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October 3, 2007It was a weird scene at the Bright Complex Tuesday afternoon. Members of the media showed up like every Tuesday, slowly sauntering into the second floor press room where the weekly media luncheon is staged.
Everything looked normal with the lunch spread out for the media, but the press room wasn't set up normally. While we ate lunch, we were told that the press conference would take place downstairs in Hagler Auditorium.
That was the first point in which some of us looked at each other quizzically wondering if the rumors that Texas A&M head coach Dennis Franchione would resign were really true. We were told all weekend that they were false, but press conferences aren't in the auditorium without a reason - and usually it's a big one.
We made our way there by 11:30 in anticipation of what might happen, and 15 minutes later what seemed like the entire Aggie football team made its way into the auditorium through a side door. They meandered into the room taking as many empty seats as they needed amongst media members.
Meanwhile, the media all looked at each other wondering what was exactly going to happen when Franchione entered the room. It was a surreal scene, and no one knew what would come next.
When Franchione entered it was clear he didn't know what was happening either as his team immediately stood up in a standing ovation for their recently embattled coach.
Franchione took to the podium with every member of the media in attendance on the edge of their seat and recorder in hand. Franchione visibly held back tears.
"The last few days have produced many rumors and some misguided speculation about my status as head football coach at Texas A&M," Franchione said. "I thought it would be helpful to address this issue today by making a statement to clear the air and leave no doubt about my intentions and status concerning this job.
"I have no intention of resigning this position. I love this job. I love these players. I love this university and my desire to remain here and elevate this program to the highest level. We have a great nucleus already in place to accomplish these goals. I am confident we can get the job done."
Well, so much for that story, but a new story presented itself immediately. The showcase of Aggie players showing support for Franchione immediately leapt to the forefront. Franchione was obviously moved, especially after the players left 10 minutes into his media session in order to go to class. Franchione met each player at the door shaking hands, which later turned to hugs.
"That's awesome," Franchione said when he returned to the podium before gathering himself and moving on with the media session.
The showing of support was first conceived late Monday night when senior Chris Harrington and Kirk Elder left a late movie with junior quarterback Stephen McGee. The trio left the showing of "The Kingdom" and thought that they should do something to support Franchione.
"We just heard that Fran was going to have a press conference this afternoon and that he was going to dispel some of the rumors that have been going on and we thought as a team it would be best if we were here to show our support for him," Harrington said. "It wasn't a mandatory thing and if you want to be here show up. I think it just goes to show how much we believe in our coach and how we want to stand up for him and support him."
McGee was credited by Elder and Harrington as being the one who ultimately came up with the idea. According to McGee, it was just the team sticking up for one of their own.
"Coach is our man and he's one of our teammates and brothers," McGee said. "If any one of us was in the same situation we'd do it for each other. We're all for being a team and being a family."
Ever since the Aggies traveled to Miami and lost in the Orange Bowl 34-17, A&M has been hit with a lot of distractions. It started with the loss itself, then the emergence of Franchione's secret e-mail newsletters to a select group of boosters for $1,200 a year that came to light in a story by the San Antonio Express-News. Then, after beating Baylor 34-10, rumors of Franchione's resignation hit the airwaves on sports radio stations across Texas and Oklahoma.
According to Elder, every team goes through distractions. Maybe not as wild and weird as these but distractions nonetheless.
"Anybody can lead and you can have all the family and great memories when things are going good," Elder said. "It's when adversity hits you, and I really believe this and a lot of people have said this in the past, but when adversity hits you, you see who (steps up). You really do. I think so far this season we've had some adversity. We had some Friday morning, and we bounced back and had a great game on Saturday. Anyone can take care of business when things are going good and it's smooth sailing."
McGee, the leader on the field and the leader of the Aggie show of support for Franchione Tuesday, isn't immune to adversity either. He knows that distractions hit a team in a variety of different ways, and it's how you handle them that defines a team's season.
"Tough times will always reveal your character as a team. They can do one of two things: they can bring you together because you realize what's really important and what it takes to be successful, and that's each other, or they can cause you to focus on things that aren't important and divide you and break you as a team," McGee said. "What we have to realize through all this is at the end of the day win, lose or draw, is that we play together and we understand that the guy to the left and the guy to the right is what is going to make you successful at the end of the day."
With a unified show of support the Aggies showed anyone that would listen that they support Franchione, and that they will fight to the end as a team. For the media in attendance, we heard it loud and clear even if we were confused as to what was going on all day.