Measure program’s strides in its improvements

Bill Parcells once said, “You are what your record says you are.”

That statement probably applied more to the NFL, where Parcells spent the vast majority of his Hall of Fame career.

(Parcells, incidentally, was approached by a Penn State representative to succeed Joe Paterno after all the fallout in 2011).

Had he taken the job, which would have been a very bad idea, Parcells would have quickly tempered his quote on a team’s record defining its success.

Though we’re getting closer to Penn State playing with a full deck – this is the first year the roster is stocked with 85 scholarships and the sanctions are in the rear-view mirror – the Nittany Lions still face an uphill climb.

And anyone thinking James Franklin should be on the hot seat isn’t being reasonable.

Penn State is still young, and while Franklin and predecessor Bill O’Brien were just trying to keep the program together, Ohio State and Michigan State were distancing themselves. Michigan, meanwhile, made a splash hire in Jim Harbaugh.

That ground isn’t made up overnight.

Which is why I’ll be gauging progress, presuming there is any, on more than the Lions’ record this year.

Obviously 8-4 or better would be a significant step because it likely would include a win over Iowa or Pitt.

But that doesn’t mean 7-5 or 6-6 or worse would be grounds to assemble a search committee.

It depends on how they get there.

Franklin’s team didn’t start or end well in 2015. That has to be addressed this year, and should be simply because the Lions open at home for the first time since 2012.

Beyond the record, Penn State needs to be more competitive against the better opponents.

Athletic director Sandy Barbour admitted as much in a summer interview, taking her hardest public line yet on her football evaluation, saying, “Nobody should blow us out.”

The Spartans have done it two years in a row – 55-16 last year and 34-10 in 2014 – and Ohio State rolled, 38-10, last season.

Taking the big three – the Buckeyes and the Michigans – into the fourth quarter would be a positive step, along with beating the teams Penn State is supposed to. Like Temple, Minnesota, Maryland, Purdue, Indiana and Rutgers.

An upset along the way, pulling it or absorbing it, could be offset by improvement and a positive vibe heading into 2017.

And that would be progress.

Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or