Head coach James Franklin’s relationship with the culture of Penn State football is not without its squabbles or frustration.
The team is 4-1, he made sure to remind the media at his weekly press conference on Tuesday afternoon. There are just 40 other teams in the nation that boast that record. Penn State football is thus far undefeated at home in 2015, and has the “went 1-0 last week” mentality.
It’s not the winning itself that’s exposing a certain amount of negativity, but how the winning was done. Penn State’s offense ranks in the dregs of the FBS, and wins over would-be-pushover teams like Buffalo and Army have come without a clear cohesiveness or identity among the unit.
“I’ll be honest with you, I had a fan send me a colorful, colorful tweet the other day,” Franklin said on Tuesday. “And it went on and on and on … and I looked at it, and said ‘Don’t respond, don’t respond.’ And then, four hours later, I was scrolling, I looked at it again, I said ‘Don’t respond.’ ”
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Franklin said the next day, he looked at it again, and decided to respond.
“I just said, ‘Tell me how that would help? Explain to me how that would help the situation we’re in, and make it better, I’m happy to do it,’ ” he said. Then, he said, that fan apologized.
Franklin’s point, in sharing that anecdote with media, is that the conversations he thinks are necessary to have, are being had.
Internally, of course.
“Having discussions every single morning at 7 a.m. at our staff meeting and just being really honest with each other and challenging each other, having conversations that I have throughout the day with staff, having conversations that I have (with people) who have been around Penn State for a long time ... we’re doing those things right,” he said.
He added, minutes later, “Do we need to get better on offense? Yes. There’s no doubt about it. Have we identified what those issues are and what we need to improve on? Yes. Are we working hard on them, every single day? Yes.”
But, college football and its culture, as well as society itself, he said, are all about instant gratification. Winning, winning well, winning now.
“I’ve been in the business long enough. I know the things that you need to do to be successful long-term and short-term, and we’re doing those things,” he said.
“... That’s the struggle in our climate of college football, now. The time frame and the timelines are different. And our society as a whole is different, immediate gratification.”
Franklin said what he loves the most about Penn State is the high expectations — “the expectation for greatness” — of the community.
“That’s the hardest part of my job,” he said. “How do you go out and get people really excited about the season, about the team, about the future, without setting up false expectations, at a place, that we’ve talked about before, the day the season starts, everybody remembers 1982 and 1986 and that’s their expectation?”
The issues are being addressed, he repeated.
And, just like with the angry fan on his Twitter feed, Franklin made it clear he’s not going to waste his time sharing publicly what those issues are. As he put it, he’s not going to “throw people under the bus.”
“Am I gonna come in here and tell you guys exactly what those things are? In my opinion? No!” He said, “If someone could explain to me how that helps our program … for me to come in and say, ‘This is a problem, this is a problem, this is a problem’… Do we have those conversations internally? Yes.
“I get the fans, I get the media, but I go to sleep every night feeling really good about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.”