We recently sought out information regarding former Texas A&M head football coach Dennis Franchione in the hopes of obtaining some of the top secret newsletter material. If not the newsletters themselves, then at least some of the pertaining correspondence. Predictably, this was a dead end.
But not, in the end, a fruitless endeavor. It turns out all the useful information we needed was right there in the first paragraph of the termination agreement:
This Agreement ("Agreement") is made and entered into this 21st day of November, 2007, between Dennis Franchione ("Franchione"), Fran, Inc., A New Mexico Corporation ("FI") and Texas A&M University ("University").
That's right: there is a thing called "Fran, Inc." In some ways it is as much a glimpse into the nature of the man as any newsletter. Perhaps even more telling is the addendum after the name:
A New Mexico Corporation.
Until a few years ago, that phrase didn't hold much meaning, but pop culture has now shed some light on those four words. Fran, Inc. must have been formed years before Walter White found Gus Fring. Before Dennis went to TCU. In the waning days of his time on the UNM campus in Albuquerque and fresh off the heels of a brilliant 9-win season and a narrow 6-point defeat to PAC-10 power Arizona in a bowl game.
Albuquerque, New Mexico. New Year's Eve, 1997.
A strip mall just outside of Albuquerque. A silver Chevy Tahoe pulls into the near-empty parking lot and Dennis gets out. He is wearing slacks and a windbreaker, carrying a briefcase. He's got Oakleys on.
He enters the nail salon and the girls look up. He's not bad-looking, tinges of black still feathering the refined white of his Boy Scout's haircut. He has just the beginnings of a paunch, but there is a sour grimace ingrained in his expression that even his child-like dimples cannot mask. They do not like him.
"McGill?" he asks. The owner merely nods her head in the direction of the rear office. He stops to fill a plastic cup with cucumber water. He does not leave anything under the tiny Christmas cactus that still sits next to it. Not even a complimentary bowl bauble from Phoenix. Oblivious, he enters the office of his attorney, James McGill, a six-by-ten cubby tucked next to the water heater closet.
"Fran the man!" he says boisterously from behind his desk as the coach enters. He does not come around to shake hands because he cannot. The room is too small.
"I told ya, call me Jimmy! What can I do for you this fine New Year's Eve? You got the house sold yet? I tell ya I know a realtor and--"
"Kim's taking care of it."
"I need to...close out. Find out where we stand and shut down operations." At this, McGill's expression grows alarmed. He stands suddenly, closes the blinds on the tiny window high on the ceiling, and motions for Fran to be silent. He walks over to a small CD/cassette player on his bookshelf and turns on the radio. It's a conjunto station. He adjusts the volume to near-conversation level and returns to his seat, leaning forward to whisper.
"Can never be too careful. Now, let's talk business." He pulls out a dossier from his top drawer and spreads out a few documents, glancing over them as he continues talking. "I understand you wanting to keep a close eye on this, I mean it's your baby. But there's no need to shut it down. We're getting so close! I mean the cooks are gonna have the recipe down pat within the next six months, I swear it---"
"No. It ends now, and everything comes with me. The assets, the recipe, the books, everything. I'll keep it going from Fort Worth."
"It'll be like starting over."
"I don't care. Did you bring the samples like I asked?" Jimmy sighs, looks up at the ceiling, and gets up. He walks over to a small clock on the wall and grabs it, turning it like a steering wheel. Slowly, a hidden panel opens in the low ceiling and a tray is lowered. On it sits a sealed plastic cake dome. He retrieves it reverently and places it gently on his desk.
Dennis' eyes dilate noticeably before he regains composure. He slowly and deliberately removes the sealed lid and places it gently beside the dish. He then removes a slender stainless steel case from his breast pocket and withdraws a sterling silver fork and knife. They gleam in the hum of the florescent lights and the accordion music coming from the radio as they hover over the first miniature cake before descending.
There are three types today: Swiss Rolls, Devil Creme, and Cloud Cakes. They are nearly perfect-looking, and to the untrained eye they could have come straight out of the wrapper of a box on the store shelf. But as he gazes upon their icing and creams, he can pick out the tiny imperfections: a slightly-hardened crust here, slight lump in the delicate iced piping there...it was too organic, too homemade still. Not the mass-produced texture he craves. He bites in. Sweetness floods his palate, but again it was too rich; too real. He could still detect the freshness of the cocoa powder, the vanilla was too aromatic, the sugar and flour far too unrefined. It needed months yet in the lab, bleaching and blanding everything until all traces of care could be leached from the cakes and he'd have the perfect industrialized replica for these forbidden treats and Kim would be none the wiser.
He came to. The cakes were nothing but crumbs and icing smears on the platter; his knife and fork shaking in his hands. He forced them to stop. He deliberately wiped them with a paper towel that Jimmy had placed next to him while he was eating and returned them to their case and then their pocket. He looked at Jimmy, who was waiting expectantly.
"Better, but not yet."
Jimmy exhaled in exasperation: "Just wait. Two months, we can have them perfect. Six weeks maybe! I'm telling you if you pack up now and--"
"No." He picked up the briefcase and pulled out several stacks of cash and placed them on the table. "You've helped me a lot, Jimmy, and I know we're almost there. But I need to do this. I need to move on. For my family."
"But the assets...the paperwork...I'll need to put it in your name if you're moving it with you."
"That's fine. Make up a company or something. That's what you do, right?"
"OK." They both stood up and shook hands.
"Good luck, Jimmy."
"You too, Fran. You need anything else before you go?"
"Nope. It's all good." He smiled his dimpled smile, took one more longing glance at the crumbs, and turned and left Jimmy on his own, morosely filling out paperwork.
Fort Worth, Texas. February 1998.
The unmarked and bulky envelope arrived at his office just when he expected it. There it sat on his desk all day, through player meetings, conference calls, visits from coaches and staff. He'd steal glances at it throughout the afternoon, sitting there on the corner of his cluttered space, pinned down by packages of videotape and various other documents. Finally, late in the evening, as the last of his staff trickled out, he closed his door, tuned his radio to a Tejano station, and opened the package.
It was done. It was all in his name: the assets, the ingredients that had been shipped to a small storage space he'd rented, and most importantly the most current recipe, including suggested improvements.
And the name. Perhaps best of all, the name. He liked that name very much. He thought he'd keep that name for a while.
Someday it would appear in bigger and better documents.