The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


January 11, 2014

Lionize choice?

Football writers: Scandal may follow Franklin to Penn State

STATE COLLEGE — As Penn State football fans wait to hear official confirmation that James Franklin will be the next head coach, national journalists are split on his candidacy, citing a sexual assault case involving his Vanderbilt players that is continuing to play out.

Franklin quickly kicked off his team four Commodores charged with raping an unconscious 21-year-old woman in June. A fifth player has pleaded guilty to attempting

to cover up the incident.

Though Franklin immediately suspended and released the players in question, some journalists say Penn State — under heavy scrutiny from continued NCAA sanctions in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal — cannot afford to hire a coach who may be in the midst of his own scandal.

“It’s one reason why, frankly, I was surprised this went down,” USA Today’s national college football reporter Dan Wolken said on the Pittsburgh-based Starkey and Mueller radio talk show. “I know for a fact that that is the reason that he was not in the mix (to be hired) at Southern Cal. They took a look at that situation, they knew about that situation, and he was not in the mix at all for that job primarily because of that.”

CBS Sports columnist Dennis Dodd agreed.

“Penn State doesn’t need a winning football coach that bad to risk its moral comeback from NCAA hell,” he wrote Thursday. “The (NCAA) will begin restructuring discussions next week at its annual convention. We are in the middle of perhaps the biggest upheaval in the organization’s history.”

One Penn State professor has started a petition, addressed to the board of trustees, that calls Franklin’s hiring “appalling.”

Many Franklin critics cite a longform piece about the rape case, which quotes “a source close to one of the defendants” who said that Franklin encouraged a player to delete a video of the incident.

Franklin denies the allegations in the article.

And a regional public relations officer said Penn State should “push back” in the face of such criticisms, emphasizing that even Davidson County, Tenn., District Attorney Tom Thurman, who is prosecuting the case, has cleared Franklin of any wrongdoing.

“At this point, the rumors that are swirling around that, and Coach Franklin, they seem baseless,” said Jeanette Krebs, managing director of communications at Harrisburg-based The Bravo Group. “It shouldn’t be grounds to consider disqualifying James Franklin (as a candidate).”

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