Franchione keeps ship afloat

A&M QB Reggie McNeal

This is and continues to be a difficult season for Aggie fans, unless of course you're committed to the cause and believe the long term outlook is bright.

This is and continues to be a difficult season for Aggie fans, unless of course you're committed to the cause and believe the long term outlook is bright.

I don't know how most have felt about the past several seasons, but I try to see the big picture. Is winning six or seven games much different than the prospect of finishing below .500 for the first time in 20 years? Despite the long run of non-losing seasons (in reality, after last year's 6-6 record, it's no longer a streak of winning seasons), Texas A&M finds itself looking up just to see the middle of the Big 12 pack. Only Baylor and Iowa State are clearly in the Aggies' rear view mirror these days.

Is this acceptable? It had better not be.

Consider the resources available to Texas A&M. Historically there is no more loyal a group than the Former Students of Texas A&M. Whether real estate agents, accountants, farmers, bankers or surgeons, as a group, we have chosen to support our university like few other groups of college graduates. Look no further than the new facilities that have sprung up across campus, answering the call to compete with the likes of Texas, Nebraska, Ohio State and others. The campus in general, and athletic facilities in particular, scarcely resemble the place I left following my May 1979 graduation.

Texas A&M's geographical location could hardly be better, falling within perhaps the most fertile recruiting territory in America. A&M's proximity to both Dallas and Houston and the untold number of great east Texas athletes can and should prove a major selling point.

If the commitment of those with the resources and the availability of top notch college football players are both givens, what's been the problem? Having seen virtually every down of every game in this current 4-5 season, it seems that recent recruiting mediocrity may be the culprit.

As difficult as it's been for Aggie fans to bite the bullet, I can scarcely imagine how difficult it must be to endure as a coach. The number of upperclassmen available in 2003 has been alarmingly small. It must have taken great patience on the part of Coach Franchione to keep the ship afloat. Despite evident struggles he has not abandoned his long-term plan.

Giving credit where credit is due, the strength of this Aggie team is primarily the freshman and sophomore classes. Again, to give credit, much of this was assembled by the former staff.

Undoubtedly this coaching staff has experienced many obstacles in holding the course and resisting the quick-fix temptations faced every day. It must be difficult coming to work daily knowing that the likes of true freshmen and much heralded 2003 singees Jason Jack and Chris Harrington are available; while at the same time having to watch the current defensive ends run on and pushed around during nearly every snap. The same could be said for future stand-outs Cody Wallace, Kirk Elder, and others running with the scout team during the offensive line's early season struggles to create a seam for Lewis and Farmer?

Dennis Franchione is hardly as bold and brash as Jackie Sherrill was, so it's no surprise that we haven't heard Coach Fran tell everyone to get their licks in while they can. But it wouldn't surprise me if privately he thinks just that.

Given Franchione's track record at various stops along the coaching ladder, I for one at least, have full faith this ship will be righted. Am I disappointed in this season's record and A&M's chances during the final three games? Absolutely! I am, however, realistic enough to assess the lack of experienced talent and depth available to compete at the level at which we've chosen to compete. I would rather Coach Fran look down the road and shore up a solid foundation now rather than pull out unnecessary stops to increase his win total in 2003. That line of thinking is what I believe led to the downfall of this program, dating back to the inception of the Big 12.

Last Saturday at Kyle Field was terrific. It was a sunny and warm day, and the Aggies ran up and down the field in a 45-33 win. As always, the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band showed how pride and spirit look and sound. In fact, it was one of the better drills I've seen.

Whether the Aggies win or we lose, there's hardly anything that compares to a Saturday afternoon at Kyle Field. Unfortunately, there just weren't enough fans there on Saturday to experience it.

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