James Franklin’s coaching future is a distraction for Penn State that only he can fix

The Sports Extra Podcast

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (WHTM) — The 2021 Penn State season started with five straight wins and a lot of optimism about making the College Football Playoff. It has since devolved into back-to-back losses and a carousel of coaching rumors surrounding James Franklin.

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As Penn State tries to avoid three losses in a row this week against Ohio State, Franklin was once again named the favorite to take over the head coach position at USC.

It was also reported this week that Franklin changed agents to Creative Artists Agency (CAA)’s Jimmy Sexton.

Franklin confirmed that on Tuesday but said it happened over the summer and was just being reported this week.

“[I am] completely focused on our season and our team and finding a way to beat Ohio State and be 1-0 this week,” Franklin said. “I’m not gonna get into the details.”

Reporters peppered Franklin with numerous questions about the USC rumors. The Athletic’s Audrey Snyder asked if he intends to coach for Penn State after this season.

“My focus is completely on Illinois, and this team and this program,” Franklin said. “I think I’ve shown over my 8 years my commitment to this university and this community. And that’s kind of my statement.”

Franklin, of course, meant to say Ohio State instead of Illinois. A harmless mistake, until he made the same error twice in his weekly availability.

“I think we’re trying to be focused on Illinois, and talking about Illinois as much as we possibly can,” Franklin said once again meaning to speak about Ohio State.

He also called this week’s venue The Big House (Michigan’s stadium), instead of The Shoe (where the Buckeyes play).

It’s easy to say that the loss to Illinois (arguably the worst loss in Franklin’s tenure at Penn State) and the swirling rumors about the USC or LSU jobs have descended the program into a pit of distraction.

“It has not been a discussion or an issue from the staff or the players,” Franklin said of the coaching rumors. “We’ve kept it very direct. Obviously, there are things that we have discussions in great detail in our building.”

But when asked to commit to the program and Penn State in the future, Franklin danced around the subject.

“There’s things that we can control and things that we can’t from the outside,” Franklin said. “But this has been kind of a story that has happened on numerous occasions and we just try to keep it as focused as we possibly can.”

The only one with the ability to end the distraction is Franklin. The eight-year head coach could say he has no intention of leaving Penn State. But he hasn’t.

Penn State (5-2) travels to Ohio State (6-1) on Saturday, October 30. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. on abc27. Full highlights and reactions will follow on abc27 News at 11.

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