On the second floor of The L.A. Hotel Downtown, Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour met with a scrum of media and was asked about the speculation that Nittany Lions coach James Franklin could receive a contract extension.
“Lot’s going on,” Barbour said Saturday morning.
When asked later on about that quote, Barbour answered similarly.
“Things are moving along,” she said with a smile.
In the conversation, Barbour also discussed Penn State being left out of the College Football Playoff, how that may or may not affect nonconference scheduling, and provided an update on the athletic department’s Facilities Master Plan.
Question: You gave James a vote of confidence earlier in the season. What do you think that meant to the success of this team?
Answer: The success of this team is in these young men, and them believing in themselves, and James and his staff leading the way. It became pretty clear that James didn’t need a vote of confidence. I just said what was on my mind.
Q: Why did you feel the need to come out and say it then?
A: I thought there was a lot of chatter that was counterproductive to conditions for success for this team and community. Frankly, those decisions are going to be made by the athletic director and our president. I wanted people to know how we felt.
Q: With the Master Plan, anything new on that front?
A: I think with the Master Plan we talked about that coming out in February, and that’s very intricate. It encompasses 22 facilities, Beaver Stadium obviously being the largest of those. It’s been a lot of fun working on, and I think it’s going to be really exciting to get after the bricks and mortar part of it once we publish the plans in probably February.
Q: There’s been a significant delay from your original projection, can you give us a little more details as to why it’s been taking so long?
A: It’s a 20-year plan, so it’s a lot more important to get it right and take the time to do it. There have been a couple of the facilities — the aquatics center could be one — that after we went through the initial stages of the Master Plan, we’ve actually looked at alternate sites. So that’s one of the reasons that it’s been delayed.
Q: You’re involved in retaining the assistant coaches. Obviously James plays a role, but what can you do and what’s that been like the past couple of weeks as guys field phone calls and deal with other schools?
A: Here at Penn State, the athletic director is about providing the right resources, the right investment in a staff, and also the right environment for an athletic department with the institutional standpoint for our coaches and all of our staff, our student-athletes and our community to know that we’re invested and committed to success at Penn State.
Q: Out at Big Ten media days in July, you had some pretty strong statements about negative recruiting against Penn State. Did that have the desired effect that you wanted?
A: I say what’s on mind. I said what was on my mind that day. There’s going to be negative recruiting. I just don’t want it to be flat-out lies...There’s still negative recruiting out there.
Q: What are your thoughts when you see your team win the Big Ten title and they’re left out of the top four?
A: I started to smile, and then you said they were left out of the top four. We’re all competitors. If there’s a place in the pecking order where competitively you can be, that’s where you want to be. We believe that we were College Football Playoff-worthy, and that we deserved one of those four places. The committee decided otherwise, and we get to come to the Rose Bowl and play a really, really good USC team in the hottest game in the country...I’m really, really proud of our guys. I’m sure they were disappointed. They wanted to play for a national championship. It’s what you do when you come to Penn State. But they very quickly turned their focus.
Q: Nonconference scheduling came up with Washington getting in. You guys are going to be playing Auburns and Virginia Techs of the world in the future. Did your theory of nonconference scheduling change at all with that national discussion?
A: I was certainly disappointed, and I’m good friends with the AD at Washington so this is not a slam on them, but the committee did kind of go away from what they had been talking about in regards to strength of schedule. There’s a chatter around that. It proved out with Ohio State getting in, though, so it worked both ways. We’re going to stick with our nonconference scheduling philosophy, one Power 5 (opponent per year) and bring great games to Beaver Stadium.
Q: What do you do with Idaho? With them dropping down out of FBS, but they’re already on your schedule (in 2019). It’s probably hard to find an opponent this close to that game.
A: It is. We’re going to play Idaho. We’re going to honor that contract.