As was first reported by Bruce Feldman and later confirmed by multiple local media outlets and the university itself, Dennis Franchione is retiring/resigning his position as head coach of Texas State Bobcats football. The move has come as a surprise to many around the program. Low level employees in the athletic department I spoke to were floored by this move, and as recently as yesterday SMDR beat reporter Joe Vozzelli was reporting that Franchione's job was safe despite Teis not answering his calls.
Franchione leaves the program with an overall record of 39-43 at Texas State. After a few years of increased win totals in FBS, a disastrous 3-9 season took the air out of the program and seemingly led to his retirement decision.
Texas State is reporting that Parker Executive Search Firm will head the search for the next head coach. Parker was used during the coaching search that led to Franchione's hiring, although Teis had reportedly already made up his mind to hire him regardless. They were also responsible (in some way or another) for helping Teis and Texas State hire away men's basketball head coach Danny Kaspar from SFA, and were used in the recent coaching hires at UCF and Iowa State.
Relevant quotes from the powers that be:
"When we hired Dennis five years ago, we asked him to help us transition from FCS to FBS. We all knew this would be a challenging task. We also knew we needed someone who had coached at the highest level and could assist us as we made the move. His knowledge of the game and his respect on the national level showed other universities and conference commissioners we were committed to our football program." - President Denise Trauth
"Coach Franchione has been rock solid for this university and this football program. He had only two losing seasons in seven years of Division I football at Texas State. Since moving to Division I in 1984, coach Franchione has been the head coach for five of our 10 best years. His track record over the years proves he is one of the best ever to walk the sidelines in college football." - Athletics Director Larry Teis
A former player close to the program told me that this move has been in the works for a while as Coach Franchione had reportedly lost the players and the locker room over the course of the season. They also said that embattled Texas State athletic director Larry Teis didn't want to fire him, so he was allowed to "retire" and avoid embarrassment. However, SMDR beat reporter Joe Vozzelli is reporting that this was entirely Franchione's decision.
Franchione spoke with AD Larry Teis last week at which point he informed him of his decision. Teis told him to think it over this weekend.— Joe Vozzelli (@smdrjoe) December 22, 2015
What's now in question is whether Franchione will be paid the approximate $240,000 buyout that would've been owed to him upon his contract being terminated or whether the school will not have to pay it out because he's retiring.
Regardless of those circumstances, Coach Fran stepping down is likely the right move. The Bobcats played inconsistent and at times listless football throughout the back half of the season to the point where nobody will be shocked at the revelation that the coaching staff had lost the locker room. He brought Texas State to a better place than where it was, but a change in culture is seemingly what this program needs.
However, what's in question is why this move came now.
A month ago, now-Bowling Green head coach Mike Jinks was available, and he was reportedly highly interested in the Texas State position. Now, the Bobcats are behind nearly everyone in the coaching carousel unless there indeed have been moves behind the scenes over the past few weeks.
So why did Coach Fran wait to make his decision, which has seemingly put Texas State at a major disadvantage? Perhaps he wanted to see out the signing of the most recent JUCO recruiting class, or did something else that happened very recently cause him to make this decision?
We'll likely see more details come out over the next few weeks, but in the interim the Bobcat community must face some very difficult questions. For example:
- Who is still available this late in the coaching carousel?
- Who can Texas State realistically afford?
- Can Larry Teis be trusted to make this hire?
The first question is certainly a valid one, as Ball State is the only other FBS opening at this time. It also affects the 2nd question, as Texas State will almost certainly have to pony up more than they paid Franchione to get a big name coaching hire.
The last of those questions will be especially pressing at this juncture, as the path of least resistance--which is seemingly Teis's M.O.--would be to promote OC Mike Schulz, who was seemingly overruled by Franchione at times in offensive playcalling, or interim DC (and Dennis's son) Brad Franchione to head coach. One player has already tweeted his support for Schulz.
As we move forward, I hope to rely on familiar faces to help lead us into 2016. Coach Schultz is a great leader and coach. #TXST— Kian Schoenborn (@kscho_77) December 22, 2015
However, that's one player, and it's hard to know whether he speaks for the key position players like Tyler Jones or Robert Lowe, who have been quiet up to the time of publishing this article.
However, it's probably not unfair to speculate that hiring Schulz or especially Brad Franchione would go over like a lead brick with an increasingly vocal segment of fans who want widespread changes. That's probably a pipe dream, but getting someone outside of the current administration might not be. If familiarity with the program is considered a selling point by Teis and Trauth, there are options that Texas State could turn to, especially when it comes to a certain coaching staff that's both spent time at Texas State and has set the G5 world on fire:
That's CB Brandon McDowell, who certainly would be familiar with the onetime Bobcat defensive backs coach. Although Washington might be a little green to take on an FBS position as a special teams coordinator, it'd be no less of a stretch than, say, Brad Franchione.
With that being said, change is good this program needs. If I'm the AD I'm going directly after @Coach_Naivar !!— Mike Orakpo (@Raknation) December 22, 2015
Mike Orakpo's voice will certainly carry some weight among the Bobcat faithful. Given Houston's excellent defense this season and Naivar's familiarity with the program, he'll also get a look. But will Naivar and Washington (or even Major Applewhite) try and hitch their wagons to Herman's star rather than deal with a dysfunctional administration and a fanbase that will require some wooing back?
We won't know much until we either get some leaks from the athletic department or Teis comes out of his bunker to announce the hire briefly (and hopefully not stick his foot in his mouth again).
Strap in, Bobcats--this is about to get interesting very quickly.