Dennis Franchione Born: March 28, 1951 (Girard, KS)
Graduated: Southeast High School, 1969; Pittsburg State University, 1973
It was a proverbial dream team; no doubt a testament to the man who assembled them. The Pittsburg State University football coaching staff of the mid to late 1980s already has two of its members in the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in Chuck Broyles and Jerry Kill. Two others, current Pittsburg State head coach Tim Beck and Texas Christian University coach Gary Patterson, are well on their way as well. Entering the 2017 season, the four assistants on that staff, who all became head coaches in their own right, have won a remarkable 559 football games.
While his assistants have gone on to do great things on their own, none of them match the overall record of their mentor. Today, the man who assembled all that talent on the sidelines of Carney Smith Stadium, Dennis Franchione, enters the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.
A native of Girard, Kansas, Franchione chose to stay close to home to attend college at Pittsburg State, where he graduated in 1973. He began his coaching career the following fall at Miller (MO) High School for two seasons before returning to Kansas, first as an assistant at Mulvane High School in 1975 then as head coach of Peabody-Burns High School in 1976.
Franchione was named an assistant at Kansas State University in 1978 before he got his first collegiate head coaching job at Southwestern College in Winfield in 1981. Under Franchione, the Moundbuilders had a 14-4-2 record and a Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference title in 1982.
Following a two year stint as offensive coordinator of Tennessee Tech from 1983 to 1984, Franchione returned to his alma mater of Pittsburg State University as the head football coach in 1985. The results of the hire were immediate. In his first season, Franchione led the Gorillas to an 8-2 overall record, a conference championship, and an appearance in the NAIA playoffs. He’d repeat as conference champion and make the national playoffs in each of his next four seasons at Pittsburg, posting an overall record of 53-6 in five seasons before becoming the head coach at Southwest Texas State University, now known as Texas State University, in 1990.
In 1992, Franchione got his first Division I head coaching job at the University of New Mexico. The Lobos hadn’t appeared in a bowl game in over thirty years and by his sixth season in Albuquerque, Franchione led the team to a 9-4 overall record, an appearance in the Western Athletic Conference Championship game, and birth in the 1997 Insight.com Bowl.
Following the turnaround at New Mexico, Franchione departed for Fort Worth and the head coaching job at Texas Christian University. Again the results were immediate. TCU appeared in bowl games in each of Franchione’s three seasons and won two Western Athletic Conference championships.
Franchione left Fort Worth for Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to lead the Crimson Tide for the 2001 season. Again, he was charged with turning around a program going in the wrong direction and the results were immediate. In his two seasons, Franchione posted a 17-8 overall record, appeared in one bowl game, and won the Southeastern Conference West Division title in 2002.
Texas A&M University courted Franchione away from Alabama following the 2002 season. As head coach in College Station, the Aggies made three bowl appearances in five seasons. Franchione left the coaching ranks in 2007 only to return in 2011 to a familiar stop along his journey, Texas State University, where he coached until 2015.
For his collegiate career, Franchione posted an astounding record of 213-135-2 with eight conference championships.
Along the way, Coach Fran made plenty of stops, but also had on the enormous impact on the lives of the people he coached. As an assistant at K-State, Franchione coached Gary Patterson. As head coach at Southwestern College, he recruited and coached Jerry Kill. As head coach at Pittsburg State, he hired Patterson, Kill, Chuck Broyles, and coached current Gorilla head coach Tim Beck. At New Mexico, he coached former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher. At TCU, he helped running back LaDainian Tomlinson lead the nation in rushing in back to back seasons while finishing as a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2000. At Alabama and Texas A&M, he recruited and coached future NFL Pro Bowl selections Evan Mathis, Martellus Bennett, and Von Miller.
Many of the names above have been or will be inducted into various halls of fame across the country. And, they all have one thing in common: Coach Dennis Franchione. No doubt a testament to the man who assembled them.