The community surrounding Penn State football continues to be a divided one, to an extent. It is a community still largely searching for answers and truth from the fallout of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, and you can still find factions demanding for the return of a statue of Joe Paterno and others demanding for complete changes on the board of trustees and so on, some with honestly good intentions and others perhaps lacking priorities. This week former assistant football coaches Jay Paterno and Bill Kenney have filed a new lawsuit against the university regarding the termination of their employment. Two years have now passed since Sandusky’s crimes were handled in the court of law, and the community is starting to return to whatever normal will be.
Looking to steer the ship in the right direction is new head coach James Franklin, who has sparked the program with a new sense of life and motivation, continuing the momentum few thought could be generated under Bill O’Brien and looking to lead the Penn State program through the end of the sanction period. In a one-on-one interview, Franklin explains why he feels he is ready to tackle such a journey.
“I’m so emotional. I’m so passionate. I’m kind of a psycho,” Franklin told The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Joe Juliano. “So, I think a lot of people think, ‘This guy, is he for real?’ “
In his short time at Penn State, after leaving Vanderbilt, Franklin has put together one of the top recruiting classes for 2015 and has won over a fan base by digging into his Pennsylvania roots and declaring a territorial war over the Keystone State as well as the recruiting fertile grounds of New Jersey and Maryland, now considered Big Ten territory. On a spring bus tour of the state and region, Franklin left quite the impression on Penn State fans, and it seems his messages are being received well. Franklin understands the value of Penn State football to the community in State College and throughout the state, and he wants to use that as the resource that continues to heal the fractured community.
More from Franklin, via The Philadelphia Inquirer;
“I believe that football has the ability to bring a community together like nothing else,” he said. “I know I’m biased, I’m a football coach. But I believe football has that special ability.
“Saturday afternoons, people come together to be a part of something bigger than just themselves,” the former Vanderbilt coach said. “So, I think we can hold a special role in that, and I think it’s time.
“The thing that’s always made Penn State special is that we’re family and people are very proud of being a part of this university. And I think it’s time for us to get back to that, get back to being a family. The way I look at it is, let’s put the university first and, more importantly, let’s put the kids first.”
There is something to be said about how the football program could end up being what brings the Penn State community back together, given the national pundits that suggested it be shut down after being perceived as an enabling device for Sandusky and his sick crimes against children. But as with any organization, if the leadership in place has the right frame of mind and has a plan of attack, there should be little stopping it from reaching the finish line.
Is Franklin the leader Penn State’s football program needed? That seems to be the theme of the offseason in State College.