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Miree, Franchione to cross paths again

Pitt tailback Brandon Miree and Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione will need no introductions when the Panthers and Aggies play Saturday afternoon at College Station.

Their worlds collided several years back — and it was a collision that caused the two to part ways on less-than-friendly terms.

Franchione is the sole reason Miree left Alabama after the second game of his redshirt sophomore year and transferred to Pitt.

“In the corporate world, I guess you would say we had philosophical differences,” Miree said, laughing.

Things weren’t so funny two years ago, when Franchione was in his first year as coach at Alabama and Miree was an up-and-coming sophomore for the Tide.

Franchione was never sold on Miree, even after Miree carried 94 times for 426 yards (4.5 per rush) with six touchdowns as a freshman, even after he was billed as the next great back at Alabama, the next Shaun Alexander.

Franchione, who left Alabama for Texas A&M this past offseason, didn’t want the traditional tailback out of the I-formation like previous coach Mike DuBose. He wanted more of a scatback, a guy who fit into an option scheme.

As a result, Miree plummeted from potential starter to the No. 3 tailback by the time the 2001 season began.

It didn’t help matters that Miree suffered a foot infection and spent three days in the hospital the week before Alabama’s 2001 opener against UCLA. He recovered in time to play, but, in his first career start, he carried just three times for two yards with a fumble, which the Tide recovered.

“My timing was off because I was in the hospital — unfortunately it was his first impression of me in a big game,” said Miree, who ran for 943 yards in his first season at Pitt in 2002, and has 248 yards on 56 carries this season. “I wanted to prove myself again. I didn’t want him to use that one game as the basis for whether or not he should play me, but that’s sort of what happened.”

Franchione did not call Miree’s number the following week against Vanderbilt, putting the writing on the wall.

Suspecting things weren’t going to get any better, Miree told Franchione he wanted to transfer. Franchione, though, wouldn’t give him his release, saying he planned to use Miree.

Miree didn’t see things that way, considering current Tide tailback Ray Hudson appeared to be the heir apparent to then-senior Ahmaad Galloway and that Miree could be moved to fullback. Miree ultimately got Alabama athletic director Mal Moore involved, and Franchione finally gave him his release.

Two years later, Miree never would have dreamed that he and Franchione would be on opposite sides of the field, but that’s exactly what will happen when Pitt and Texas A&M meet Saturday. Don’t expect the two to exchange numbers.

“We haven’t talked since,” Miree said. “That’s just how it is.”

Perhaps Miree will take a cue from Toledo quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, a Seton-La Salle grad who last week made Pitt pay for not recruiting him by throwing for 461 yards in leading a 35-31 upset.

“You can look at it that way,” Miree said, referring to a payback to Franchione, whose Texas A&M team allowed Virginia Tech tailback Kevin Jones to run for 188 yards in a 35-19 loss a week ago today. “But in the same sense I want to come out of there with a ‘W,'” Miree said. “If we come out of there with a ‘W,’ that will be enough for me.”


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