Penn State head coach James Franklin held a spring press conference on Wednesday afternoon. That’s not too out of the ordinary. This is about the time of year when Franklin and other college football coaches begin meeting with the media as spring football practices are in full swing. Of course, this year is different with no spring football to be held amid the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the nation. So Franklin’s press conference on Wednesday was not held in a full media room in Beaver Stadium. Instead, Franklin sat in front of a desktop computer and hopped in a Zoom conference call and met with the members of the Penn State media, because everyone seems to be hopping on Zoom these days.
Naturally, how Penn State is operating its football program at this time was one of the major topics of conversation, to which Franklin noted there are more Zoom calls ongoing with coaches and players to keep the communication going during this bizarre spring.
“Not having spring practice is the focus for our players, but the magnitude of this is much more significant,” Franklin said when discussing the current state of affairs in Happy Valley. “This is much bigger than sports & something that the entire world is dealing with. Sports take a back seat to that.”
Franklin made his point fairly clear. If it were up to him, the entire country would be shut down until the virus is under control.
Like many other states, Pennsylvania has been on a shutdown for non-life-essential businesses since last Friday, with some exceptions sprinkled throughout the state. The Big Ten has also shut down all spring athletic activities, and the NCAA shut down all recruiting activities. All of this leaves Franklin with plenty of time to sit in front of a computer.
Franklin noted he is unsure just when he will be able to see his team in person once again, but the discussions are underway to determine how much time may be needed in order to prepare for the new season.
With the forced absence of spring football in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak across the country, there are some questions about what will happen to the college football schedule moving forward. Assuming the season does get a chance to start on time, perhaps one of the biggest questions remaining is whether or not football programs will be able to get in any additional practice time to make up for the loss of up to 15 spring football practices.
There may be no way to truly get a firm grasp on what the NCAA is thinking one day-to-day basis, but a growing consensus seems to be leaning toward expecting the NCAA to address this concern to some degree. Texas A&M Athletics Director Ross Bjork is among the notable names expecting the NCAA to allow programs to hold what would amount to the college football equivalent of an NFL minicamp or off-season activity. Per Suzanne Halliburton of the Austin American-Statesman, via Twitter;
Echoing that idea, Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated stated noted “several ADs” appear to be in the same boat as Bjork, which suggests this is an idea that has been discussed across the coaching community and/or the AD community.
There are some complications that arise from adding extra football practices in the summer, however. As Penn State head coach James Franklin said in a Zoom conference call with the media on Wednesday, adding additional football activities to the summer schedule leads to a reduction in family and vacation time for coaches and pretty much everyone else involved.
Is there a perfect solution to this unique situation? probably not. The extra time to practice would be a benefit for every program, of course. This is especially true for programs with a significant amount of coaching turnover, and not just the head coaching changes.
Penn State has officially filed to have a lawsuit submitted by a former player accusing members of the program of ignoring or conducting acts of hazing within the football program. According to a report from The Collegian, the student newspaper at Penn State University, Penn State has filed to have two counts of negligence and one count of negligent infliction of emotional distress tossed by the court.
Former Nittany Lion Isaiah Humphries filed a lawsuit in January accusing Penn State and head coach James Franklin of ignoring hazing by a handful of players on the roster, including defensive tackle Damion Barber. Humphries claimed to be the target of hazing conducted by Barber and NFL-bound Yetur Gross-Matos and linebackers Micah Parsons and Jesse Luketa. According to the lawsuit filed by Humphries, complaints and concerns were given directly to Franklin and other members of the Penn State coaching staff with no further action taken, allegedly.
Humphries transferred from Penn State to California in 2019 after being a part of Penn State’s Class of 2018. He claimed to leave Penn State in part due to the alleged lack of action taken by Franklin after addressing his concerns with the head coach. Multiple players on Penn State’s roster have vehemently denied Humphries’ claims through the use of social media.
Penn State previously stated the claims were investigated by university officials and Penn State police. The Centre County District Attorney’s office decided not to press any charges following a review of the police investigation into the claims.
A former Penn State football player Isaiah Humphries has filed a federal lawsuit that accuses Penn State and head coach James Franklin ignoring hazing taking place within the program. Defensive tackle Damion Barber is also a defendant in the lawsuit.
According to claims made in the lawsuit, Humphries was the target of hazing conducted by Barber and a handful of other Penn State players. Among the players mentioned by name include linebacker defensive lineman Yetur Gross-Matos and linebackers Micah Parsons and Jesse Luketa. Concerns about hazing were allegedly relayed to members of the coaching staff, including directly to Franklin, but no actions were taken to combat any hazing incidents.
Among the alleged acts of hazing included references to former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky with threats of “I am going to Sandusky you” being said to underclassmen within the program. Sandusky was found guilty on 45 counts of child sex abuse in 2012. His sentence of 30 to 60 years is, effectively, a life sentence in prison. Sandusky’s actions and the way it was handled by officials at Penn State led to NCAA sanctions including a four-year postseason bowl ban, the loss of scholarships, and a $60 million fine. The NCAA withdrew the sanctions two years later amid legal pressure.
Humphries transferred to California in 2019 after coming to Penn State in the Class of 2018. Humphries claims he transferred to Cal because of the alleged behavior within the Penn State program and lack of response by Franklin and his staff. The former Penn State player also accuses the coaching staff of pacing him in specific drills the coaches knew Humphries would fail and providing negative reviews to coaches at other schools as Humphries explored his transfer options.
Penn State has responded to the news of the lawsuit with a statement (shared below) claiming police investigated the allegations and the district attorney’s office decided no charges were warranted.
The University has established processes in place for responding to claims of potential misconduct. In accordance with our processes, the Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response and the Office of Student Conduct carried out investigations of the plaintiff’s claims independent from Intercollegiate Athletics. In addition, Penn State police investigated related allegations and forwarded the results of that investigation to the Office of the Centre County District Attorney (DA). The DA reviewed the case and decided that no charges would be pursued
And, for what it is worth, a number of Penn State players, both past and present, have responded to the news via Twitter.
Now that we can put those ideas of James Franklin leaving Penn State for USC to rest (for now), it seems as though a new contract at Penn State could be coming soon for Franklin. A meeting of the Penn State Board of Trustees’ compensation committee is currently scheduled for Friday to discuss what is being listed as a “personnel matter.” Go ahead and jump to your own conclusions here.
Franklin is still under contract at Penn State through 2022, but his name never seems to be too far from some of the coaching rumors and outlooks when notable vacancies open around college football, and even when vacancies don’t open up. Whether inspired by the annual bout of rumors or not, now seems like an appropriate time for a re-worked contract for Franklin in Happy Valley. Penn State has wrapped up a 10-2 regular season and awaits to learn its bowl destination, which could range from a New Years Six bowl to the Outback Bowl. This is the third time in four seasons under Franklin Penn State has reached double-digit wins, which has been done just once by the Nittany Lions since the school joined the Big Ten in 1993.
On Wednesday, USC athletics director Mike Bohn was “pleased” to announce Clay Helton will remain the head coach of the Trojans in 2020. Franklin also reportedly had contact with Florida State regarding its vacancy after the dismissal of Wille Taggart. Asked about his own future last week, Franklin hinted at having a reason to put that conversation to rest soon.
Penn State’s compensation committee is scheduled for a Friday afternoon meeting. As noted by Ben Jones of StateCollege.com, the sudden scheduling of a meeting for the compensation committee seems to suggest a new contract will be on the table, as similarly scheduled meetings have preceded a handful of other contract updates for other coaches within the athletics department.