Hey James Franklin, some of us fans would like to renegotiate a few things ...
Make no mistake, Nittany Nation has been annoyed. This has not been a fun season to follow Penn State football. Whether James Franklin’s contract saga ever affected the product on the field, it sure did have an effect outside of the program’s inner sanctum.
We’re sick of it. Have been since the early September announcement that USC had fired its coach a mere 2 games into the season.
Chris Buchignani, who appears on several Penn State football-related podcasts, said it better than I can, so check it out below for the best take I’ve heard on the whole matter.
So please, let Tuesday’s ridiculous rollout of the news of Franklin’s pay raise, extension (through 2031) and facility upgrade guarantees be the end of it. Please don’t put us through this crap again. An apology when Franklin briefs the media on Wednesday would be a good start toward reconciliation, considering we’re all going to be sticking together for quite some time. We are … right?
I think I speak for many, but even if this is just the rantings of one alum who’s been a fan for almost 40 years, I have a forum and some concerns.
Coach Franklin, you knew darn well during Tuesday afternoon’s media session that this was a done deal, yet you strung along reporters (and fans listening to the live feed), refusing to state that you were definitely staying. Only hours later, you, AD Sandy Barbour and university president Eric J. Barron put out a statement announcing your new deal. But you had to mess with fans’ peace of mind for a few more hours, ostensibly to avoid saying anything you couldn’t stand behind 100 percent. Was this really in doubt for a few final hours Tuesday afternoon? Really? Apparently all the moving parts are accounted for now?
Anyway, we’re glad it’s finally over. Let’s move on. I’ll take you at your word, this ongoing negotiation wasn’t just about your security but also the program’s. Now, we can compete with the likes of Ohio State, Alabama and Clemson, right?
This is enough, right? The school has proven its commitment, yes? What more could you want? I mean, Jim Harbaugh took a pay cut after last year to stick around at Michigan. He has a resume similar to yours: high winning percentage, can’t beat the Buckeyes, not so good against ranked teams, really not good against highly-ranked teams.
So it speaks to how terribly much football matters to this community that you’ve been able to work the university and its major donors to this extent at this juncture of your head coaching career. You still have a lot to prove.
I believe you are, or at least can be, the right man for the job. I love your motor. You give every indication that you will put in the 24-7-365 effort you say the task takes. Your CEO and pitchman skills (and I don’t say that pejoratively) are top notch. With even more PSU value to sell, your recruiting should get even better. And judging from the 2022 class, it’s already pretty good.
Going on 50 years old, this next decade should be your peak professional years. So let’s get this done.
I and at least a few other customers have a few demands, though, lest we walk away the next time the Bama bandwagon rolls by. (If only fans had such leverage. We’ll be here to the sweet or bitter end.)
Anyway, maybe you’d consider appeasing us by …
Not doing this again
Coach, I appreciate your honesty, I truly do, but next time you’re asked about interest in another job or you commitment to Penn State, if you’re not 100 percent sure you’re staying … LIE! I know you’d rather equivocate, and choose your words carefully, but JUST LIE! Keep this stuff behind closed doors. And if you’re agent is the one putting your name out there, tell him to stop. This leverage game needs to be a one-time deal. That’s probably asking too much, but next time better at least be after a CFP appearance rather than on the heels of 9 losses in 20 games.
You run such a leakproof program that no one knew exactly what ailed Sean Clifford after the Iowa game and most everyone was stunned when he was healthy enough to start against Illinois. So you can keep a secret. Information doesn’t leak out if you don’t want it to. So keep the money negotiations among you and the administration and Board of Trustees behind closed doors. We don’t care about how the sausage is made. We just want to watch our Nittany Lions on Saturdays in the fall. Every time it comes up, it will be a simple yes-no question for us: You staying? It shouldn’t be a complicated question anymore.
Discarding the trite and corny
Anyone else sick of this weekly tweet?
1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0 #WeAre
— James Franklin (@coachjfranklin) October 25, 2021
Who is this for? Fans? Players? Recruits? Staff? It’s trite as hell and makes everyone associated with it look like a jackass when a loss like the one to Illinois happens. With 2 weeks of singular focus on the Illini, we get one of the worst losses in program history? Spare us. It’s exhausting. No one in the B1G recovers worse from a tough loss than the Nittany Lions. Save some staffer 2 seconds of their time and stop sending this out every Sunday evening.
If this is going to go out every week under your name, maybe you should read the responses that pile up underneath it.
Stopping the silly secrecy
Bret Bielema had no problem keeping Illini fans in the loop heading into their game against Rutgers, saying star RB Chase Brown was 100 percent and that WR Deuce Spann was questionable but would almost certainly return the following week if not this one.
You, meanwhile, are mum on injuries unless a player is done for the year AND someone specifically asks about him. Even without specifics, the program could let fans know if key players are doubtful, questionable, probable. We are, after all, part of the family, right?
Quitting the coddling
When Mel Tucker arrived at Michigan State, he announced in no uncertain terms his intention to run a hard-nosed program, and said anyone who couldn’t handle it was free to leave. Earlier this year, Bielema blasted 3 years’ worth of OL recruits. He walked the comments back a bit later, but his message had been sent.
Meanwhile, at Penn State, players at certain position groups seem soft. After a tough loss, you often say your immediate message to the team is to tell them that you love them, as if these players are fragile and need safe spaces. You admit to parsing your words and thinking carefully when discussing player performance.
“If I say this and it comes off the wrong way, is that going to upset a kid in the locker room?” you said a couple weeks back. “Sometimes you guys will ask me a question about how a player played, and I want to answer your question … but I also want to be respectful of the kid, his parents, and those types of things.”
There’s nothing wrong with that, to a point. But these “kids” are actually men, and some of them might appreciate the directness of a Tucker or a Bielema. Treating them too delicately won’t get them ready for NFL Sundays, or even the biggest Saturdays of their college careers.
And you’re getting paid an awful lot of money to do exactly that.