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 M athletic director said he didn't know coach Dennis Franchione was providing inside information on the Aggies in a newsletter to boosters who paid $1,200 per year until two weeks ago.
A reporter made AD Bill Byrne aware of the secret newsletter.
``When I saw a copy of an e-mail, I called Coach Fran and recommended this program be discontinued,'' Byrne said in a statement released by the school Friday. ``I understand he stopped at that time.''
Franchione said he has stopped selling the newsletter. The money from the subscription fees helped finance the coach's personal Web site.
About a dozen big-money boosters subscribed for the past three years to the e-mail newsletter, called ``VIP Connection.'' It offered Franchione's candid assessments of players and specific injury information, details Franchione routinely declined to discuss publicly, citing program policy.
Franchione made subscribers sign a confidentiality agreement and said he doesn't believe any of the inside information was used for gambling, the San Antonio Express-News reported Friday after obtaining a copy of the newsletter through a ``third-party source.''
``We asked them to sign something,'' Franchione told the newspaper. ``And for them not to do that. Most of these people are tremendously loyal Aggies.''
In the same statement released Friday, Franchione said the e-mail list began when a group of 12 to 15 boosters participated in a Kickoff Camp that raised money for the school band, the library and the booster club. The newsletter, he said, ``came about as an extension of trying to keep some dedicated and loyal fans updated throughout the year on the football program.''
``There was no intent to deceive anyone,'' Franchione said. ``I thought this was another avenue of trying to keep some of our top donors informed about our football program.''
The newsletter was written by Mike McKenzie, Franchione's personal assistant. The two denied benefiting financially from the newsletter.
In one newsletter, McKenzie wrote about six players being unavailable to play against Montana State and listed their specific injuries. A seventh player was ``iffy'' because he had not fully recovered from a mild concussion, according to the newsletter.
M players mentioned by name in the newsletter had authorized the school to release information on their injury status, said Alan Cannon, an athletics department spokesman.
McKenzie also wrote about Franchione's assessment of the Aggies' wide receivers.
``Privately, Coach told me last night that Earvin (Taylor) and Pierre (Brown) are very steady but with average speed,'' McKenzie wrote. ``Kerry (Franks) has great speed, but (is) inconsistent in receiving.''
M staff directory as a ``special assistant to the athletic director.'' His newsletter duties were done on his own time, Cannon said.
M in 2003. He has received harsh criticism from Aggies fans since the team's 34-17 loss last week at Miami.
A spokesman for the university did not respond to attempts by The Associated Press to reach top university administrators for comment.
The boosters' money went to the company that operates Franchione's personal Web site, coachfran.com, Franchione said. The boosters will receive refunds, he said.
NCAA rules require coaches to report to the school any ``athletically related income and benefits from sources outside the institution.'' It was unclear Friday if Franchione had done so, or would be required to if all the boosters' subscription fees went to the Web site company.
Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, said there's nothing in his organization's code of ethics about writing newsletters to boosters. NCAA rules are explicit about reporting outside income and proper dealings with boosters, he said.
``I think every athletic director and head coach is very aware and clear of those concerns and issues,'' Teaff said.
Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe, the head of the coaches association's ethics committee, said it would be inappropriate for him to comment unless it were clear a coach had broken rules.
``An investigation would need to take place first before the ethics committee would be involved,'' Grobe said through a spokesman.
Other college coaches have personal Web sites.
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer offers a ``Coach's Club'' membership for $39.95 per year that promises ``the best, up-to-date, daily practice and injury reports straight from Coach Beamer, right off the practice fields.''

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