Franklin speaks to Faculty Senate before State of the Union visit

mdawson@centredaily.comJanuary 28, 2014 

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    Watch James Franklin’s appearance at http://bit.ly/1e5PosG.

— New Nittany Lion football coach James Franklin continued his whirlwind tour of Penn State, as he made a cameo appearance Tuesday at the University Faculty Senate and gave some insight into one of his first goals.

Dominate the GPA, to borrow from his de facto catchphrase.

The energetic Franklin told the university’s academic governing body that he’s researching academic achievements in the football program. Specifically, he said, he wants to know what team had the highest GPA for a semester, for a year and overall.

“We want to break all those records,” said Franklin, who took over at Penn State after three seasons at Vanderbilt.

Franklin has made several appearances at a variety of campus events since he was introduced as the 16th football coach two weekends ago.

He showed up at a wrestling match, hockey games, Lady Lions games, a board of trustees meeting and now the Faculty Senate.

Franklin fielded a few questions before he left. He was the guest of Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, at President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night in Washington, D.C.

One professor asked about his first priority.

Franklin admitted his two weeks as the new coach have felt like one continuous day, but he’s spent that time recruiting student-athletes who are the best fits for the program, he said.

“It’s easy to go out and find great football players,” he said, “but it’s making sure we find the right fits for this community and this campus as well.”

As evidence, he said he was taking a red-eye flight across the country after the State of the Union to visit a player who decommitted from the University of California and committed to Penn State.

Franklin emphasized that he’ll be a very visible face in the community.

He also had a slip of the tongue that had the 140 faculty members laughing with him:

“If there’s ever anything James Franklin or Vanderbilt football can do to help you guys, please reach out,” Franklin said, only to stop once he heard some chuckles from the audience.

“I said, ‘Vanderbilt,’ excuse me,” he said, acknowledging that his staff chides him for the same thing.

He recast: “If there’s anything James Franklin or Penn State can do,” he said, “we will bend over backwards.”

Franklin was also asked about culling recruits from Pennsylvania. He’s previously pledged to “dominate the state” when it came to getting top talent from the high school gridirons here.

He said he’s embarrassed to say Penn State doesn’t have a single one of the top 10 recruits from the state, though he hopes to flip the top one.

“That just shows we have work to do,” he said. “That should never happen.”

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