‘He’s Our Guy:’ Sandy Barbour Backs Lengthy Commitment To James Franklin

Days before her 15th bowl game as an athletic director, Penn State’s Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour met with the media Thursday morning at the Nittany Lions’ practice site in Tampa.

Much of Barbour’s presser revolved around head coach James Franklin and his contract extension worth $70 million over 10 years. Franklin’s new deal was met with plenty of chatter among fans in late November, including many who feel it’s too big of a commitment on Penn State’s end.

Barbour was asked about some of those doubts Thursday, but reiterated her commitment to the Langhorne, Pa. native.

“If you look at the body of work and look at what we’ve seen from James as it relates to who he is, what his values are, what his fit is for us, how he’s developed student athletes — and oh by the way, we’ve also won a lot of football games,” Barbour said. “As you really dig into it, that ’16, ’17, ’18, ’19 four-year period was as good as we’ve been in about 35-40 years.”

The Nittany Lions have put up an 11-10 record over the past two seasons, including an 0-5 start to 2020, but it’s tough to dispute those years that were jumpstarted by the 2016 Big Ten Championship run. Franklin’s team made trips to three New Years’ Six Bowls and put up a 42-11 overall record.

For Barbour and the rest of the university, that positive growth was apparently reason enough to offer such a massive commitment.

“We wanted to send a signal to him, and we wanted to send a signal to everybody else, how much he’s appreciated,” Barbour continued. “For me, he’s our guy. Penn State’s a place where we like to feel very comfortable with leadership over long, sustained periods of time.”

If nothing else, the university certainly confirmed its comfortable with Franklin at the helm for quite a long time. He’s signed to be the man in Happy Valley until 2031, and is now one of the top-ten highest-paid coaches in college football.

Over the course of the rest of his time with the Nittany Lions, Franklin has made it clear that in order to compete with top-tier programs, he wants to continue to develop facilities and the overall student-athlete experience. He even mentioned that in his press release following the contract announcement, and Barbour explained that those conversations have taken place even before the new deal.

“It’s all things that we’ve talked about over the course of the last seven years and either checked off the list, or that we need to continue to work on,” Barbour said. “I don’t think there was anything that was a surprise to either of us. It’s just about, ‘what’s the plan?’

“How do we make sure that we’re investing in a way that is going to result in the success and the development of student-athletes?,” Barbour added.

One of the biggest steps in that investment was this past February when the Board of Trustees approved a $48.3 million renovation project to the Lasch Football Building. The motion passed 27-6, and includes plans to expand the first-floor weight room, installation of a hydrotherapy pool, and even a suite for Penn State’s “5th Quarterback Program.”

Along with those Lasch Building renovations, Barbour explained that future developments for the program under Franklin include increased academic support and possibly housing adjustments.

“It’s also little things. It’s also things that don’t directly speak to on-field success, but speak to that student development piece,” Barbour said.

As hefty goals such as that one continue to take shape, Barbour is confident that she, Franklin, and the administration, including Penn State’s incoming President Neeli Bendapudi, are aligned in how they see Penn State’s future.

“James and I are absolutely aligned. We see success, and we see the investments for success, very similarly, as does Dr. Barron. We’ve enjoyed that for seven years,” Barbour said. “We’re now going to have a new president and I’ve had some conversations there, and I expect to continue to have 100% alignment.”

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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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