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Tide Rolls In For Franchione

Dennis Franchione surveyed the crowd at his formal introduction as Alabama's new coach.

A group that included names like Bart Starr, Lee Roy Jordan and Gene Stallings drove the point home Monday: Franchione is not at Texas Christian anymore.

"I realize what the people of Alabama's goal for their program is, and I believe it parallels mine, which is to win a national championship," said Franchione, who was hired on Friday.

Franchione, 49, takes over a job that many feel trumps the governor as the most prominent post in this football-mad state. He also comes to a school where expectations have changed little since Paul "Bear" Bryant contended for championships nearly every year.

That was certainly the case last season, which coach Mike DuBose began speaking of a national title and ended a casualty of a 3-8 debacle.

Franchione, accompanied by seven assistants who plan to come with him, met with the team Monday. Most of the players were just happy to close the book on the 2000 season.

"I feel the way he talks and the things I've heard about him were positive," quarterback Andrew Zow said. "I'm kind of excited and kind of relieved. I'm glad it's finally over with, and we can get on with our lives.

"Hopefully the guys will respond to him and we can get this program turned back the way it needs to be."

Franchione, who led the Horned Frogs to a 10-1 record in his third season at TCU, is expected to sign a seven-year deal worth between $1.2 million and $1.4 million. The specifics have not been finalized.

He's the second of five coaches hired since Bryant retired after the 1982 season with no Alabama ties, but clearly understands the priorities of Tide fans.

"There was a line in there about winning lots of games and beating Auburn," Franchione quipped. "That's what stuck out far more than any of the numbers that were involved."

The one previous post-Bear outsider hired, Bill Curry of Georgia Tech, was chased away after winning 26 games and an SEC championship in three seasons. The killing blow was an 0-3 record against rival Auburn.

Franchione, however, comes with the endorsements of former head coach Stallings and Jordan, a former Alabama and Dallas Cowboy linebacker.

Alabama athletic director Mal Moore settled on Franchione after Miami's Butch Davis turned down the job last Tuesday. They met Thursday night in Fort Worth, Texas, and Moore hired him the next morning.

Stallings, who won a national title in 1992, said that hiring a member of the so-called Alabama family was made less of an issue with the team's struggles under DuBose the past four seasons.

"Had Mike had a lot of success, then I think that would have been important," Stallings said. "I think Mal was charged with finding the very best person that he could get for this job, and that's what he did."

A 1973 graduate of Pitsburg (Kan.) State, Franchione said he views the football-crazy state as an "extreme positive."

"I want this state to be passionate. I want this university to be passionate. I relish that," Franchione said. "Obviously, there will be demands in it. I understand that.

"I want everybody to know I plan to embrace every one of those traditions. I love them."

Franchione will coach the Horned Frogs through the Dec. 20 Mobile Alabama Bowl against Southern Mississippi while juggling recruiting duties for the Tide. His assistants spent Sunday night combing through film of current Alabama recruits.

"The first order here at Alabama is going to be to recruit, adopt and develop the team," said Franchione, who was to visit a couple of top recruits Monday night. "I'm going to adopt them as my players and they're going to need to adopt me as their coach in order to come together as a team."

Franchione said he's not overly concerned about an NCAA investigation into Alabama, which has not received an official letter of inquiry.

"Certainly, I understand some of the challenges we have right now with the NCAA," he said. "There are no utopias."

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