For the thousands and thousands of Penn State University graduates and fans, the last few years have been nothing short of a nightmare. As legendary Head Coach Joe Paterno’s health waned, so did the program. Ten win seasons and trips to prestigious bowl games were no longer the norms. Then the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case became national news.
Within literally weeks, Paterno was removed as head coach of the Nittany Lions and worse yet, he would pass away as well. The NCAA came in and investigated and in their ‘infinite wisdom,’ stuck the Penn State football program with penalties so harsh some felt the death penalty would have actually been better.
Scholarships were drastically cut, the team could not win a division or conference championship and they couldn’t go to a bowl game either. All this was to extend for four years making one of the most historic football programs in college football a place few players and coaches would want to be. Bill O’Brien came in from the NFL’s New England Patriots and fared as well as one could imagine over two years.
O’Brien surprised very few when he took the Houston Texans job a couple of weeks back. The NFL was always on his radar and this was not a secret. Still, without being able to promise the players of Penn State very much, O’Brien was able to finish with winning seasons and competitive teams.
The Nittany Lions finally named a replacement for O’Brien this past weekend and somehow it wasn’t surprising that there was controversy in the selection. Penn State has named former Vanderbilt Head Coach James Franklin as its’ new leader. In three years at the SEC school, Franklin went 24-14 and went to three straight bowl games, winning the final two.
If you know anything about the history of college football then you know Vanderbilt isn’t exactly a powerhouse. The private school in Nashville has long-struggled in football and for Franklin to achieve the record he did there is nothing short of astonishing. He is a man who preaches teamwork and academics and family and those traits were extremely enticing for Penn State officials.
Franklin had one mark against him however and I found it amazing how quickly people decided to attack him for it. Five Vandy football players were arrested and charged in sexual assault case last summer. Each was suspended and banned from campus within less than a week by Franklin. As I write, there is still no evidence whatsoever that Franklin was involved in a cover-up and had prior knowledge as has been alleged.
National USA Today columnist Christine Brennan got on her soapbox once again and admonished Penn State for even considering Franklin especially in the wake of their own scandal. I found it interesting that Brennan completely skipped over recent national champion Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. He has been embroiled in a similar situation in Tallahassee regarding a sexual assault alleged to have been committed by his Heisman winning quarterback Jameis Winston.
Brennan also goes on to criticize Franklin for his comments regarding a radio interview where he said he preferred assistant coaches with attractive wives because it helps with recruiting. Perhaps Franklin shouldn’t have said that, but if you ask any head coach in private they’ll tell you he’s exactly right.
If it turns out that Franklin has a troubled tenure in Happy Valley then I’ll be the first to say I was wrong. I don’t anticipate that however regardless of how many people want to feel otherwise simply because they have agendas.