STEVE HEISER COLUMN: An eventful week in July for Penn State football program
- Penn State recently announced it has sold nearly 10,000 new season-ticket plans.
- Penn State coach James Franklin will likely soon have a contract extension.
- Central Pennsylvania football standout Micah Parsons says he's still considering PSU.
- Penn State is suing former defensive coordinator Bob Shoop for nearly $900,000.
It’s early July.
There hasn’t been a meaningful college football game played for six months.
The next college football season doesn’t start for two months.
Still, the Penn State football program has made some major headlines over the past week.
It’s yet another indicator that the intense fan appetite for college football news never really wanes.
That’s especially true here in York County, which is home to a PSU branch campus, boasts a ton of PSU graduates and has long been a stronghold for Nittany Nation.
In case you were too busy enjoying picnics, fireworks and our nation’s independence, here’s a brief review of the busy week that was in PSU football, and a brief analysis of what each story really means.
Tickets going fast: It started last Wednesday, when the school announced that it had added nearly 10,000 new season-ticket holders for the upcoming season.
It’s no secret that PSU has had difficulty selling out cavernous Beaver Stadium in recent years in the wake of the Sandusky scandal and some rather ordinary seasons on the field.
That all changed last season, when the Lions stunned the college football world by winning the Big Ten title, making the Rose Bowl and finishing 11-3, good for a seventh-place ranking in the final Associated Press poll.
What does it mean? It’s pretty obvious. Fans love a winner, and the blue-and-white faithful are no different. Look for Beaver Stadium to be a lot more crowded during the 2017 season.
Extension for Franklin?:Just a couple days later, possible Penn State wideout recruit Solomon Enis (the son of Penn State All-American Curtis Enis), casually told a reporter that PSU head coach James Franklin had signed a five-year contract extension.
PSU athletic director Sandy Barbour didn't confirm that story, but she didn’t deny it either, saying only that keeping Franklin for the long haul is a priority. Enis later walked back his comments a bit, saying he’s simply under the impression that Franklin will soon have a long-term deal.
What does it mean? Again, it’s pretty obvious. Franklin isn’t going anywhere. It’s highly likely that the parameters of the deal are already set and the final announcement just needs to be made. According to USA Today’ssalary database, Franklin was the 10th highest-paid football coach in the nation last season with a total pay of $4.5 million (and $5.4 million ifall the bonuses are included). Look for that number to increase significantly when the new deal is soon announced.
Micah still likes Penn State: Five-star defensive end recruitMicah Parsons made big news in late April when he famously backed out on his longtime verbal commitment to play for PSU.
To say that caused great consternation in some corners of Nittany Nation would be a huge understatement, especially in this neck of the woods. Some experts believe the Harrisburg High (and former Central Dauphin) standout is the most talented football recruit in the nation.
Over the weekend, Parsons told Pennlive.com that he still likes Penn State and is still considering playing for the Lions.
What does it mean? Don’t look for Parsons to play for PSU. The central Pennsylvania star obviously enjoys the notoriety that comes with being courted by the nation’s top programs. He will likely continue stringing along the Lions so that he can keep the local — and vocal — PSU fan base off his case.
Ultimately, however, he’ll likely sign with another power program.
Suing Shoop: The news broke early this week that Penn State is suing former defensive coordinator Bob Shoop for nearly $900,000 after his alleged refusal to pay the university a buyout for breaking his contract early.
Shoop left the Lions after two years to take the same job at Tennessee.
When he was hired by the Vols in January of 2016, Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart acknowledged Shoop was handling his own buyout.
“It’s a very, very loud statement about how bad Bob wanted to be a part of what is going on here in our football program,” Hart told GoVols247.
What does it mean? It means that the PSU folks weren’t happy that Shoop left the Lions in the lurch for a sideways move to Tennessee. It also means that the Lions, after paying some massive penalties for the Sandusky scandal, aren’t willing to let any possible source of income go unclaimed.
Ultimately, look the for the two sides to come to a settlement.
So there you have it, a brief review of the busy week that was for Penn State football.
It makes you wonder what may be in store for Happy Valley over the coming weeks and months.
Steve Heiser is sports editor for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.