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Rumor Has Turned To Reality: Tuberville To Texas A&M Talk Becomes Real

By Jay Coulter

The plan was to spend most of our time today looking at Saturday’s Auburn-Georgia contest. However, is now reporting on its front page that buyout talks are underway with current Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione.

In the article, it mentions Tommy Tuberville as its leading candidate. In a story filed for ESPN News and (watch and read here), former Heisman Trophy winner and current ESPN analyst Andre Ware says the Aggies have Tuberville at the top of their list and that currently there are no other candidates.

Ware’s report is consistent with what’s being reported throughout Texas tonight. The Houston Chronicle and Dallas Morning News have run similar stories today.

I think it’s safe to move beyond the speculation stage now. It’s official: Texas A&M wants Tuberville and will apparently be coming after him hard. It won’t be cheap for the Aggies.

Tuberville currently has a $6 million buyout clause at Auburn and Franchione is owed more than $8 million on his current deal. Reports say that school lawyers are working to get the deal broken because of unspecified breaches by Franchione with his contract.

Earlier this afternoon, The Houston Chronicle ran a story that said Texas A&M lawyers were offering Franchione close to a $2 million buyout – far less than what the contract reads. Later this evening, the Chronicle took the story down from its web site.

Money is not expected to be a problem for Texas A&M. It’s one of the wealthiest state schools in the country. There are plenty of A&M alumni who have made their money in oil and won’t blink at buying out Tuberville’s deal at Auburn if he’s interested.

Tuberville has made it clear that he’s happy at Auburn. In recent days, he’s tried to dismiss news reports that link him to the job. He’ll have a tougher time now.

Tuberville has yet to come straight out and say he’s not a candidate. That can be read several ways. It can obviously mean he’s interested. Money talks. Let’s not be naïve and think he won’t listen. He likely will.

It can also mean he’s trying to sweeten the pot for himself and his assistants at Auburn. I tend to believe that’s his strategy. As I said last week, you can bet that Tuberville’s lawyer, Jimmy Sexton has already submitted his first demands.

The question now is how will Auburn handle it? History is not on the administration’s side. Athletic Director Jay Jacob’s continuing statements about Tuberville having a lifetime contract need to stop now. Let’s stop kidding ourselves.

Nick Saban changed the economy for college coaches. Say what you will; Tuberville is a better coach than Saban. Texas A&M knows it and the Auburn administration better realize it quickly – before it’s too late.

Tuberville and his assistants must be compensated at the very top range of all college coaches – not near the top, but at the top. If Auburn won’t pay it, then the Aggies will.

Let’s also hope that new Auburn president Jay Gogue’s policy of talking to coaches after the season is just talk. As Phillip Marshall pointed out yesterday, Tuberville has an off week coming up.

Let’s get the deal done. There’s plenty of time. If William Walker had time to fly to Louisville the week of the Iron Bowl, surely this administration can get the deal done with an off week before playing Alabama.