Here we go again.
James Franklin is the new head football coach at Penn State. Franklin did wonders at Vanderbilt where nobody has ever won, and you’ll be hearing lots of comments about how he shouldn’t be blamed for leaving for Penn State.
But, like former Penn State coach Bill O’Brien, Franklin made commitments and promises to recruits who might have turned down other offers and chosen Vanderbilt only because of him. The question, again, is when did Franklin make his last promise to stay to a recruit or a current player?
Franklin is on record as a big fan of commitment.
Two years ago, he created a stir when, after a kid who had given him a verbal commitment, instead signed to play for the University of Georgia. He said that players who decommit, “Are not men of honor” or “men of integrity.”
Forget the fact it’s a pretty safe bet he had kids playing for him who had committed to another program.
When Franklin signed a contract extension last year at Vanderbilt, he said, “This is really about our kids and our players. I made a promise to them, and we made a promise to them as a staff, that they could come to Vanderbilt and chase all their dreams, their wildest dreams, at the highest level.”
It’s he same old story. Penn State players have a coach hired away from them, and Penn State goes out and takes a coach out from under a bunch of other kids.
But make no mistake. It’s always all about the kids.
• Rape is not a word you want to come up at a Penn State news conference to introduce a new coach, but it’s a word that has the potential to blow the Penn State program up again.
Back in June, four of Vanderbilt’s players were arrested and charged with raping an unconscious female student. And, of course, this being the social media age, it was recorded on a cell phone and spread around campus. The players were kicked off the team and law enforcement officials said there is absolutely no evidence Franklin took part in any cover up.
But a story in SB Nation quoted an anonymous source close to the defendants as saying the source is “99.9 percent sure” Franklin saw the video and told the players to delete it.
For now, we have to take Franklin at his word when he said he never saw the video, but there will be a trial and defendants will speak under oath. Penn State becomes a circus again if any of them say that Franklin did, in fact, see the video.
Isn’t college football wonderful?
• The University of North Carolina needs to find out why academic counselor Mary Willingham is making up terrible stories about UNC athletes. While she was a graduate student at UNC-Greensboro, Willingham researched the reading levels of 183 UNC football and basketball players from 2004 to 2012. She found 60 percent read between fourth- and eighth-grade level and that between 8 and 10 percent read at a third-grade level.
Willingham also said she was asked to help a football player who could not read at all.
The NCAA released a statement that said Willingham’s report was inaccurate, incomplete and skewed a lot of numbers, including a claim that, of the more than 29,000 student-athletes who entered institutions for the first time in 2012, only 16 had test scores below 600. Willingham has recieved death threats.
When CNN asked North Carolina to comment on Willingham’s study, officials denied knowing about it. After emails showed that not to be true, officials admitted they had seen Willingham’s study.
Aren’t college sports wonderful?
• Thousands of running backs have gained millions of yards in the many years that the NFL has existed. Five have gained more than Jerome Bettis did. And there is still a debate about whether he belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
There shouldn’t be.
One knock against Bettis is his 3.9 yards per carry. The magic number is 4.0, but you had to see Bettis play to realize how many times the Steelers called on him to get only one yard, either for a first down or a touchdown. And he was rarely stopped. But all those one-yard gains are enough to keep his average under four yards a carry.
Emmitt Smith is the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, and I don’t think he was a better runner than Bettis. Smith ran through huge holes opened up by what might have been the best offensive line in NFL history.
All the players at the top of the NFL’s all-time rushing list did something that current backs are not doing. They played against defensive players who, you know, knew how to tackle. And they were allowed to hurl themselves at runners like guided missiles.
With the feeble attempts at tackling that are on display weekly in the NFL now, Bettis, in his prime, might average six yards a carry.
It’s been eight years since Bettis carried the ball for the Steelers. Do yourself a favor and check out his highlights on Youtube and refresh your memory. You’ll remember why he was called The Bus.
John Steigerwald writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.