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Dark clouds in Aggieland

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

COLLEGE STATION — Kirk Elder decided discretion was the better part of valor.

Texas A&M's senior guard was asked Tuesday to explain what went wrong in the debacle that was the Aggies' 34-17 loss at Miami. Elder said he could, but he wouldn't.

Dave McDermand

Pi Kappa Phi members, from left, Ryan Elber, C.J. Trevino and Gabe Guzman made their feelings known with a sign on their College Station fraternity house. 'There's nothing I can do about (the criticism) except keep working to make my team as good as it can be,' Coach Dennis Franchione says.

"In the process, I'd hang some guys out to dry," he explained, "and it would just add to the cloud of negativity swirling around us right now."

Welcome to Aggieland.

The 12th Man is in turmoil. The embarrassment in the Orange Bowl last week was the final straw for many Aggie faithful who are monumentally unimpressed with the return on their $2 million annual investment in Coach Dennis Franchione, whose record at A&M dropped to 28-24.

The mood was captured in a front-page picture Tuesday in the Bryan-College Station Eagle. A bedsheet hung from the window of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity house with "FIRE FRAN" painted in bright red letters.

Elder said he had "all types of stories" about fans calling out players but declined to go into specifics. He acknowledged that it was part of playing major-college football.

"My problem is, I thought Aggies took care of other Aggies," he added. "Now that I've said that, I'll have a car bomb attached to my truck."

Elder was joking, but there were unconfirmed reports that a couple of unflattering notes were found on quarterback Stephen McGee's vehicle after the Miami game. Asked about it at Tuesday's media day, McGee paused briefly and then replied, "No, my car's fine."

So, too, is their morale, the Aggies insisted as they prepare for their Big 12 opener Saturday against visiting Baylor. They have circled the wagons at the Bright Football Complex behind the south end zone of Kyle Field, focusing only on themselves and their preparations for the Bears.

Franchione claims that he is unaware of the calls for his scalp and the discontent being expressed by many supporters.

Asked by reporters Tuesday about the negativity that mushroomed after the pratfall in Miami, he said, "Other than my 20 minutes with you guys, I don't have to deal with it a great deal.

"I don't get out too much," added Franchione, whose contract runs through the 2012 season. "It's a good thing, from the standpoint there's nothing I can do about (the criticism) except keep working to make my team as good as it can be."

The coaches can pretty much go from home to the office each day and work in relative isolation, insulated from the hubbub. But the players are out on campus, where they sometimes are subjected to the complaints and criticism.

Most players say they mostly receive support from students and fans who approach them.

But, McGee conceded, "It's so tough, because everybody wants to be so negative. You know when you choose to come to a school like A&M, you're going to have to deal with that.

"There's nothing we have to prove to anybody outside our team," McGee added. "It's in tough times when everybody hates you and curses your name that you have to come together. Your character gets revealed in tough times."

Aggie fans have been restless for several years as Franchione has struggled to put the program on a consistently stable footing.

The upset at Texas in the 2006 finale generated hope, but the gloom returned when A&M was blasted by California in the Holiday Bowl and then looked less than impressive in season-opening home victories over Montana State and Fresno State.

The blowout at Miami that dropped A&M out of the polls triggered the latest avalanche of anger and renewed demands for a coaching change.

"Aggies are a very proud group, and that's an understatement," Elder said. "It doesn't matter if it's soccer or equestrian, Aggies take pride in Aggies having success.

"When you don't have success," Elder added, "they get (ticked). That's just how it is."

Baylor at Texas A&M

When: 11:30 a.m. Saturday

Where: Kyle Field, College Station

Records:Baylor (3-1); A&M (3-1)

TV: Versus

Radio: KJCE-AM (1370); 445-3957

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