Hey, things are looking up for Dennis Franchione and Bill Callahan. Someone has to win this weekend when Texas A&M visits Nebraska. Beyond Saturday, however, Coach Fran and Callahan face trying times that could eventually cost them their jobs and create openings in two of the Big 12's premier positions.
In College Station, the fallout from Franchione's "VIP Connection” service continues, with concern about NCAA violations the latest factor attached to the ill-advised newsletter the coach e-mailed at a cost to "loyal” donors. Public support for Fran has dissipated. Already, A&M athletic director Bill Byrne is referencing Franchione's performance review — never a good sign in October. Behind the scenes, university lawyers are surely working through Franchione's contract in search of ways to claim he violated ethics clauses or can be cited for "conduct unbecoming,” a popular claim for situations like these when big schools want out of big-dollar deals. Things are about to get testy on the field, too, for the Aggies, who are 5-2 overall, yet facing a rugged stretch: at Nebraska, Kansas, at Oklahoma, at Missouri and Texas. Franchione, despite the distractions, maintains a happy face. "I think the whole organization has done a great job of focusing on the games and what we have control of,” he said Monday. "The players certainly have done a good job of it in practice, prepared very well.” If it's getting hot in College Station, it's boiling over in Lincoln. The Cornhuskers seem to be caving, with three ragged losses — two by blowout at home — and a near-miss against Ball State among their last five games. Fans and donors called for the heads of Callahan and the man who hired him, Nebraska athletic director Steve Pederson — getting half their wish when Pederson was axed Monday. Dale Jensen, part-owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks and a major contributor to Nebraska athletics, told the Lincoln Journal Star that he listened to Saturday's 45-14 loss to Oklahoma State in the hours before the Diamondbacks playoff game with the Colorado Rockies. "At halftime, I thought, ‘Oh my god, just don't let this thing get into the '60s,' ” Jensen said. Jensen's take, gauging the company he keeps, and it's influential company: "The general consensus from everybody I've talked to is that Callahan and Pederson both have to go,” Jensen said Sunday. By Monday, Pederson was gone.
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