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Penn State Football: Franklin Commences First Caravan Week With Baseball and Buses

by on May 04, 2014 10:10 PM

James Franklin is so busy, he needs an eight-day week to get it all done.

And we’re just talking about baseball.

Franklin began Saturday morning at the State College Little League fields at the west end of town, with Nittany Lion basketball coach Pat Chambers.

There, wearing Jackie Robinson’s No. 42, he threw out the first pitch on Opening Day.

(Franklin probably hasn’t had a crazier time since Jan. 11 than he did on Saturday, when he admittedly went “off script” and called for a group photo with a couple hundred of his newest, closest and shortest State College friends. Mark Brennan of FightOnState caught the whole thing on video. Watch it here.)

This coming Saturday, the new Penn State football coach has another baseball-like outing. Franklin will deliver a double-header of commencement addresses at his alma mater, East Stroudsburg.

A 1995 grad of East Stroudsburg with a degree in psychology, Franklin will be the featured speaker at a pair of ESU ceremonies at the campus’ Koehler Fieldhouse. He’ll address graduates in both the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Education at 9:30 a.m., then come back at 1:30 p.m. to speak to the graduates of the College of Business Management and the College of Health Sciences.

Talk about dominating the Pennsylvania State (System of Higher Education).

THE CARAVAN PLAN

In between, from Tuesday through Thursday of this coming week, Franklin will be hitting stops No. 2 (York), 3 (Hershey), 4 (Baltimore), 5 (D.C.), 6 (Penn State Fayette) and 7 (Pittsburgh) on the 2014 edition of the Penn State Coaches Caravan.

That’s three consecutive Caravan twinbills, as far as locales go. The Caravan’s two buses pull out of the Bryce Jordan Center parking lot at 8:15 a.m. on Tuesday and should return by midnight on Thursday. The last leg will be a bit easier for Franklin, who will fly back to State College with a handful of others from Pittsburgh that night. The rest of the 61-hour trip he’ll be riding in the first of two buses carrying a full Penn State contingent.

The Fullington bus Franklin’s riding in may be a luxury cruiser, with big comfy seats and an ice chest full of beverages, but it’s definitely a working excursion. Each of the half-dozen stops features press sessions, VIP receptions and a major program before audiences numbering in the hundreds. In all, there are 23 different receptions, programs and press conferences – including a few Penn State Football Lettermen get-togethers. It’s nothing that Bill O’Brien didn’t do the previous two Mays, but also it’s something no one else in the Big Ten touches. Or any of the other 595 FBS, FCS, Division I or Division II schools playing collegiate football.

The way Franklin’s schedule is set up, he literally won’t know if he’s coming back from East Stroudsburg or going (again). The Caravan makes a stop there on Wednesday, May 21 – the 15th of 17 destinations on the penultimate day of the three-week bus-storming tour.

GOING DUTCH

In and around the Caravan, Franklin will make a pair of separate appearances in the Lancaster area – both times as a result of his ties to the PA Dutch Country.

On Saturday, May 17, he’ll be at the campaign launch of the Children Deserve a Chance Foundation, in downtown Lancaster. He’ll speak at 6 p.m. at the invitation-event, which is slated to have about 400 guests. The foundation’s director is Jordan Steffy, a Conestoga Valley grad who played quarterback for the University of Maryland when Franklin was an assistant coach there. 

The day after the Caravan ends, on May 23, Franklin will return to Lancaster to be the keynote speaker at the Manheim Touchdown Club’s annual banquet at the Lancaster Marriott. That’s a good get for the MTC. But one that has been years in the making. Manheim Central offensive line coach Dave Hahn is a graduate of East Stroudsburg, where he played football. In fact, he was the center when Franklin was the quarterback there, setting 23 ESU records in the process.

Hahn attended a pair of Vanderbilt’s bowl games as Franklin's guest when when he was the head coach there. Now, this is payback. Given the number of times that Hahn centered the ball to him, getting Franklin to the banquet must have been a snap. That Pennsylvania boy with the Penn State heart sure has a (Common)wealth of contacts. 

After May, football camp season begins. On June 10, Franklin and his staff will take part in Georgia State’s football camp in Atlanta. On June 8, 20 and 22, and July 17-20, Penn State holds its own camp on the University Park campus.

A BALD BOBBLE-HEAD

It will be clear into August when Franklin is connected to baseball again. On Thursday, Aug. 28, the State College Spikes will be giving away a free James Franklin bobble-head to the first 1,000 fans attending the Spikes’ game against the Williamsport Crosscutters.

Franklin won’t be one of them.

He’s leaving two days earlier for Dublin, Ireland, where the Nittany Lions are playing their season-opener against Central Florida on Aug. 30.

Amazing as it sounds, that trip will be for a football game.

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Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979. He is a senior lecturer in Penn State's College of Communications and teaches a pair of classes in the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism: “Sports Writing” and “Introduction to the Sports Industry.” He created and taught for several years the Center’s course on “Joe Paterno, Communications and The Media.” Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PSUPoorman. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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