It wasn't supposed to be this way for Dennis Franchione. He isn't supposed to be perched high above the playing field, analyzing games for ESPN Radio. He's supposed to be on the sideline, continuing to build Texas A&M.
"I think this has been a good learning year," he says. "You get the chance to study a lot of other people. That has been fun and entertaining. And I really enjoy what I'm doing. I don't have to coach. I enjoy this a great deal. It is fun to stay in college football and look at it through this light."
But "Coach Fran" could be a wild card in the coaching carousel. He has been a builder of programs, excelling at being able to identify what's wrong, what needs to be fixed, what can be fixed and how to fix it.
And Franchione, 57, has done it at nearly every level, enjoying success at places ranging from Division II Pittsburg (Kan.) State to Alabama. Add it all up, he has a 187-101-2 record in 23 years as a coach, helping lead teams to eight bowls and eight league titles.
"If I can go back and coach again, I don't know that level is a concern to me," Franchione says. "I have been full cycle. I've been there and done that. I'm open to about any level if it's a good fit and my family would be happy. And I may have an opportunity to hire my son (Brad). He has earned his spurs. He won the national championship two years ago at Blinn (Texas junior college) and has a good team this year."
Franchione is in the booth and not on the sideline because he got entangled in a secret newsletter scandal at A&M. Select boosters paid to receive the newsletter, which included injury information, player critiques and recruiting updates, among other things. In the end, Franchione says he was exonerated of any wrongdoing, except for administrative oversight.
"I would just be honest about it," Franchione says. "It never was meant to be everything it was made out to be. We all make mistakes. And certainly it is one that was a mistake that wasn't intended to turn out like that.
"My track record has been about trying to do things the right way. Heaven knows I've had a couple mistakes along the way."
He's also had many success stories that could spark interest from programs looking to get on track.
"Athletic directors always have their unique vision of things," he says. "If there is (a job) out there that has Coach Fran's name on it and is a good fit, then great. If not, I hope I'll get to keep doing this. It has been more enjoyable than I thought it could be."
It's almost certain another coach will be let go before the season is over. In fact, don't be shocked if several are sent packing before the final whistle. It's all about moving on so a school can move forward and find the coach it wants.
North Carolina did it when it dumped John Bunting during the 2006 season. It may have seemed cruel and unusual to Bunting, but UNC benefited because it helped the school land Butch Davis. Had UNC waited until after the season, it may not have secured Davis' services.
That's what coaching changes during the season get back to: Not getting beat for the coach you want because you haven't already gotten rid of the coach you have.
The next school most likely to divorce its coach? Syracuse.
Washington could turn the page early on Tyrone Willingham, regardless of the conjecture and rhetoric you hear from the school's brass about letting the coach finish the year.
And last week, Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton came out and basically said his school wouldn't be above making a coaching change during the season.
? A name to remember for the Syracuse post if it comes open: Notre Dame assistant Rob Ianello, the Irish receivers coach and recruiting coordinator. He is a high-energy guy who also has coached at Wisconsin and Arizona. Syracuse needs a coach who understands the recruiting network along the eastern seaboard. And few are more familiar with the terrain than Ianello, a native of the Northeast who has farmed some gems from the region for Notre Dame. Rivals.com recognized Ianello as one of the top 25 recruiters in the nation in each of the past five seasons.
? Don't be shocked if New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator Doug Marrone gets in the mix at Syracuse. He is a native of the Bronx, N.Y., and was an offensive lineman at Syracuse in the 1980s. Marrone helps run one of the NFL's top offenses, and he is well-connected along the East Coast because of coaching stops at Northeastern, Georgia Tech and Georgia, among others.
? Entering the season, word was Arizona coach Mike Stoops needed to deliver seven wins and a bowl bid to keep his job. It looks as if he'll deliver. He led the Wildcats to an upset of California this past weekend, pushing Arizona's mark to 5-2 overall. And Arizona's 3-1 league mark has the Wildcats in a tie atop the Pac-10 with games remaining vs. USC, at Washington State, at Oregon, vs. Oregon State and vs. Arizona State.
? One rumor is that Toledo coach Tom Amstutz, whose team is in the midst of a third consecutive losing season, will step down at the end of the season. Amstutz, 53, has spent 33 years at the school as a player, assistant or coach.
GRADING THE "BIG SIX"
Did your school ? and conference ? pass last week?