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Family Separation Creating Challenges For James Franklin, Penn State Football

2020 has been a rough season for Penn State football on and off the field — James Franklin included.

The head coach said the past few months’ non-football related challenges have mounted lately, leading to hurdles for both him and the team.

“There’s been a lot of factors in 2020. If you’re not careful, then a lot of those factors can become distractions,” Franklin said Tuesday. “I think we’ve done a really good job of handling a lot of the things away from football, but there’s a lot of time and energy spent on those things. One of the things I have not done a good job of handling personally…is I have not done a good job of managing my family being gone.”

Since this summer, Franklin’s wife, Fumi, and two daughters temporarily relocated to Florida. Franklin’s younger daughter, Addison, has sickle cell anemia and is immunocompromised.

He explained earlier in June that he and his family are “very careful” in making sure she isn’t in a situation where she could be exposed to the coronavirus, which includes being in contact with Franklin while he coaches a team of more than 100 players.

“My wife and kids are going to stay separate from me for the season just because we don’t feel like I can go to work and come home and interact with them with her autoimmune disease,” Franklin said in June.

While he understands it’s the safe decision, the family’s absence hasn’t made dealing with the tough start any easier for Franklin.

“They’re my fuel,” Franklin said. “I go home, they’re able to pour into me. I’ve not done a great job at that. At the end of the day, I have to.”

Franklin has always described the program as a “family-friendly” atmosphere, and this year has certainly hindered the team’s ability to do just that. The head coach added his family will likely remain away until there’s a vaccine.

“This is going to be the foreseeable future for me and my family,” Franklin added.

While Penn State pushes on and tries to battle back from its 0-3 start, Franklin will continue to do what he’s done since he arrived in Happy Valley. He understands that it’s a lot easier to stick with his “lead with love” philosophy when the Nittany Lions are winning, but he’s not going to change now and be divisive towards the team and coaching staff.

“The fine line for me as the head coach is, I never want to be a guy that comes up here and feels like I’m making excuses,” Franklin said. “Ultimately we’re responsible for what we put out there on the field…I’m just gonna continue to lead how I’ve always led, and that’s with love.”

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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