What They’re Saying: Reviews on PSU’s James Franklin hire are glowing… except one

What They’re Saying: Reviews on PSU’s James Franklin hire are glowing… except one

You really have to do some digging to find many negative viewpoints on James Franklin, who was introduced as the new head football coach at Penn State University on Saturday. The PA native resurrected a Vanderbilt program from its perennial 2-10 record to three bowl games in three years, accounting for nearly half of the school’s postseason appearances all time.

Franklin’s presence is already being felt in Happy Valley, where talk of transfers and decommits ended abruptly. On the contrary, a couple of kids that were headed to Vandy even flipped with the news and will be enrolling at PSU instead. Recruiting sounds like it will be a real strength under the East Stroudsburg grad, who promised to “dominate the state” in his opening remarks.

Here’s an overview of what some people are saying about the hire:

Matt Brown, Sports on Earth

It’s hard to imagine Penn State finding a more fitting candidate. Franklin didn’t recruit under scholarship restrictions at Vandy, but he might as well have, given the difficulty trying to lure recruits who fit in academically there. According to Rivals.com, Vanderbilt’s 2013 recruiting class ranked 19th nationally — ahead of Miami, Texas and Oregon, among others — and its 2012 class ranked 29th. This was a program accustomed to finishing in the bottom half of the FBS in recruiting; maybe Franklin wasn’t pulling in the best of the best, but simply competing for good recruits meant a whole new reality for Vanderbilt football.

Aaron Torres, Fox Sports

Much like Meyer before him, Franklin comes to the Big Ten with area roots -- he grew up and played college ball in Pennsylvania -- yet it’s his work in the Southeastern Conference that ultimately got him the job. Franklin spent the last three years having unprecedented success at Vanderbilt, winning nine games in both 2012 and 2013. The Commodores had a grand total of one nine-win season in the 95 years before Franklin arrived.

Gregg Doyel, CBS Sports

But the story here is Franklin, who won at the worst football job in the toughest football conference in the country. If he could do that there, how will he do in one of the best jobs in one of the weaker BCS leagues? He'll win even bigger. Before, he was racing the biggest boats and beating them more often than not -- despite the wind in his face. At Penn State he will have gale-force breezes blowing into his sails. He's about to go fast, and win big.

Mike Sielski, Inquirer

President Rodney Erickson and athletic director David M. Joyner lauded Franklin for his character, for his ability to strike a balance between athletics and academics at an elite university such as Vanderbilt, but there's no mistaking to what side those scales tip. This is a university still getting over the worst scandal sports has ever seen, and in many minds, nothing will heal those wounds faster than a few 10-1 seasons. Erickson, Joyner, and Penn State's trustees didn't hire Franklin because he coached at Vanderbilt. They hired him because he won there.

Ron Wynn, Tennessee Tribune (for Phila. Daily News)

But his impact off the field might have been greater. Franklin urged Vanderbilt, a private school with a glittering academic reputation, to be equally concerned with achievement in football. He didn't ask for massive concessions in regards to admissions, but he did seek substantial improvement in facilities.

***

While there is little to question on Franklin’s resume, off-field concerns are another story. There is this matter of an ongoing rape scandal at Vanderbilt involving five former football players, with Franklin possibly being involved. USA Today’s Christine Brennan accused Penn State of being “tone deaf” in light of being only a couple years removed from the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal.

Christine Brennan, USA Today

Last June, four of Franklin's players were charged with raping an unconscious 21-year-old woman in a dormitory and a fifth player pleaded guilty to helping cover it up. All five were dismissed from the team. If and when there is a trial, it will be Franklin's former players on trial. One of the players' attorneys was quoted as saying he wants to subpoena Franklin.

Whatever happens in that case, by hiring Franklin, Penn State will have attached itself to it. If there's a trial and Franklin's a part of it, Penn State would be a part of it, too.

And that's not all. Franklin has attracted other controversy. During a 2012 radio interview, he said one of the top qualifications for his assistant coaches is that they must have attractive wives.

***

Time will tell if Franklin is involved in any upcoming proceedings, but one would think university officials vetted the incident with great care. In the wake of his hiring at PSU, it would be surprising to say the least to learn he had a role. Still, for right now, I suppose there is that.

Howard homers, embraces the moment, looks forward to final salute Sunday

Howard homers, embraces the moment, looks forward to final salute Sunday

BOX SCORE

The New York Mets and a slew of their supportive fans took over Citizens Bank Park on Sunday afternoon. The Mets posted a 5-3 win over the Phillies and streamed out of the dugout like school children at recess to celebrate clinching a National League wild-card playoff spot on the penultimate day of the season (see Instant Replay).

As the Mets players congratulated each other on the diamond, several thousand of their vocal fans cheered in the stands while Phillies fans headed to the exits longing for those days when their team used to have celebrations on the field.

There was a moment in the game, however, when it did feel like the good ol’ days at the ballpark, a moment when Ryan Howard owned the place like he used to and the Phillies fans drowned out the Mets fans with ease.

It came in the fifth inning when the Phillies were down by two runs and Howard came to the plate and turned on a pitch from Bartolo Colon and sent it into the right-field seats for a game-tying two-run home run. Phillies fans had seen Howard hit homers like this before because many of the 382 he has hit in his career have been clutch shots that have come in big moments, and though the Phillies have long been dead in the standings, this was an important game and thus a big moment because the Mets had a lot to play for and no competitor worth his salt would let another team walk on him.

The game didn’t stay tied long as reliever Patrick Schuster allowed a hit and a wild pitch in the top of the sixth before David Hernandez surrendered a two-run homer to James Loney as the Mets went up for good.

But at least Howard gave the Phillies fans in the house something to cheer about for a short while.

“It was cool,” Howard acknowledged after the game. “I was able to hit the home run, tying the game up. I tried to spoil it for them today a little bit, but they got us, and you’ve got to congratulate those guys because they scratched and clawed and did what they needed to do. That’s a good ball club.”

Howard’s home run, of course, was cool for another reason.

It might have been his last as a Phillie.

This is the veteran slugger’s final weekend with the team he helped win the 2008 World Series and a little love-in has developed between him and the fans. They gave him a standing ovation after the homer – his 25th of the season – and he responded with a curtain call.

“It was awesome,” he said. “To be able to hit the home run in the first place and then get the curtain call. To have the fans show that kind of appreciation is a great feeling.”

The Phillies will not pick up Howard’s contract option for 2017. On Sunday afternoon, he will play his final game for the Phillies. First pitch is at 3 p.m. The team will make an on-field presentation to Howard at 2:30.

Howard doesn’t know what the team has planned.

“I’m just going to show up and see what happens,” he said. “You know, I think it’ll be something cool. We’ll see what it is. Whatever it brings, I'll embrace it and take it and enjoy it."
 
Howard had spent the previous few days stiff-arming the attention that has come with his final days as a Phillie.

He put his guard down a little after Saturday’s game.

“I’m just taking the weekend as is,” he said. “I’m just trying to enjoy it, trying to embrace everything and take it as is. I’m not trying to look too much into anything. Actually, I’m just trying to go out there and win these ballgames. I mean, I’ve said it before, things will hit you when they hit you.”

The Phillies have not been to the playoffs since 2011, their last of five straight trips to the postseason. If anyone needed a reminder of what it used to look like around here, it was on the field after the game in the form of the Mets’ celebration.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin did not watch the Mets celebrate. He’s waiting to experience a celebration of his own.

“There’s no doubt in my mind we’re going to get back where we need to be and we’re going to be one of those teams, just like the Mets are now,” Mackanin said.

Howard will turn 37 in November. He is the elder statesman on this club and he’s embraced that role in his dealings with younger players.

He used the Mets’ celebration as an opportunity to pass on some advice to the men who are his teammates for one more day.

“You never want to see somebody else celebrate on your home field, but for these young guys it's something where once you’ve seen it, you want to be those guys," Howard said. "When you see the other team out there, you want to be that guy next year. You want to be out there celebrating on your home field or somebody else's field.

“It's tough, but you take that and find a way to use that as motivation.”

North Dakota appears to be Eagles country

North Dakota appears to be Eagles country

It appears that Carson Wentz' fanbase in North Dakota is still pretty strong. Before North Dakota State’s game against Illinois State Saturday afternoon, fans were seen walking around the parking lot in Carson Wentz Eagles’ jerseys. 

Wearing Eagles gear at the tailgate was not all, however. A large group of people begun chanting “Carson” over and over to show their love and support for the Eagles quarterback. 

Wentz, along with Eagles practice squad cornerback C.J. Smith, a fellow Bison alum, showed up to North Dakota State's homecoming Saturday.

This is not the first time we have seen North Dakota State fans showing how much they adore Carson Wentz. Going back to the NFL draft, fans were seen on the red carpet wearing North Dakota State Wentz jersey’s and waving flags.

On Sept. 19, when the Eagles played the Bears, North Dakotans traveled to see Wentz play in person.

Clearly, Wentz has a lot of love from his fans back at home, but it is safe to say that Eagles fans love him just as much after he has led them to a 3-0 start.  

It doesn't hurt that Wentz' cousin, Connor, plays for North Dakota State. Connor is a redshirt junior tight end.

John Clark with Connor Wentz

A photo posted by Rob Kuestner (@rkuestner23) on