Penn State's James Franklin: Current NCAA model not in 'best interest' of college football

Centre Daily Times (TNS)
Penn State head football coach James Franklin.

James Franklin thinks college football isn’t being played on a level playing field amid the coronavirus pandemic.

And Penn State’s seventh-year head coach believes that could impact the landscape of the sport moving forward.

While some programs around the country are gearing up to play a season next month, other teams — like the ones in the Big Ten — are limited in their weekly practice hours. The NCAA’s Division I council approved new rules Wednesday for teams not competing this fall, allowing them to participate in up to 12 hours of activities per week starting Monday. This model, first recommended by the NCAA Football Oversight Committee, includes time for strength and conditioning, meetings, and five hours of on-field activities with helmets.

“I’m sitting here wishing what’s best for college football,” Franklin said Wednesday during a Zoom conference call with reporters. “So, I can’t understand how us being able to work with our student-athletes for 12 hours, when other people are getting the full season, how that’s in the best interest of college football, how that’s in the best interest of our student-athletes, how that’s in the best interest of the Big Ten and especially of Penn State.”

Big Ten not well represented: Franklin said an issue could be that NCAA committees don’t always vote with the Big Ten’s interest in mind. Out of the 15 voting members on the NCAA Football Oversight Committee, only one is from the Big Ten — Penn State Athletic Director Sandy Barbour.

When speaking to reporters over a Zoom conference call on Monday, Barbour advocated for the practice model for non-competing teams to sit at 14 to 16 hours per week.

“I am really staunch about the fact that we have to give our coaches time with these student-athletes in all sports,” Barbour said. “... These men and women, they need their coaches. They need that mentoring. Our coaches need their students at the same time. So, I think we’re going to have to build a middle category — that’s probably either at 20 hours or maybe 14 or 16, somewhere in there — that’s going to allow opportunities for at least individual player development, if not some kind of team player development.”

Franklin believes SEC, ACC, Big 12 have distinct advantage: Franklin believes the teams from the SEC, ACC and Big 12 — the three Power 5 conferences set to play this fall — are at a distinct advantage over Penn State. Aside from the obvious time the Nittany Lions will lose together as a team, he also highlighted the recruiting disadvantage for programs not playing this year.

With the December early signing period starting Dec. 16 and National Signing Day on Feb. 3, there’s no guarantee that recruits will be able to see Big Ten teams play before making their decision.

“This decision isn’t just playing in the fall,” Franklin said. “It’s going to impact a lot of different things. It’ll impact recruiting. If we’re playing and they’re out recruiting, that’s going to have an impact — a long-term impact.”

Franklin would like singular decision-making body: To eliminate future inconsistencies in rules across college football, Franklin suggested he was in favor of a singular decision-making body over major college football. He said he feels it is necessary to “get everybody into a room together” and have a conversation about how to “put college athletics first and put college football first.”

For now, Franklin said one of the most difficult parts in stomaching the decision has been to watch some conferences resume normal operations under the guidance of medical experts, while life for his team is anything but normal.

“As much as you can keep this thing similar, that every college student-athlete across the country is having as similar of an experience as possible, I think that’s in the best interest of college athletics,” he said. “The NCAA I grew up with was about trying to create as level a playing field as you possibly could create. Right now, we’re not living within those times.”