Thursday, October 11, 2007

Franchione to receive 'letter of admonishment'

From the AP:

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) - Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione will be admonished for a secretive for-pay newsletter sent to boosters and the school said Thursday it will report possible violations related to the newsletter to the NCAA.

The school ordered the coach to shut down his Web site — — and will issue a "letter of admonishment."
Athletic director Bill Byrne said he'll consider the newsletter when he evaluates Franchione at the end of the season. Franchione's $2 million per year contract runs through 2012.

"This will be part of his performance review," Byrne said. "The Aggies are embarrassed right now. This has been a very unfortunate incident we do not want to experience again."

Byrne was not aware of the newsletters — which boosters paid $1,200 a year to Franchione — until a reporter inquired about them about a month ago. A&M hired a consulting firm to investigate about two weeks ago, after Franchione admitted he provided the information in a newsletter called the "VIP Connection."

"My guess is there was an attempt to keep it from us," Byrne said. "I think the whole thing started as something well-intended, to keep a number of people who were good donors to the university forever informed about things that were going on. It just got out of control."

Franchione apologized to his team, the school and A&M fans in a statement released after Byrne met with reporters. He also tried to explain himself.

"I was trying to keep some loyal Aggies informed on our program in greater detail throughout the year," he said. "Please do not blame them. They were only trying to support our program."

Franchione said he was turning his attention to Saturday's game at Texas Tech and would not comment further on the newsletter.

David Batson, A&M's compliance officer, said he did not expect the NCAA to penalize the program with sanctions, though he wouldn't rule it out.

"I think the actions taken by the institution will suffice," Batson said. "But ultimately, that's a decision by the NCAA."

The NCAA did not immediately return a phone message.

Among A&M's actions, Franchione was ordered to no longer employ "any staff members that could be construed as representing Texas A&M or providing information or reports relative to his position as head coach at Texas A&M."

Byrne said Franchione's longtime personal assistant, Mike McKenzie, actually wrote the e-mails, and Byrne suggested that Franchione may not have always known about the content. Byrne said McKenzie is no longer an A&M employee, though Byrne was unaware if Franchione was still employing him in some capacity.

The school pointed out three areas where possible violations occurred:

-Franchione did not report to A&M income generated through his Web site or from the VIP Connection. The school said Franchione thought he did not have to report the income until he actually received the proceeds that exceeded expenses incurred for maintaining the Web site.

The school reported that Franchione's Web site and the e-mails generated about $80,000 between June 2005 and June 2007. The school said Franchione's net profit was $37,806.32. A&M said McKenzie was paid by Franchione.

The VIP Connection occasionally contained information about prospective student-athletes. The NCAA prohibits a school from commenting publicly on recruits until they sign letters of intent.

The school suggested that Franchione violated Big 12 Conference standards of sportsmanship.
Batson said neither Franchione nor McKenzie were aware of newsletter recipients using the information for gambling.

The school released a list of 23 recipients of the VIP Connection, including Franchione's wife, Kim, and their oldest daughter, Ashley.

Batson said the school has gathered newsletters from as far back as November 2006. He estimated that the newsletters started in the fall of 2004, the year after Franchione arrived at A&M.

Some of the newsletters contained information about prospective A&M recruits.

One from Aug. 13 read: "TOTAL MUM ON THIS. A certain highly regarded prospect who has committed to Michigan showed up at practice Saturday wearing a USC cap, for which he took a lot of guff. ;)

"As they say in recruiting, it's a long time until February. Same for kids who say they're going to, oh, say, Alabama."

The e-mail continues that Franchione talked to an official whose daughter goes to A&M. From Franchione's view, the newsletter reads, the official was "subconsciously not trying to appear biased about A&M" and making calls against the Aggies. "He said the official didn't like what he said," the e-mail said, "but the plan was counter-subconscious espionage; get the official to think subconsciously about what he might be thinking about subconsciously...well, you get the gist."

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