James Franklin isn’t going anywhere.
While there may have been doubts among various sections of the fan base and other stakeholder groups, the current team and incoming recruits knew this all along. Beyond generally saying he’s handling things in-house, Franklin didn’t publicly comment in recent months while national writers and commentators pushed out the same tired storyline of him possibly leaving for another school.
Maybe that’s because he didn’t feel the need to say anything. If so, he was right.
He’s indicated time and again over the years — through both his actions and his words — that he’s committed to Penn State. You don’t passionately advocate for improving the infrastructure of a program, finally get everything in place, and then start all over somewhere else. And for what it’s worth, I don’t buy that USC is a more attractive job than Penn State. If you want to live in L.A., more power to you, but even that has its drawbacks.
The reasons why Penn State is a better job than USC (or LSU) is a topic for another column. For now, what’s important is that the lengthy extension didn’t come as a shock to the people inside Lasch. So, for all the misguided questions about distractions this season, it’s easy to argue that factors outside the team’s control, such as injuries, played a much bigger role this fall than anything else.
“The recruits, I think there is a sense of relief,” Franklin said Sunday evening. “They were all informed the whole way, but, when you’re seeing things in the media, and when you also see so many other places and so many coaches say that they’re not doing anything and then they do, it gives you pause. So I understand that. As much as I’m talking to these families and kids and explain it to them, what’s going on in the process, it still makes them feel better when they see it come out publicly.”
Want to see the ripple effect of jumping from coach to coach? Look at Nebraska, Florida State, Miami, or Texas, among other programs that are now a shadow of their former selves. For all the angst concerning the team this season, Franklin and the Nittany Lions are preparing to play in their fifth straight New Year’s Six or New Year’s Day bowl. That a 7-5 record was enough to get Penn State playing in the Outback Bowl underscores the strength of the program that’s been built and maintained ever since Franklin arrived in 2014.
Critical observation is good (I feel) in all aspects of life. You don’t improve without identifying how you can improve. Whether that’s with your goals re: health, finances, business, or in leading a college football program.
What’s even better is direct feedback from people who self-identify as being in your corner. Franklin has built a good rapport with a group of lettermen that includes Anthony “Spice” Adams, LaVar Arrington, and Brandon Short. They’ve spent time around the program and like the approach that Franklin and his administration are taking.
One reason for the support is they’ve seen how things are done with the current staff. The day after the game against Michigan last month, Adams visited Franklin in his office and told him, “‘Coach, I love what you’re doing with the winning and those types of things, but it’s the other stuff. It’s how much you care about the kids,'” Franklin said, relaying the conversation.
“The impact that Penn State had on him, the impact that the coaches had on him, I think that’s something that’s resonated with me since I’ve come back to Penn State: is how important the entire experience is for Penn Staters,” Franklin continued. “For our lettermen, for the people in the community, the type of young men we recruit, the families that we joined with — all of those things are important. So, the feedback from the lettermen and things like that has been really good.”
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