Analysis: Franklin drops 'dream' word on Penn State


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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- James Franklin could have stopped before diving into the same verbal pit that has enticed so many of his colleagues. He probably had the Penn State fans at "long haul" or "build this program," but Franklin went further; he went there. The new Penn State coach pulled out the most over-utilized phrase in the annual college football coaching carousel (other than, perhaps, "coaching carousel").

Franklin, at his introductory news conference, dropped the notorious d-bomb.

"This is my dream job," he said.

Franklin became the sixth coaching hire this offseason to use a variation of "dream" to describe his new job, illustrating that the profession of college football is exceptional at making dreams come true.

In the past 10 years -- from the end of the 2004 season to this current offseason -- 219 Division I-A football coaches have been hired. A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette analysis of every one of these hires revealed that 70 coaches, 32 percent, were dreamers. They directly referred to the job they were taking, like Franklin did, as a "dream job," or they used a variation, such as describing their new position at their respective school as "a dream come true." Nearly all of these proclamations took place at the coach's introductory news conference.

For a school like Penn State, Franklin's words could soothe the pain of losing Bill O'Brien after two years, quite the jilt considering Penn State had spent the previous 46 with Joe Paterno.

Should fans be wary of dreamers like Franklin?

Excluding the coaches hired this year because they haven't had the opportunity to coach a season, coaches who described their new job as a dream lasted at that school an average of 3.3 years. Coaches who didn't lasted a fraction longer, 3.4 years.

The dreamers did have a couple of advantages, though. Their combined winning percentage was .517, compared to .443 for the non-dreamers. They also had a lower rate of leaving their school for another position, 16 percent compared to 22 percent, and of being fired, 27 percent compared to 31 percent. Of the coaches hired from the conclusion of the 2004 season through 2013, 56 percent of the dreamers still have the same job, whereas 47 percent of the non-dreamers still have theirs. So even though the average duration for both sets of coaches is about the same, dreamers have proven slightly more stable in other metrics.

Statistics be damned, Pitt fans would tell Penn Staters to cringe when they hear anything about dreaming. They know too well the dreaded Todd Graham paradox, a phenomena that involves turning the singularity of a dream into a plurality.

Graham accepted the Rice head coaching job before the 2006 season, calling it "a dream come true." Tulsa, a year later, was "my dream, I wanted to be coach at Tulsa." Fours year later, Pitt was "a dream come true for me and for my family and for my staff."

Graham lasted one season at Pitt. Then he left for Arizona State. There, perhaps wanting to atone for his previous boasts and to establish a sense of permanence, Graham reached deep into his butterfly net of dreams, using a variation of "dream" six times to describe his new position.

"There's not any place you're going to take a job," he explained in 2012, "and say, 'I made a mistake coming here.'"

Graham gets the most flack for dropping the d-bomb multiple times, but he's not the only guilty coach. Steve Sarkisian said Southern California had "always been a dream of mine" last month after earlier calling Washington his dream job, albeit not at his introductory news conference. Dave Clawson, just hired by Wake Forest -- "truly a dream come true"---- said his previous stop at Bowling Green was "a dream come true." Al Golden, a top candidate who reportedly interviewed for the Penn State job, said Miami was "a dream job" when he was hired there.

Steve Addazio said he was "living his dream" at Temple after spending time at places that weren't quite right. He left after two years for Boston College, "my dream job," after the 2012 season. Then-athletic-director Bill Bradshaw used caution when choosing Temple's next coach, Matt Rhule, who did not dream about Temple.

"There were 119 serious applications, cut down to 36 potential candidates we considered for interviews," Bradshaw said at Rhule's introductory news conference. "Twelve of those told us Temple was their dream job. Some of them were interviewing for other jobs and couldn't make it for our scheduled interview. Four of those who told us Temple was their dream job said they needed a GPS on an OnStar to get from the airport to campus, so we eliminated them, as well."

Franklin never referred to coaching Vanderbilt as a dream, though he did call it a destination and "not a stepping-stone" when he was introduced there in late 2010. Time will tell if Franklin's tenure at Penn State will parallel Graham's myriad stops or that of Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy, the lone dreamer from this analysis who has stayed in the same place for nine seasons and counting.

Perhaps there is a favorable sign for Penn State. Franklin said a few years ago that when he and his wife, Fumi, were dating she asked him about his dream job. He said he told her Penn State.

Using hyperbole to excite a fan base is one thing. Bending the truth to a significant other? That's a far greater risk.


Mark Dent: mdent@post-gazette.com, 412-439-3791 and Twitter @mdent05.

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