As Penn State kicks off its annual, but now largely abbreviated Coaches Caravan tour this week the question remains the same.
What's the point this year?
To be clear the larger purpose is somewhat self-explanatory. It's a fundraiser. These events don't happen simply so James Franklin and his fellow coaches can hang out while driving around the east coast on a bus. Maybe a bit, but it's not a "just because" kind of outing.
So beyond the money, what's the purpose?
Each year that answer changes a bit. Not long ago it was a chance for Franklin to introduce himself to a universe of people across the state. After that it was a chance to reassure those same people that everything was going according to plan. Then, a chance to talk about a new plan and a Joe Moorhead era that could turn things around.
Then, celebration, a Big Ten title and even bigger hopes ahead in the year to come.
This year, it's a bit of both. Even if the Nittany Lions came up short of the playoffs in 2018, you'd be hard pressed to convince anyone that the season was some sort of unmitigated failure. It could have been better, but nearly everyone else did a lot worse.
So the three stop tour is a bit of a celebration, but it will also serve as a moment of assurance. A lot has happened since Franklin has had a face-to-face talk with Penn State fans. Moorhead is gone, Saquon Barkley about to make more than Franklin himself, a host of other familiar faces off to the NFL.
There will be sales pitch, a subtle reminder that Ricky Rahne was there next to Moorhead all along, and that Miles Sanders was behind Barkley. That recruiting has been as good, if not better, than anytime in the program's history. That all of the best programs reload, and that Penn State is certainly a position to do that, and when healthy, still better than most all of the Big Ten.
For Sandy Barbour it will be a chance to sell the long term future as well. A facilities master plan that sounds good on paper but seems to be lacking the green paper to pull off. A reminder that everyone wants a nice new looking Beaver Stadium but somebody has got to pay for the thing.
Pat Chambers, a man who never gets to stop selling will do his best to remind everyone that 26 wins and an NIT title ain't that bad. He'll also remind you not to worry, that Tony Carr was good, but he wasn't the only player on that team and not the only talented recruit to have committed to Penn State.
And Russ Rose and Charlene Morett-Curtiss, their work speaks for itself, a light and friendly reminder that for all of the things that have changed for Penn State over the years, that connections to a different time haven't all been washed away and forgotten just yet.
So maybe it's only three stops, and maybe the future of Penn State athletics won't be decided in a week, but when it's comes to messaging, few events are more revealing than these.