When it comes to the media, James Franklin has never been shy. From the very beginning, he’s been open to the public, has engaged fans in social media, and has been friendly and open with the media.
So when it was time for Franklin to speak at Big Ten Media Day in Chicago on Monday, the coach did what he did best and entertained a packed house of reporters anxious to hear him speak.
He started by telling an anecdote about the elevators in the Hilton, each adorned with a different Big Ten team logo. “The Penn State logo elevator was not in line with my room, and I refused to ride any other elevator up there, so I had to end up walking up the floor. So if there’s any way we can coordinate and make sure the elevator is coordinated with the floor I’m on in the future, that’d be the only critique I have.”
Then, he answered questions from the media like only he can. He answered questions on topics ranging from his sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg to his team’s academic accomplishments. Here are some notes from his day of press conferences.
- On his team’s success in the classroom: “We had one of the strongest semesters, academically, that we’ve ever had this spring. We have nine guys that have already graduated and will be competing on the field for us, and we’re really excited about that as well. That’s going to continue to be an emphasis for us, and always will be, to have some of the highest graduation rates in the country. And our guys have embraced that.”
- On the feeling of “I’m the head coach of Penn State” finally hitting him: “That realization has happened before. I’ve been through that “awe” moment of coming back home. It’s surreal, but those days have passed and we have a lot of work to do.”
- On the hype surrounding him and this season: “People have been incredibly supportive. I think there’s a hope, an excitement, an enthusiasm around our program that maybe there hasn’t been in awhile. That’s not me saying that, that’s people in the community saying that, and that’s exciting. I take tremendous pride in that.”
- On recruiting: “I’m from Pennsylvania, but I’ve never coached in Beaver Stadium or been there as a fan. But I’m aware, I’ve recruited against Penn State. It’s difficult. The history, the tradition, the academic success, the facilities, and to have an opportunity to sell all those things that we’re selling. Which is, number one, to get a world class education, which is what it’s all about. Number two is an opportunity to play big time football. It doesn’t get any bigger than the Big Ten. Number three is the opportunity to live in a town that’s going to be unbelievably supportive of the program. And the last thing is early playing time.”
- On the play of Christian Hackenberg: “He’s humble, he’s hungry, and he’s open to learning. I think the game of college football has changed. Everyone’s looking for an athlete, and I think Christian is one of those guys.”
- On the lack of depth on the roster: “Right now, we have some challenges and issues that we need to overcome, so guys are going to have an opportunity to come in and impact the roster quickly. We don’t guarantee playing time to anybody. You hear stories of coaches saying they’re going to start as freshmen, we don’t do that. Guys are going to have to earn it.”
- On leaving Vanderbilt: “There’s no good way to leave. When you invest so much in a place and you invest so much in people… there’s gonna be hurt feelings. I’ve read a lot of different ways people leave, and we tried to do it the right way. We had a team meeting, addressed the team, and said goodbye. I hope, over time, people look back and realize how much we cared and how much we invested in that program.”
- With the athletic director and president being hired in just the last few months, Franklin is the longest tenured of the three despite not having coached a game. “I’ve been here seven months, and I’m the [veteran]when it comes to Penn State.”
- He mentioned that the athletic department has reached out to Notre Dame and Navy, two teams that have played in Ireland before, for advice on how to handle the trip. He said also that the team will leave on Tuesday night before the game, after all of the players are done with Tuesday’s classes.