Penn State Football: James Franklin's Summer Reading List and Quest for Fresh Ideas
James Franklin has seen Moneyball more times than he can count.
"I remember at my last institution watching that movie and feeling like it was talking to me," Franklin said smiling inside the Rittenhouse Hotel in Philadelphia on Wednesday. "My wife thought it was cool the first time, but after the seventh time I'm not so sure she thought it was so cool."
For Franklin, Moneyball is in many way the perfect analogy for his situation. A story about the Oakland A's rethinking baseball evaluation and strategy to make up for the massive gap in resources and skill between them and the top of Major League Baseball. Franklin may not be worrying about getting enough RBIs this upcoming season, but he is worried about working with a short deck. NCAA sanctions still have Penn State playing with reduced scholarship numbers against teams with a full complement of players.
At Vanderbilt the challenges of competing with the top of the SEC was very different than the challenges Franklin faces today, but the overall goal of bringing information and ideas into the program is still the same. You adapt, you learn, and you change year to year. It's the only way you win.
"Mike Hazel, our director of football operations does a good job," Franklin said "He pulls off articles all the time that he puts in my travel book, I have this big book with all these tabs in there. And he puts things in there that he has read or seen that are really good that he thinks might be helpful. He's the guy as much as probably anybody in the building that's bringing in new ideas and will provoke thought outside of the world that we live in."
Hazel isn't the only one bringing new ideas to the table though as Franklin will give his staff a little summer homework if he thinks there is something of value to be had in one of the many books he has read.
"I'll read a couple books throughout the year and if there is something that I like I'll buy them and give them to the staff for summer reading," Franklin said. "While they're on vacation, something to read while they're sitting with their family on the beach. They don't have to read them, but maybe it's something that I read that I thought was really good."
"We did a couple last summer, they were football specific but they don't have to be."
So what was on the book club list for Franklin's staff?
1. Earn The Right To Win- Tom Coughlin
2. Leading With The Heart- Mike Krzyzewski
3. Good To Great- Jack Welch
"There are so many good books out there," Franklin said. "To me I like to find something that is easy to read, that has a great message, and enforces what we believe or maybe sends us in a different area that I think eventually or we think eventually that we'll be going down that path as well."
All of this is part of Franklin's ongoing goal to bring in new ideas and concepts into the Lasch Building. It's a culture Franklin supports and promotes with the constant goal in mind of improving the program on every level from the bottom up. It's about staying true to your foundation as a program while keeping an open mind at the same time.
"I think when you have really strong beliefs and have really strong core values and you've had some success to reinforce those things, then I don't think it's a problem," Franklin said of staying true to a philosophy and mission to move a program forward. "Where I do think it becomes a problem is where you feel like you have all the answers and have figured it all out. I mean this is a game that the longer you're in it the more you realize you don't know."
"So you're always learning. And I think that's exciting. We take that approach every offseason, we're going to read a lot, we're going to study a lot, we're going to watch a lot, we're going to ask a lot of questions"