Coach James Franklin says Penn State 'way behind' in college football facilities arms race

Centre Daily Times (TNS)
  • PSU was 13th out of 14 Big Ten programs in facilities capital spending for football in a recent eight-year span.
  • PSU head coach James Franklin says the Lions are "way behind" in the college football facilities arms race.
  • Fourteen months ago, PSU AD Sandy Barbour unveiled an ambitious 20-year Facilities Master Plan.

NEW YORK — Fourteen months ago, Sandy Barbour unveiled an ambitious 20-year Facilities Master Plan — one that would result in 12 new venues and the renovation of several structures, including Beaver Stadium and the Lasch Football Building.

Penn State head coach James Franklin says his school needs to improve its football facilities. AP FILE PHOTO

At the time, the athletic director didn't offer a price tag for the project, but attached realism to an idealistic presentation.

"We will ultimately build what we can afford," Barbour said.

Now, as Barbour and James Franklin headline a three-stop Coaches Caravan, both understand where Penn State stands in the college football arms race fueled by facilities spending. The Nittany Lions are "way behind" their Big Ten foes and fellow College Football Playoff contenders, the head coach said, and they need to catch up.

Still, Franklin and Barbour remain confident in the department's fundraising efforts — Caravan stops included — and its intent to put Penn State football in the best position possible moving forward.

"We have a lot of work to do," Franklin said. "But I truly believe that having all these people — the board, the president, the AD, the coaches, the alumni, the lettermen — all pulling the rope in the same direction, that we can do something really special."

Added Barbour: "We've got the plan for what we need to do. ...We just need to raise more money and get it done."

Barbour said the answer lies within that Facilities Master Plan — the long-term project that will see Beaver Stadium get a facelift and an "athletic district" built on campus. Beaver Stadium's changes alone could cost around $500 million, as they model Texas A&M's renovations to Kyle Field, which cost $485 million.

The Coaches Caravan isn't going to foot the bill for Beaver Stadium. But it helps a surprising situation.

Franklin said Penn State ranked 13th out of 14 Big Ten programs, ahead of only Rutgers, in facilities capital spending for football during an eight-year span prior to the coach's arrival.

Ever since that realization, it's been a mad dash to compete from a facilities perspective.

"We have parts of our facility where the carpets haven't been changed in 20 years," Franklin said. "The hard part is, we're trying to play catch up for a 10-year period of time where we didn't really do a whole lot. And it's not like everybody is pressing the pause button and waiting for us to catch up. They still have the foot on the gas driving forward."

Franklin said while they've "made tremendous progress" over the last four years — the Lasch Building completed renovations in 2016 costing $13.2 million — the overarching message is clear: "We've got to go."

And Barbour agrees.

"We have to catch up," the AD said. "We've been doing it over the course of the last four or five years, and we probably need to accelerate that. We've known it. It isn't any surprise. But it just means we have a lot of work to do."

And that continues on the Caravan.