Barbour: Franklin not on hot seat

Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour made it perfectly clear when asked about coach James Franklin’s future.

“James is not on any hot seat,” Barbour said Wednesday.

What happens if the Nittany Lions, who are dealing with major injury issues on defense, struggle the rest of the season? Could things be different come December?

“He’s not on the hot seat, and he’s not going to be on the hot seat in December,” Barbour said.

“James is going to be our football coach,” the AD added. “I believe in where this football program is going under James Franklin, and I think he’s going to be our football coach, period.”

Barbour, in Altoona to speak at a Blair County Chamber of Commerce WE-LEaD program at the Lakemont Casino, gave Franklin a strong vote of confidence.

“I think I’ve been really, really clear on I think he’s doing a spectacular job as a teacher, as a coach, as a leader of these young men,” she said. “That’s really, really important to Penn State. He and his staff are absolutely nailing that.”

The hot seat component has been brought up by some fans and national media before and during this season, Franklin’s third at Penn State, and more people have been talking about it since Saturday’s 49-10 loss at No. 4 Michigan.

Barbour spoke at length about the process the program continues to go through in the post-sanctions era and said the current team is not a finished product. She is undeterred in her belief that Franklin is the right coach to continue the process.

“I believe that James is the right guy, and yeah, he’s going to be our football coach,” she said.

Several months ago, Barbour made a comment about Penn State being competitive in every game, saying, “Nobody should blow us out. Nobody.”

In light of the blowout at Michigan, Barbour pointed out Wednesday that “there was a lot of context around that comment.”

“When Penn State is where we ought to be, where we should be, where we’re all striving to be, we absolutely should go toe to toe with anyone in the country. Clearly we’re not there,” Barbour said. “We’re not a finished product. I don’t think anybody thought we would be a finished product four games into the season.

“Was Saturday disappointing? Of course it was. But no one’s more disappointed than our coaching staff and our student-athletes in our football program. So I certainly understand where our fans are coming from and the disappointment.”

Barbour credited Michigan for being a “really, really good football team” and said the Wolverines are “in the neighborhood of where we’re trying to get back to.” She also made sure to point out that Michigan has not had to deal with scholarship sanctions the way Penn State did.

“That’s part of our reality,” she said. “I know lots of folks view that as an excuse, and I don’t like to make excuses either, but that’s our reality.”

Barbour knows fans want success now, and she talked about how she loves their passion for Penn State and the football program.

“The great news is we all agree on where we need to be,” she said. “I don’t think there’s any disagreement about that.

“I want to make it very clear that the expectations are we need to compete for conference and national championships, and let’s face it, in the Big Ten if you’re competing for a conference championship, you’re going to compete for a national championship. Everybody is on board with that. I think where the disagreement is is about how fast we ought to be there. And I think we can work with that.”

When it comes to evaluating Franklin’s job performance, it won’t be done on a week by week basis, but instead over the course of the entire season.

The mounting defensive injuries could make it difficult to gauge the Lions’ progress this year, however, and Barbour believes that “most reasonable minds would look at this and say, ‘wow, this is above and beyond just the regular kind of course-of-the-season injuries.'”

As she pointed out several times, patience and trusting the process are two key elements in judging Franklin and the overall program.

“I believe very strongly that we’re going to get to a competitive place where everybody’s going to be really excited about Penn State,” Barbour said. “It may take longer than some people want, it may take longer than some people think.

“Frankly, all of us would like it to happen today. There are just some of us that believe there are some realities – not necessarily that any of us can control – that I think dictate giving it a little bit longer runway than most would like.”