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PENN STATE NOTES: Franklin says Miami speculation a 'distraction' he doesn't need

DEREK LEVARSE
YorkDispatch

In a good mood after Saturday's win over Maryland, James Franklin answered a question about an injury by saying his tight-lipped policy wasn't going away any time soon.

"For the next 35 years at Penn State, it's going to be the same thing," the Nittany Lions coach said.

Going to stick around Happy Valley into his 80s? That sounds familiar.

Franklin smiled at the implication before delivering a parting shot.

"I'm trying to break the record," he joked.

Not 24 hours later, amusingly, Franklin's name landed on CBS Sports' list of potential candidates for the Miami job, where former Penn State captain and assistant Al Golden was just fired.

Franklin wasn't smiling on Tuesday.

"First of all, let me say this — I don't like it," Franklin said when asked about the rumor Tuesday at his weekly news conference. "I don't like it. I think it causes a distraction for our team. I think it's a distraction for Penn State. And I have no idea where it's coming from whatsoever.

"My family has sacrificed. I've worked my ass off to get to Penn State. To get here. And this is where I want to be."

Even had he chosen not to address the column, Franklin and Miami would seem to be a highly unlikely match.

Aside from the obvious emotional factors of such an abrupt switch, the private university is not in good shape financially. Multiple reports from Hurricanes beat writers suggest that the salary pool for Golden's successor is limited, meaning Franklin would have to take a significant pay cut from the $4.7 million he makes annually at Penn State on top of his buyout.

One of Franklin's crusades since taking over in Happy Valley has been campaigning for a dramatic improvement of team facilities, with the school now also looking into renovations of Beaver Stadium. Miami has one of the worst stadium situations in major college football.

From the Miami side of things, the Canes would likely frown upon hiring a second straight coach from Pennsylvania with essentially zero ties to South Florida.

The whole thing may have been a distraction for the coaching staff as the Lions prepare to host Illinois Saturday. It also gives opposing coaches ammo on the recruiting trail. But current players shrugged it off.

"I don't think we really pay attention to that," sophomore cornerback Grant Haley said. "Just focused on going 1-0 this week."

Penn State fans can be forgiven perhaps for getting a little jumpy. Franklin's predecessor, Bill O'Brien, had his name coming up for NFL jobs around this time on the calendar in both years he led the Lions before leaving for the Houston Texans.

Former Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner, who hired both O'Brien and Franklin, used to say he was "flattered" by interest in his head coach "because if we'd have made a lousy hire, you wouldn't be asking me these questions.

"That's the baggage you get for hiring a really, really good coach. Having people want to talk him. That's great. That's flattering."

Franklin did not seem flattered.

"Stuff like that, I guess some people could look at as a compliment," Franklin said. "I don't. My focus is 100 percent on Penn State. I've worked like crazy to get here.

"Not gonna address it any more. Not gonna talk about it any more. This is where I want to be. This is where my family wants to be. This is where our staff wants to be."

PSU NOTES

Barkley close to 100 percent: Penn State running back Saquon Barkley has been playing through the lingering effects of an ankle injury but should be close to 100 percent this week, coach Franklin said.

Franklin said that the freshman from Whitehall High didn't break tackles as he had in the past in the Lions' 31-30 win over Maryland. The Terps' defense was geared to stopping Barkley and limited him to 65 yards on 20 carries.

Franklin said that he thought Barkley had a chance to top 100 yards against Maryland by breaking a few more tackles. The coach also said that Barkley, who made his first start, handled Maryland's blitzes well in pass protection.

"I think he's going to be closer this week, than the last couple, to 100 percent," Franklin said of Barkley.

Paterno on Pa. Sports Hall of Fame: Joe Paterno, the late Penn State football coach, was among those inducted Saturday night into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.

Sue Paterno, the coach's widow, and son Jay Paterno attended the ceremony at the Valley Forge Casino in King of Prussia. Former Penn State quarterback Chuck Fusina and kicker Matt Bahr also were inducted into the Hall of Fame, which was founded in 1962.

This year's class included accomplished athletes from a variety of sports:

•P.J. Carlesimo, former college and NBA basketball coach

•Eric Crabtree, former college and NFL wide receiver

•Foge Fazio, former Pitt football coach

•Chip Lutz, U.S. and British Senior Amateur golf champion from Reading

•Bernie Parent, former Philadelphia Flyers goalkeeper

•Bill Koman, former college and NFL linebacker

•Kristy Kowal, Olympic swimmer

•Neal Olkewicz, Super Bowl linebacker for the Washington Redskins

•Gray Simons, two-time Olympic wrestler

The Allentown Morning Call contributed to this report.