Penn State Football: Franklin and Staff Planning for Everything Amid Uncertain Future
Talking to reporters Wednesday afternoon via video chat, Penn State coach James Franklin added his name to a country-long list of people uncertain as to when the COVID-19 outbreak will end, and when normal life might resume.
He, like everyone else, has no idea.
“It’s been a scramble, it really has, but this staff has been awesome,” Franklin said. "We sent workouts for our guys, whether they are bodyweight workouts, or if they do have weight lifting equipment, knowing exactly what that is and setting a workout for them.
“Everything with them being home is all optional for them to do, but all of our guys are very motivated. I liked to be planned and organized for everything. This isn’t something we had a plan for.”
With players dispersed throughout the country Penn State has turned to video chats to stay connected, hosting staff meetings, position-specific meetings and team meetings with as many as 150 people throughout the week. With Penn State canceling the remainder of its spring semester, shifting to remote learning, the challenge for Franklin and his staff becomes a matter of developed from afar.
Then again, it's the same challenge facing every team in America.
In reality most football teams will survive without the benefits of a 15-practice long spring session, but there is a lingering and looming shadow over every college football building. A shadow that is a reminder of a very different and perhaps biggest question: will football be back in the Fall, at all? And if so, when?
There is no answer to that question either, and following the postponement of the Olympics, the trend has not been a good one relative to late-Summer events.
So all Franklin and his staff can do is plan for everything. A plan for starting at the end of this month, a plan for starting a month before the season begins, and so on and so forth. The major obstacle in the lead up to a 2020-21 season is as much about health and safety as it is quality of play. Teams might be able to pull off a football game with just two weeks of practice, but could you do that without dozens of potential injuries?
"I'm having my sports, scientists my strength staff, the training staff, everybody getting together because the day before I was having a conversation with our athletic director Sandy Barbour," Franklin said. "We had the same discussion, is it 30 days, is it 45 days, 60 days is it 90 days, what is needed to make sure that that we're going to be in good shape that the players are going to be able to to protect themselves and and be able to go out and compete at a high level...we just started that discussion yesterday."
"I had another discussion this morning with my staff," Franklin added. "I have my opinion, but I want to hear what my strength staffs thinks I want to hear what my coaching staff thinks, two coordinators and what they need from a time standpoint as well....We had already worked on, about six different models. So, if we were able to get back in a month, if we're able to get back in six weeks if we were able to get back in, you know, two months, if we were able to get back and, you know, whatever the time period was we started kind of breaking it out what's this gonna look like."
This is of course terribly frustrating for a man who has spent the better part of his life in control of everything about his football program, but if there is any calming medicament to be found here, it's that every coach is working through the same problem.
So like all things Franklin, he's just trying to go 1-0 this week, hoping that everyone goes 1-0 along with him, and in turn that something like normal life can return sooner rather than later.
When that might be, nobody knows, not even Franklin.