A few days prior to January’s Rose Bowl, linebacker Manny Bowen and wide receiver Saeed Blacknall were suspended for a violation of team rules — but they weren’t sent home to wallow in State College or their homes in New Jersey.
Four months after his decision to keep Blacknall and Bowen with the team in California, Penn State coach James Franklin said Thursday morning that he remains “very comfortable” with how he and his staff handled the situation.
“We were going to include those guys on the trip because No. 1, these guys already feel bad enough they weren’t playing in the game,” Franklin said at the sixth stop of the Penn State Coaches Caravan. “There’s a public aspect to it, as well. Media covered it, the families were embarrassed, they’re embarrassed. It’s different than a normal student getting in trouble.”
Franklin said Bowen and Blacknall completed community service while in Los Angeles, keeping the suspension model similar to how it would’ve been handled in State College.
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After the suspensions were announced, the linebacker and wide receiver were seen practicing at the LA Galaxy’s StubHub Center facilities, which caused a bit of blowback from fans and those on social media. Some wondered why the duo wasn’t sent back to State College.
Penn State never discussed what exactly Bowen and Blacknall were suspended for, but the ABC broadcasters announcing the Rose Bowl said it was due to “academic reasons.”
“One thing that I struggle with, coaches struggle with, businesses struggle with, and universities struggle with, is when they make decisions people on the outside judge those decisions,” Franklin said. “But they have very little of the information, in my opinion, to have a judgment.”
Franklin, however, did have all the information and chose to keep Blacknall and Bowen close by instead of sticking them on a plane back to the East Coast.
The coach said his priority is helping the players grow on and off the field, and he feels as though this situation was an example of that.
“They were here with us, and we were supporting them,” Franklin said. “In college and in school and in all that we’re trying to do, it’s not about a punitive deal. It’s about educating, learning and growing.”