Is Franklin’s stance falling on deaf ears?
UNIVERSITY PARK — Without mentioning names — hint, hint — there have been some former Penn State football coaches known to snap at the media every now and then.
James Franklin, for the most part, hasn’t been one of them.
In fact, at least in the press conferences I’ve attended over Franklin’s soon-to-be nine-year tenure, I’ve only heard him raise his voice twice — when Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz accused Penn State of faking injuries last year and Wednesday when Franklin was glued on the topic of NIL.
From the beginning, Franklin has wanted Penn State to be “bold and aggressive” when it comes to the Name, Image and Likeness rule that is engulfing college football.
Penn State has put together a couple of collectives, with respected former Nittany Lions on an advisory board, but they are well behind the big numbers being rolled at other schools, mainly in the SEC or the south.
Just last week, Ohio State coach Ryan Day appealed to Buckeye boosters with a projected number of $13 million needed for NIL.
“There is no long haul,” an animated Franklin said Wednesday. “It needs to be now. It needs to be yesterday. College football has changed probably more in the last five years than it has in maybe the previous 20. NIL is not long haul.
“We’ve got to do everything we possibly can to put Penn State in the best position this season, and then also protecting our own roster for the future, and then also putting ourselves in a position to be able to tell a story and show the incoming guys what we’re doing and how we’re taking care of our program and our current roster.”
Sean Clifford has organized his own NIL agency and reportedly took in more than $100,000 last year. Freshman running back Nick Singleton has signed an endorsement deal with a home remodeling company.
It was reported this week that Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud signed an NIL dealwith a Canton, Ohio, dealership that has given him a $200,000 Mercedes G Wagon, or probably $197,000 more than the station wagon, with three seats, that my dad drove us around in.
Franklin said Penn State needs “more than the numbers you’ve heard,” relative to Day’s $13 million request, and it was clear he didn’t want to change the topic.
When asked about summer staff plans, Franklin started answering, then shifted gears, saying, “I can’t get off this” and wanted to revisit Penn State’s need for more money.
“If we want to compete with the schools that you guys all write articles about us competing against, why wouldn’t our number be the same as others?” he asked to anyone who would answer. “If School X has a number and we’re supposed to be competing with School X, why would our number be different?”
When someone — OK, it was me — suggested Ohio State’s number seemed “huge,” Franklin countered.
“Who determines the number?” he asked. “If you’re selling your house, do you determine your number. No, you don’t. The market determines the value of your house. So if the number is huge everywhere, then what?”
Ironically, alongside the presser in the former parking lot beside the Lasch Building, a $48 million renovation for the football program was in progress.
Since he arrived at Penn State, Franklin has been challenging the university to upgrade its facilities. Now NIL has become an important topic, but it’s not been an easy sell.
For one thing, the vast majority of the Penn State fan base considers Franklin, whose contract was extended after last season and is worth $85 million over 10 years, to be vastly overpaid.
Ask him why he faked a field goal from the Michigan 2, with the holder trying to hit the kicker no less, and he’ll likely shift the narrative off the field to “we need to be competitive in every single thing we do, 365 days a year.”
Penn State could have 10 seats around a lavish conference room table, and if Franklin finds out Clemson has 11, he’ll want that rectified.
His 7-17 record against Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State doesn’t help. Nor does the fact that Franklin’s excellent recruiting and NFL player development doesn’t match up with his recent record.
While he flourished early and may have peaked with a 2016 Big Ten championship followed by Fiesta Bowl and Cotton Bowl wins, Franklin is 11-11 in the last two years and rolling out the same quarterback, Clifford, who has mastered mediocrity.
Maybe 2022 will be different. Maybe Clifford will be better. To re-energize the fan base that is as discouraged as it’s been in years will take some doing.
And, frankly, with a new president and new athletic director in tow, Franklin’s voice Wednesday was accompanied by a pitch of slight desperation.
Penn State has a proud and loyal fan base that has faithfully filled Beaver Stadium to the tune of 107,000 and is not used to hearing its commitment questioned.
Going to games isn’t cheap, and the timing of this whole idea of buying players is a bit off right now.
So Penn State may want to come up with a more creative marketing campaign than thinking it can hand out pledge cards at the home opener.
Rudel can be reached at 814-946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.