A&M coach sold insider info to boosters
Franchione has discontinued newsletter that cost subscribers $1,200 per year
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione said Friday he thought he was simply keeping some top donors informed about the football program by creating a secret e-mail newsletter and charging $1,200 for each subscriber.
In a statement issued Friday afternoon, Franchione said, "There was no intent to deceive anyone."
Franchione said when he arrived at A&M prior to the 2003 season, the school had an annual fan fantasy camp to help raise money for the university. Individuals donated $1,000 to attend football practice and position meetings.
The small group of people who gave $1,200 more to get the secret newsletter came from the pool of fantasy campers, Franchione said.
The coach's personal assistant, Mike McKenzie, told <i>The Dallas Morning News</i> on Friday that he wrote the weekly column, which included detailed injury updates and other tidbits about the Aggies. The newsletter has been ongoing the last three years.
According to those who have seen the weekly e-mail, it's simply a typed e-mail message with no graphics.
"The VIP email list of 12 to 15 people came about as an extension of trying to keep some dedicated and loyal fans updated throughout the year on the football program," Franchione said. "The funds raised by the email list go directly to the web development company operating the website CoachFran.com to offset the costs."
Athletic director Bill Byrne said in a statement that he was first informed about Franchione's newsletter, titled "VIP Connection," by a reporter from the <i>San Antonio Express-News</i>. The newspaper first reported about the newsletter on Friday morning.
"When I saw a copy of an email, I called Coach Fran and recommended this program be discontinued," Byrne said. "I understand he stopped at that time."
Byrne could not be reached for further comment because he was meeting with the Texas A&M board of regents. A&M spokesman Alan Cannon said the meeting had been previously scheduled weeks ago.
At least two members of the A&M regents were stunned when told of the newsletter.
"I'll say this. I've never heard of somebody paying for information," said Gene Stallings, an A&M regent and former head coach. "I've had friends of mine call me and ask what's happening, and I would share it with them. But as for me providing information to a certain group of people while I was coaching, I never did that."
Regent Erle Nye of Dallas said: "I'd just be surprised as I could be. I don't suppose there's anything wrong with it, but first of all I'm surprised he's got time."