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Penn State's James Franklin frustrated by lack of Big Ten communication

DONNIE COLLINS
The (Scranton) Times-Tribune (TNS)
FILE - In this July 19, 2019, file photo, Penn State head coach James Franklin responds to a question during the Big Ten Conference NCAA college football media days in Chicago. The Nittany Lions return just 11 seniors from last season’s 9-4 team that finished third in the Big Ten East. Penn State has 55 first- or second-year players.
“You've got a bunch of guys that are hungry and are excited and that have something to really prove and got a chip on their shoulder,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “Obviously, you lack experience, and experience counts and experience matters.”(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

There are still rumors swirling that the Big Ten could vote soon on a potential football season starting sometime in October.

It’s news that, maybe, provides hope for football-hungry fans of programs like Penn State and Ohio State. But it’s also news that has kept evolving since the conference’s presidents and chancellors voted 11-3 to shut down fall sports a month ago.

Those rumors have reached every part of the conference, from the northwest corners of Nebraska to the shores of Maryland. They’ve reached James Franklin, for sure. But, Penn State’s head coach insists, that’s all they are to him.

During an ESPN Radio appearance Thursday morning, Franklin basically said he knows what fans know, and that a lack of direction from the top of the conference has proven especially frustrating as the chance for a mid-October start fades with each passing day.

“In terms of where we’re at,” Franklin said on the Keyshawn, Zubin and JWill show, “I’m not really sure. I think that’s part of the problem.”

Franklin said it has been a month since he has heard any meaningful information from Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren, the first-year conference head whose leadership in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic has been called into question by coaches throughout the Big Ten since news of the season’s postponement rocked the college football landscape.

Warren announced in August that the conference postponed fall sports because of “uncertainty” surrounding the coronavirus, but he has provided few public statements since, even as players have organized petitions, parents staged protests and president Donald Trump predicted a “immediate” return to play in a tweet last week.

During a press conference with beat reporters in August, Franklin maintained his consternation with the Big Ten rested less in the final decision to postpone than it did in the process it took to make the decision, the timing of it coming three weeks before the regular season was set to begin and the general lack of information that has come since.

“I think the big challenge as the head football coach is that your players and (their) parents think that you have all the answers to what is going on,” he told the radio program. “But the reality is, we’re dependent on the Big Ten to move this thing forward, and that has been challenging. It truly has.

“I think a big part of leadership is to deliver answers to people’s questions and also be able to drive people toward a vision and drive people toward a plan. Right now, we don’t have those things.”

Still, the push for a return to play is clearly growing in some circles.

Ohio State coach Ryan Day released a statement Thursday, largely echoing Franklin’s concerns about communication. Saying that while he understands the Big Ten’s decision, the reasons behind it have not been articulated clearly to coaches and players.

“Duke is playing Notre Dame, and Clemson is playing Wake Forest this weekend. Our players want to know: Why can’t they play?” Day wrote.

Meanwhile, University of Nebraska president Ted Carter told a Lincoln radio station that the Big Ten’s Return to Play committee has been working hard to come up with a plan to get back on the field this fall, and that a vote could be coming “very soon.”

“The fight,” he said, “is still on.”