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Penn State Football: Franklin Heads To Pittsburgh As Caravan Moves West

by on May 07, 2015 2:00 PM

ALTOONA-- James Franklin wants to dominate the state, and that means winning the west.

Technically, Thursday's event is a sold out lunch at the Lakemont Park Casino in Altoona.

James Franklin took the stage to talk about where Penn State is as a football program and where it wants to go as an athletic department.

But in many ways Thursday's trip to Altoona and then Pittsburgh is a trip into enemy territory. Not that Penn State fans don't reside west of State College. Plenty do, but there is a sprinkling of Pitt Panther and Ohio State Buckeye to be found as you get closer to the state's western border. By the time you're a stone's throw from Ohio, things are even less friendly.

Franklin is fine with that though, smiling all the same, bringing the same amount of energy and enthusiasm that he always has. If anything, winning people over is what has made Franklin so successful in the first place. He's recruiting fans instead of players, but the game is all the same to him.

The key to a good pitch; getting to know your audience, getting to connect with everyone in the room. It's hard when you're the most popular man at every stop, but having too many excited donors is worse than not having enough.

"We still have a lot of work to do there," Franklin said about getting to know and connect with the fan base. "When you have 107,000 fans showing up for games, when you have over 570,000 active alumni, that's a lot of people to meet. All of the people who work on campus, all of the people who work in the community. That's not something you're going to get done in 16 months.But we're making good progress there, but we've just got to keep working away at it."

On Thursday the sales pitch included three simple facts. Penn State is recruiting well, winning games and graduating players. If you can't get on board with that, it's hard for Franklin and his roving PR band to imagine what you might want instead.

For Franklin the goal isn't always winning over new fans though. He still refers to the Penn State community as something with "fractures" and he knows that sometimes just winning old fans back is more important. He's working to earn the loyalty of people who used to be the football program's biggest fans.

Maybe he can't win over everyone (the number of Pitt stickers bound to be seen on Thursday afternoon is an indication of that) but Franklin is okay with other programs getting some press. He just wants to welcome people back with his open and enthusiastic arms.

"Building those relationships, support and trust, those sorts of things is really valuable for us to get to where we want to go. It's probably magnified because of what we've been through," Franklin said. "We've had some people leave the family or distance themselves from the family, so we've got to work to get those people back in the fold."

Tell him that the radio signal in Pittsburgh isn't strong enough to get a Penn State game clearly though, and he's taking a lot of mental notes.

"Thanks for the insight, I had not heard that before," Franklin said after hearing the news. "I'll look into it."


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Penn State Football: Franklin Heads To Pittsburgh As Caravan Moves West

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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