James Franklin Will Coach Penn State While Family and At-Risk Daughter Remain in Florida
Ask any college football coach about their priorities and they’ll say something like “faith, family, and football.” It’s generally understood to be in that order, but oftentimes the listing is backwards. These guys live and breathe college ball.
That considered, Penn State head coach James Franklin had a tough decision to make in this COVID-19 world. Should he bring his at-risk daughter to Happy Valley, or leave his family entirely while coaching the Nittany Lions?
The younger of Franklin’s two daughters, Addison, has Sickle cell disease. To protect her from being exposed to the coronavirus, Franklin and his wife, Fumi, have made a tough decision. He will spend the season with his team. His wife will stay at the family home in Destin, Fla., with Addison, who turned 12 in March, and their other daughter, Shola. The kids will be home-schooled.
Franklin doesn’t expect to see his family until January at the earliest.
“There was a lot of tears, a lot of emotion having this conversation,” he said.
Will this be the season Penn State finally gets by Ohio State after three tough losses in a row and becomes, in Franklin’s words, an “elite program?” If it happens, he won’t be able to enjoy the best part. He won’t get to share his success and his team’s success with his family.
“It’s the right thing to do for my daughter,” Franklin said.
If his daughter is at-risk, and family is important, then shouldn’t he just stay with her? That’s the first reaction a lot of people seemed to have when seeing this story. Imagine isolating from your child for six months to coach football. When you frame it as such, sports seem trivial.
But Franklin isn’t you or I. He’s not somebody working a 9-5 job and capable of linear lifestyle changes. He coaches a powerhouse division 1 football team, and if he takes a family leave, then what? Does Brent Pry coach the squad? Who picks up recruiting? What about the kids who signed up to play specifically for Franklin?
Surely PSU wouldn’t terminate him, because they’d be obliterated in the court of public opinion. He’d likely be lauded for choosing his family over football, and with the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 college season, who the hell knows if we’re going to have legitimate competition anyway.
We should also understand that these are once-in-a-lifetime jobs and that we’re in a once-in-a-lifetime (hopefully) global pandemic, so I can’t begrudge the Franklin family if they decided as a unit that this was the best way to proceed. Plus, the money he’s making as a D1 coach is enough to set up his daughters for life, so you could even make the argument that the Franklins benefit most by their father raking in $35 million over the next six years.
God willing, we’ll be out of this COVID crapola by 2021, and then his daughter can return to Happy Valley in a safe environment to watch PSU lose a heartbreaker to Ohio State in the dying minutes of the fourth quarter.