By all accounts, James Franklin is an excellent coach who will bring winning ways to his new position as Penn State University’s head football coach. That’s what he did at Vanderbilt University, where he also is credited with doing the right thing by kicking five players off the team after four were accused of rape and one of covering it up.
Mr. Franklin, however, was the wrong choice for Penn State.
The problem is not the man. The problem is the message, the one that Penn State’s board of trustees sent in hiring him.
After two years of trying to put the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal in the past and promising to focus on prevention and proactive means to prevent Penn State’s reputation from being similarly tarnished in the future, the choice of someone attached to a tainted program is a mistake, even though Mr. Franklin was unsullied by it.
Penn State’s leaders have repeatedly asserted that football wins don’t come first, but that’s just what the trustees have done in choosing Mr. Franklin. Surely he was not the only fine coach available to lead the storied Nittany Lions at this particularly challenging time in the team’s history.
Now that he is the coach, Mr. Franklin has a dual mission. Of course he will be expected to improve Penn State’s record on the field. He also must set an unscrupulous tone for his players and staff. And the Penn State faithful must keep their fingers crossed that no new details come out of Vanderbilt that will undercut those efforts.