From his roots in the small town of Girard, Kansas, to his leadership roles in some of NCAA football’s most prestigious programs, Dennis Franchione has spent his career shaping the lives of young men on the gridiron.
Starting his career as a high school football coach in the Midwest, Franchione moved to college coaching in 1978. From 1990-91, he led the Bobcats to two victorious seasons. Now, after a 20-year absence, “Coach Fran” has had a warm homecoming to Texas State University.
In January 2011, Franchione rejoined Bobcat athletics as head coach for the football program. He signed a five-year contract with the university, and says he plans “to culminate” his successful career — his overall record is 187-101-2 as a collegiate head coach — with a final run in San Marcos.
“For me and for (my wife) Kim and for our family, what was so exciting was when we heard the vision for the future of Texas State,” Franchione says. “It’s exciting to think about the things that it can accomplish.”
In his 25 seasons as a head coach in college football, Franchione has elevated every athletic program he has led. Winning eight conference championships and one divisional crown, Franchione was the driving force behind the New Mexico Lobos, the TCU Horned Frogs, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Texas A&M Aggies, achieving winning records and bowl appearances with each.
“I’ve been pretty blessed to have the career I’ve had,” he says. “I did things a little differently, working my way up to Division I. But what sticks out to me [about my career] are the players and how much fun they’ve been to coach and to know. Winning some championships was great, but most of all seeing young people learn the values that being part of a college football program instills in them.”
In 2012, the Texas State Bobcats will move from the Southland Conference to the Western Athletic Conference, advancing for the first time to the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision. With the same fatherly ethos in his voice, Franchione says he expects nothing less than excellence from the Bobcats.
“At our first team meeting in January, I told them, ‘I’m going to treat you as Division I athletes, and I expect you to prepare and act like Division I athletes,” he says.
With roster planning, summer training and ongoing recruitment well underway — “Recruiting is like shaving: If you don’t do it everyday, you go out looking like a mess,” he says — Franchione anticipates a strong arrival in the WAC for the Bobcats.
“My focus now is giving Texas State a good, solid foundation as we make this transition,” he says. “We need to get ready to win the WAC, and we can do that here. I believe that, and that’s why I came. I think we can be competitive in the Western Athletic Conference pretty quickly.”
As Bobcat coaches and athletes prepare for FBS competition, the university is preparing to host big-name teams and larger crowds. Bobcat Stadium will nearly double in capacity, to a total of nearly 30,000 seats, with the addition of the North Side Complex, scheduled to open for the 2012 season.
The move to play in the FBS and the expansion of Bobcat Stadium were big attractions to Franchione.
“When I heard about the move to Division I and the renovation of the stadium, I thought it had a Coach Fran feel to it,” he says. “I’m excited to be here and be part of it.”
With Franchione leading the way, Texas State is building excitement and momentum for its transition to top-level competition. For their first game in the expanded stadium, the Bobcats will face Big 12 Conference member Texas Tech. The Bobcats will host nationally ranked Nevada a few weeks later.
“This is a transformational moment for Texas State University as we go to the top tier of intercollegiate athletics,” says Dr. Denise Trauth, president of Texas State. “We knew that we needed a man with championship experience and a person with a winning record, but we also needed a person whose team would be successful in the classroom. I’m happy to say that we got all three.”
The strong, top-down backing from the university and the ebullience of players and fans already has stoked Franchione for the road ahead.
“Throughout my entire coaching career, when I’ve been around visionary people, I’ve been invigorated and excited and enthused and passionate and ready to go,” he says. “I know this is an unbelievable institution and there’s no limit to what it can accomplish academically, and I know there’s no limit to what we can accomplish athletically.”