CHICAGO — Considering that his usual bed this year has been two couches pushed together in his Lasch Building office, James Franklin had some more friendly accommodations at the Hilton Chicago during Big Ten media days.
None of that, however, replaces the comforts of an actual home, something he hasn’t had since taking the Penn State job in January.
While Franklin hit the ground running in Happy Valley, his wife, Fumi, and his two young daughters, Shola and Addy, remained back in Nashville to finish the school year.
It’s been enough to make Franklin a little stir crazy.
“You can only use Skype or FaceTime so much,” Franklin said of his main way of talking to his kids.
So, even though the Franklins’ new house in Centre County won’t be ready until Aug. 16, the Nittany Lions boss got tired of waiting. Friday will now be the day the family is reunited full-time.
“Yeah, we’ve had enough of (being apart),” Franklin said. “So we said we’d just make it Aug. 1. We’ll just stay at a hotel or crash with some of the coaches maybe until it’s ready.”
At Vanderbilt especially, the whole Franklin clan was visible around the team week-in and week-out.
“It’s really weird that none of the (Penn State) players know my wife. It’s really weird that none of the players know my kids,” Franklin said. “Because my wife and kids come to the office every single day.
“The favorite thing for my kids is to have the football boys to the house. Their favorite thing. … And outside of (the week of the hire), we’ve had none of that.”
The numbers game
Penn State will have 72 players on scholarship for the 2014 season, according to Franklin. Even with the NCAA sanctions receding, the Lions are limited to 75 total this season, 10 short of the normal limit.
Franklin wouldn’t go into detail about the makeup of those 72 players, but here’s an educated guess.
Penn State’s mid-summer depth chart that was released earlier this month featured 70 scholarship players, including injured veterans like Miles Dieffenbach and Ben Kline.
Two players no longer on the roster but who remain enrolled at Penn State — offensive lineman Anthony Stanko and wide receiver Jonathan Warner — likely count against the limit. The recruiting class that signed in February 2012, which Stanko and Warner were both a part of, received four-year scholarships instead of the year-to-year arrangement that is most prevalent across the country.
That was the first year the Big Ten gave its schools the option to award four-year scholarships. Penn State, in the midst of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, elected to go that route for that particular class before switching back to the year-to-year model in 2013.
Ordinarily, leaving the team would cause the player to forfeit even a four-year scholarship. But because of the sanctions, those players are allowed to keep it.
It does, however, sound like a small handful of walk-ons who were granted scholarships by former coach Bill O’Brien for the 2013 season won’t be getting a grant in 2014.
For his part, O’Brien made it clear last year that those players might only have those scholarships for one season, a fact that Franklin brought up.
“You’re clearly told that we have scholarships left over, and we’re gonna put you on a scholarship for a year,” Franklin said. “It’s in black and white. It was explained in detail. Compliance was involved with it, the coaches were involved with it, the kids. Everybody understood that.
“So you’re not pulling anything because they were told they were only getting it for a year.”
Penn State was originally supposed to be just now starting a four-year stretch at 65 total scholarships. But on the recommendation last fall of the school’s independent monitor, former Sen. George Mitchell, the NCAA began to restore them.
At the moment, Penn State will be allowed to field 80 scholarships for the 2015 season and the full 85 for 2016.
Avoiding ‘dawn patrol’
Mike Hull has never had to do it himself. But the stories the Penn State linebacker has heard from teammates about “dawn patrol” are enough of a deterrent.
Dawn patrol would be the coaching staff’s preferred punishment for players who skip classes or otherwise lag behind academically. A Monday morning workout of sorts, right at 5 a.m.
And word of mouth travels quickly through the locker room.
“Yeah, pretty bad stories,” Hull said with a laugh. “Carrying 50-pound weights over your head for two hours straight. Things like that.
“If you missed class on a Thursday, the next Monday you’re paying for it.”
Hull said there is already an increased focus on academics under the new regime, where it’s harder for players to get away with neglecting their studies.
A fifth-year senior in good standing, Hull said it hasn’t affected him. But younger players, he said, are checked on “pretty much every day.”
“Most of the time,” Franklin said, “we don’t have to do that. There’s a couple knuckleheads that you have to do it with. But for the most part, the fear of dawn patrol alone makes them go to class and do the things they’re supposed to do.”