But the Bears are excited about the challenges that will be facing them -- even if they are perceived to be a long shot to accomplish those goals.

“A lot of people outside this locker room have written us off for awhile. When Griff went down, so did Baylor, they thought,” Baylor senior middle linebacker Joe Pawelek said. “We still have a shot to make this a special season. It starts with A&M this week. And we’re just looking to extend the season for one more week.”

The Aggies can make a bowl trip by winning one of their last two games. And obviously, the game against Baylor looks much more winnable than their remaining game against No. 3 Texas on Thanksgiving night.

“They all know that,” Sherman said about his team's bowl hopes. “I usually don’t make a big deal about the obvious. I think they know how important these games are.”

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

As anybody who reads this blog knows, I love all lists.

I came across an interesting list this morning at the Bleacher Report ranking the 11 worst college coaching performances of the 21st century.

It wasn't surprising that the Big 12 was solidly represented with two recent coaches who were fired after unceremonious struggles at traditional powers.

In a list that was topped by Ty Willingham from his Washington days and also included Syracuse's Greg Robinson and BYU's Gary Crowton among its top three spots, the Big 12 also was prominently highlighted with Bill Callahan of Nebraska ranking fourth and Texas A&M's Dennis Franchione coming in ninth.

Here's what the author had to say about Callahan:

"Twenty-two losses in four years. Legendary Cornhusker coach Bob Devaney lost only 20 games in his entire career at Nebraska. Frightening."

Or about Franchione:

"He wasn't that bad at Alabama (17-8), and he was pretty good at TCU and his other stops, but in College Station he went 32-28."

It's fair to remember that Callahan had taken the Cornhuskers to back-to-back bowl games in his previous two seasons, including a Big 12 North title in 2006. But his team's defensive struggles were a factor he couldn't overcome.

And Franchione, who qualified the Aggies for three bowl games in his final four seasons before he was fired, had his moments as well. He left with a two-game winning streak over Texas, becoming only the second coach in school history to leave with an existing multi-season winning streak over the Longhorns.

The other was Jackie Sherrill.

But his admission of selling "state secrets" through his VIP Newsletter eventually pulled his program down.

Today, few fans of either program were sorry to see Callahan and Franchione go.

But it was still interesting to me to see them ranked among the biggest coaching flops in recent history. While they struggled building their programs, I don't know if I would necessarily go that far. 

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Good Monday afternoon.

Hope the Easter Bunny was good to all Big 12 fans, bringing lots of treats and not too many egg-salad sandwiches and malted-milk eggs to go along with these lunchtime links today.

Here are some of the most notable stories from across the conference.

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

During this time of year, there are really only a few things to talk about -- coaching hires and fires, bowls and awards. Today's lunchtime links deal with the former two.

• Turner Gill's attorney Steve Mooney confirmed that Gill had interviewed with both Auburn and Syracuse about their coaching vacancies, but that an offer has not been extended.

• Speaking of Buffalo, William C. Rhoden wrote a great profile on the Buffalo football team and its ascension from two wins to a bowl game in just two seasons.

• Former Texas A&M head football coach Dennis Franchione was wined and dined on Wednesday by San Diego State.

• Tulsa coach Todd Graham and Ball State coach Brady Hoke met over the summer to discuss offensive strategies and now the two will use that knowledge against each other.

• Had Urban Meyer not taken a chance on Brian Johnson, Utah would not have completed an undefeated regular season en route to a BCS bowl berth.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin:

As much a part of holiday bowl games are the news conferences that take place several weeks before the games.

Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Florida's Urban Meyer met in a casino in Hollywood, Fla., on Wednesday. Missouri's Gary Pinkel and Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald are hooking up at a golf tournament in San Antonio today.

With many of the top Big 12 players in Orlando, Fla., tonight, for the Home Depot/ESPNU College Football Awards Show, here are some links to get you ready for those festivities.

  • Bob Stoops indirectly helped lead Urban Meyer to Florida after Meyer called him four years ago asking about the positives of the Florida job, Kevin Brockway of the Gainesville Sun writes. Stoops was defensive coordinator at Florida from 1996-98.
  • Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln-Journal Star weighs in on the approaching battle next season to replace starting quarterback Joe Ganz. Among the contenders are Cody Green, Kody Spano, Patrick Witt and Zac Lee.
  • U.S. Rep Joe Barton (R-Texas) has no vested interests in the BCS considering he graduated from Texas A&M. And he still wants to do away with the current controversial method of settling college football's champion, according to Anna M. Tinsley of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
  • Former Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione received the VIP treatment as he conducted his second interview with San Diego State officials about their vacant head coaching job, the San Diego Union-Tribune's Brent Schrotenboer writes. San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson declined to reveal whether he had talked about the vacancy to Franchione, his coach at TCU.
  • Martin Manley of the Kansas City Star's fine blog, "Under Further Review," spells out the scenario where Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech could finish 1-2-3 in the final national polls after the bowl games.
  • Kansas coaches are experimenting during bowl practice with switching Angus Quigley, the team's second leading rusher this season, to linebacker, Dugan Arnett of the Lawrence Journal-World reports.

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