James Franklin Introductory Press Conference
Jan. 11, 2014
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Thank you for being here. I'd like to introduce everyone here on the dais. To your far right, Penn State President Dr. Rodney Erickson, in the middle, head football coach, James Franklin, and on the far left is Director of the Athletics, Dave Joyner. We're going to have some brief comments from all three individuals first, then we'll take some question and answers. We have two handheld microphones, we'll ask that you please raise your hand and we'll bring a microphone to you. Dr. Erickson?
DR. ERICKSON: Thank you, good afternoon everyone. I'm delighted to be with you here on this very important and special occasion for Penn State. Our university has had a very long and successful tradition with this football program, one that has contributed to Penn State in so many ways over many, many years. Our successes have been registered both on the field and in the classroom, and that is of fundamental value here at Penn State. Our program requires a very special kind of leader to continue those successes, a leader who is committed to academic excellence while coaching our students as they compete at the highest level.
We ran a careful and deliberate search process, and I believe we have found the right person to lead our program. He is an inspiring young leader who has accomplished much already in his career, learning the ropes of coaching in both the collegiate and NFL ranks. He took his former program to a remarkable turnaround in a short period of time while competing in one of the toughest conferences in the country. And I see believe he will continue to build our Penn State football program while operating at the highest level of integrity. He values family and team work which have been keys to his success. I personally look forward to working with him.
I want to thank the members of the search committee who were unanimous and enthusiastic in their recommendation. Now I'd like to turn the podium over to Dr. [Dave] Joyner, our Athletics Director.
DR. JOYNER: Thanks, Dr. Erickson. Welcome everybody. I said it would be days, not weeks, and so it's one week and two days, nine days, so let's get that out of here so you guys are not going to ask me about that.
I do want to say that I'm extremely proud to welcome James Franklin as our next Penn State head football coach. We feel that we had a great pool of candidates, and Coach Franklin is the right choice for us. He's going to be a great representative of the terms I use, integrity, academics and championships, and he brings that great foundation with him from the great Vanderbilt University here.
He's the next phase with us at Penn State football, and he and his family are going to be great members of this community.
This next phase of Penn State football is built on a tremendous foundation of those that came before, and we're very much looking forward to the future. You're here to talk about and to Coach Franklin. I just want to welcome him again, and welcome James Franklin and his family here to Happy Valley and looking forward to working with you very, very much, James.
COACH FRANKLIN: Thank you. I'd like to start by thanking Vanderbilt University. I had an unbelievable experience there. Today was an emotional day to be able to go there and say goodbye to our team. That was a very emotional day saying bye to the 107 sons that we left back in Nashville. David Williams, the Athletics Director, was a tremendous mentor and leader. I'll be forever grateful to him.
I'd like to introduce my family. My wife, Fumi, who is here, and our daughters, Shola and Addison, who really run the show. Shola and Addison are the bosses.
That's really what it's going to be about for us is family. Now I have two daughters and 95 new sons, and a lot of coaches say that, but we truly mean that.
My daughters' favorite thing in the world is the football boys, their uncles. My wife and daughters come to the football facility every day whether it's to have lunch with us or to come at the end of the school day or workday, I think that's very, very important. We work long hours, we work extremely hard, but we've created a great environment in our office.
All the coaches' wives and kids will come around. I think that's very, very important to what we're doing in terms of helping young men grow into successful leaders that are going to have an impact on society one day for them to see how we interact with our wives and for them to see how we interact with our kids is part of that. That's very, very important to what we're trying to do.
So at Penn State I'll have two daughters and 95 sons, and every decision we make in this program will be based on that.
Honored to be joining a long line of great coaches with Bob Higgins, Rip Engle and the great Joe Paterno. Then Bill O'Brien, a guy that I worked with at the University of Maryland who I have tremendous respect for is going to be a great resource for me, a guy that I can call and bounce questions off of and I know he's going to do great things, and we wish him the best of luck.
I'd like to thank President Erickson and our Athletics Director, Dr. Dave Joyner, who have been unbelievable through this whole experience. I know you said it went quickly. It didn't really feel that way to me, but we spent a lot of time talking about a lot of different subjects. I felt like they conducted and extremely thorough interview, and I was able to ask a lot of different questions on a lot of different subjects, and really appreciate how they handled the whole process with first class.
I'm excited to come home. That is probably the thing that I take the most pride in is coming home. I'm a Pennsylvania boy with a Penn State heart, and so excited to be here.
My background growing up in Eastern Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia. My dad is from Pittsburgh, so I would spend all my summers and holidays in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My dad was from the Hill District, Bedford Avenue. I grew up just outside of Philadelphia in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania boy with a Penn State heart, and couldn't be more proud. I think I'm the right guy to come back and unite this state. Unite this state and bring this program back to where I think it can be.
Our academic philosophy: I believe in the true student athlete. This is a place where a young man can have it all. He can get a world-class education. He can play football at the very, very highest level, and reach all of his dreams. To me, that's why we made this decision.
It wasn't an easy decision. We weren't going to leave Vanderbilt. We worked very, very hard to build something that we could be proud of, had all types of success in the classroom, had all types of success on the football field. But we felt like this was a special opportunity, an opportunity where we could walk into a young man's home and offer the best of everything. An opportunity to get a great education, an opportunity to play for championships, and that's what we're all about.
World-class academics, true student athletes, and unrivaled football tradition. To walk out into that stadium just a few minutes ago and see one of the world-class facilities is unbelievable to me.
I remember I came to camp here when I was in 11th grade. Coach [Jim] Caldwell was the quarterbacks coach. I thought I was good enough to play at Penn State. I was not. I ended up having a great experience in college, but to walk out in that stadium is just an unbelievable feeling and an unbelievable experience. I'm so proud to be the next head football coach here at Penn State University.
Our recruiting philosophy, we are going to dominate the state. We are going to dominate the state. We are going to dominate the region.
I've worked a lot of different institutions that tried to compete in recruiting against Penn State University, and it was always an unbelievable challenge because this school has everything that young men are looking for; this school has everything that families are looking for. That is going to be our plan, and I'm calling all the high school coaches. I'm calling all the people in the state that we need to come together like never before.
I think with everybody pulling the rope in the same direction there is no reason why we can't take this program where everybody wants it to be. We should take great pride in representing the state of Pennsylvania. We should take great pride in being having the ability to play for Penn State University, and that's what we're going to do. We're going to unite the coaches, we're going to unite the community, and build this program where everybody wants it to be.
That is what I'm going to leave you with. I can't tell you how proud that myself and my family are to be here and the rest of the coaches that are going to be joining us, to represent this fine institution, and to build a program that everybody can be really proud of both on and off the field. That is the fans, that is the alumni, that is everybody that cares about Penn State University. We're going to work extremely hard to put a product both on the field and off that everybody can be truly, truly proud of.
Can't tell you how excited we are to be here. My name is James Franklin, the next head football coach at Penn State University, and I couldn't be more proud to represent everybody here. Thank you.
Q. You're in a job that Joe Paterno held for 45 years and Bill O'Brien held for two years. What is your vision of what this job will be to you and how long do you intend I guess that's a loaded question. But in terms of your career, how do you view this in terms of your stay here?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I'm a kid who played Division II football. I'm a blue collar guy that had to work my way up the ladder to get in this position. If you look at my resume, it's probably not a great example of who I am. I lived in nine different states and countries in my first nine years to get to this position. I'd still be at Vanderbilt right now if it wasn't just such an unbelievable opportunity.
We're coming here with the mindset that we're going to build this program. We're going to build it the right way, and we're going to build it for the long haul. We plan on being here for a very, very long time. This is my dream job. This is where I want to be. Wearing these colors, representing this state, representing these high school coaches and the people of the fine state of Pennsylvania is what I want to do for a very, very long time. Our plan is to go out and win a bunch of games so we can stay here.
Q. It seemed like you had a number of opportunities to change jobs in the press, anyway. This job comes with the fact that the president is going to be stepping down on June 30th, if not before and a new president may bring with him a new athletics director. What consideration did you take into those facts as you made up your mind to take this job?
COACH FRANKLIN: Again, we had great dialogue. We talked about everything. I was completely upfront and honest with all my concerns and things I was excited about. They were completely upfront and honest about all their concerns and things they were excited about. We had great dialogue on multiple occasions, not only in person but over the phone, and that was a concern. But I think with the right plan, and the right people, and the discussions we had, what I was sold on and what I believe is that Penn State has a plan and has a purpose and has a certain type of individual that they want to bring here that are going to be attracted to this institution.
Hopefully, we're in a position where we're able to have these conversations for a very long time. But the plan was and the discussion was that Penn State is going to attract the best and the brightest and people with the same values. So that's what made me very, very comfortable.
Q. Coach O'Brien left after two years, but you know him very well. Were you surprised that this job opened up? Were you interested once you heard Coach O'Brien had left and how did that work between Dave and yourself as far as the circumstances?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I was very interested right from the beginning. When I heard about the opportunity and I heard about the opening. Obviously, there was some contact from that point on and we started to get into discussions. It's very difficult because you have a job and you have a responsibility and you have a game to play.
But we try to keep our focus on that and control the things that we can control. If an opportunity presents itself to sit down and have a discussion about this job in the future once the season was over, then we were going to do that. Luckily we were able to do that, and I'm fortunate to be sitting here today as the next football coach of Penn State University.
Q. Everything's happened so quickly, have you had a chance to think about staff? Have you had a chance to think about Ron Vanderlinden or Larry Johnson or any of the former coaches or your staff that you may bring with you?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yes, I have. I'm a guy that for the last 12 years has been creating a staff. I have a list of receiver coaches and tight end coaches and offensive coordinators and defensive coordinators for the right job and the right fit and the right setting making sure that we're always prepared. That's something you're going to find from me is we're going to work very, very hard to be prepared for every situation that may come up.
I am fiercely loyal as a person in general, and I'm going to be fiercely loyal to the guys that I've worked with in the past. But I also know that we're going to sit down and have some discussions with some people that are here. I think there are some people that can help us in the transition. Guys that have strong Penn State ties, guys that understand this place.
Although we had a plan that was very effective at Vanderbilt, you also better have a plan that is specific to that institution. When you have people that have a history and understand the place, they can help with that. So I'm looking forward to getting a chance to sit down with the coaches as well as some of the administration and put together the very best staff that we possibly can put together for Penn State University.
Q. Given the fact that a coach has just left for the NFL from this job and there was rampant speculation that you'd be having interviews with National Football League teams, what is it about the collegiate game that you enjoyed the most?
COACH FRANKLIN: I had a great experience in my time in the NFL. I think it was something that was very important in my development. There is no doubt about it, but I'm a college guy. I'm a relationship guy. You guys are going to ask me what our offensive philosophy and defensive philosophy and special teams philosophy is, I really don't care. To me it's about people. I love kids. You're not going to find a coach that cares more about their players than me, and their complete development, academically, athletically, socially, spiritually, the whole package. That's what drives me.
I didn't grow up saying I wanted to be a football coach. I got my undergraduate degree in psychology, I wanted to get my doctorate in psychiatry or psychology, and started to coach the game of football as a graduate assistant to get it paid for, and realized I could have just as much of an impact on people and kids' lives through the game of football than through psychology and psychiatry and caught the bug. That's what it's all about for me.
That's why it was so difficult in leaving Vanderbilt because those kids were my family. That's what we're going to build here.
Q. Have you had any dialogue with current Penn State players? If not, when will you and what will your message be to them?
COACH FRANKLIN: It is going to be a sprint from here on out, and that is talking to the players, the current players. That is going to be contacting recruits. That's going to be contacting former players. That's going to be contacting influential supporters of the program and of the university. We've got a lot of work to do in a very, very short period of time, and it's time sensitive because of the recruiting process as well. Basically when we leave here probably until 2:00 in the morning and we'll be back up at 3 or 4:00 in the morning getting going again.
Luckily, I'm fortunate I'm not a guy that needs a whole lot of sleep. My wife does. We always have those discussions. She's amazed that I can get by on five hours sleep. That's just kind of who I am.
The interesting thing with this job is you've got to wear a lot of hats, and every job is important, connecting with the former players, recruiting, developing relationships on campus. I think that's one of the best things that we did when we first got to Vanderbilt is that I went around and took every dean, the provost, vice chancellors out to lunch. And I plan on doing the same thing here. Taking everybody that I can on this campus out to lunch and getting to know them and asking them questions and what can we do better? What are areas that you think I need to be aware of? Same thing in the community, reaching out as much as you possibly can.
I had a unique experience with the Green Bay Packers in the NFL, but that was kind of like a college program because it's amazing how that organization is so connected to the community. That's what I love about college football. So me and my wife and my children will be out in this community. We'll not turn down a speaking engagement. We'll get out and interact with people. People ask us to come speak at schools; we're going to be there. People ask us to come speak at social events; we're going to be there. People ask us to blow up balloons in their kid's birthday party in the backyard; we'll do that as well.
We'll do everything we can to bring this community back together and really take pride in this program and where we're going and how we're doing it, and you can't get more excited. As much as I love this press conference, I really can't wait for it to end so we can run out of here and get to work.
Q. Were you a Penn State fan growing up? Did you go to games, things like that? I know you mentioned how you went to the camp or whatever, but did you get a questionnaire ever from Penn State or any kind of look?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think I printed my own questionnaire off and filled it out and sent it in. They weren't sending it to me. But I think everybody in this state grows up as a Penn State fan. We didn't come to Penn State football games [because] I was playing. I was playing football games. I was out playing basketball. I was running around with my buddies in the neighborhood competing.
It was something that these kids don't understand. They're sitting in the air conditioning, playing video games all day. We were out running the streets, playing basketball, competing.
But, yeah, I grew up a Penn State fan. Always dreamed of this opportunity. And it's funny, me and my wife were talking about it on the ride over here and we discussed this when we first started dating about my dream jobs, and my answer to her was Penn State. I didn't know if I'd ever have the opportunity because I didn't think the guy that was coaching [Joe Paterno] when I was growing up would ever leave. So very, very proud, very, very proud to have this opportunity.
Q. You talked about realizing your passion for coaching early on in your career at schools like East Stroudsburg and in the PSAC. Talk about getting from there to here now?
COACH FRANKLIN: Well, the other thing I'd like to mention is I think that's exciting. The fact that I went to East Stroudsburg University, which has historically been a phys ed teacher's college. All my buddies are out coaching throughout the state. I think that's going to be a tremendous resource for us as well as the PSAC in general.
Again, I was a Division II guy that's had to work for everything he's got in this profession, but I've had great experience and had a chance to work for a bunch of really good guys.
Denny Douds was my college coach. I think he's been there 48 years, something that I'm going to try to challenge him with. My quarterbacks coach Mike Terwilliger has been there 27 or 28 years. My college roommate, Mike Santella has been there 12 or 13 years. I think being around people like that, obviously working for Ralph Friedgen and Mike Sherman, and experiencing all the great people I worked with at Vanderbilt, I've been able to steal great things from everybody I've worked for.
I'd like to mention Debbie Yow who has been an unbelievable mentor to me. To this day I can still pick up the phone and call Debbie Yow, one of the most respected athletics directors in the country. So I've been fortunate to be around some great people and been able to steal things that I felt were tremendous characteristics, leadership characteristics that fit my personality. And that's been integral to my success.
Q. Since you brought it up, offensive, defensive philosophy, you've got a pretty talented team with a great quarterback. How excited will you be, spring ball being a ways off, how excited will you be to have these guys out on the field and seeing what you've got in your offense and defense? Can you give us a peek as to what that might look like?
COACH FRANKLIN: Very excited, but we have a lot of work to do between now and spring ball, but very excited to get out there. I know they're anxious as well to get playbooks, to get video to all those things. What I would say is we're going to run multiple pro style offense, defense, and special teams. To me, I'm not a guy that's going to pigeon hole what we're going to do. I think my philosophy is you go out and hire really smart people, and you have a system that has flexibility to take advantage of all your strengths and hide your weaknesses. I think that's what we all try to do in whatever organization or whatever business you're in. You play to your strengths and hide your weaknesses, and that's what we're going to do.
I don't believe in one offense or one defense or one special teams philosophy is the end all, be all. It's about taking advantage of the assets that you have, and that's what we're going to do.
We'll be pro style, multiple pro style offense, defense, and we'll be aggressive in everything we do. When we get off the bus, we'll be aggressive. The way we call the game, we'll be aggressive. I think that's very, very important. I think the fans want to see an exciting style of defense. I think the fans want to see an exciting style of offense and special teams.
We'll take calculated risks. We're going to have fun. It always helps to have a quarterback. I don't care whether it's little league, high school, college or the NFL. If you have a quarterback, you've got a chance. We feel very, very good about the quarterback we have in our program right now.
Q. You know the history of this place the last couple of years. It's been tough. It's been really rigorous and tough for everybody. I'm sure what happened last summer at Vanderbilt came up during interview process. Can you enlighten us at all of what was asked of you with the rape case and how you responded to your interviews?
COACH FRANKLIN: Couldn't have been a more thorough interview process. We discussed everything. It's the most challenging thing that I've ever been through personally, as a father of two daughters, and professionally. But what I think that came out through all of this, through their background checks and all the information that they got is that we were honest. We were up front.
We made decisions quickly and tried to do everything we possibly could to respect the situation with the utmost class. Also work hard at supporting the young men that we have in our program currently on our roster and in our program right now.
But it could not have been a more thorough conversation that we could have had about it.
DR. JOYNER: I might add to that that this whole process of vetting was maybe the most thorough vetting process of any search perhaps of any position at this university. We utilized multiple independent third party sources. We used contacts and people that knew James closely, including officials and administrators from Vanderbilt, including [NC State athletics director] Debbie Yow who gave a resounding, resounding positive on James and his character and how he approaches situations, and her feelings after working with him and knowing him for 17 years.
It couldn't have been a more thorough vetting process with our committee, which is an extremely diverse committee, as you know, and with people that ask hard questions and got honest and true answers.
So my belief, without a doubt, is that James Franklin is a man of extremely high character. That when presented with a terrible situation, and God forbid, I wish we never had occasion to learn about James Franklin and how he would handle something like that, but having said that, the way he handled that situation and this has to do with the collective of everything we went through, plus our interviews, discussions with our athletics integrity officer, with counsel, with everybody there, he answered every question forth rightly and with great honesty.
So through this whole vetting process, I couldn't be more confident in the character of this man sitting to my left, and the fact that we have somebody that when presented with, and hopefully will never be presented with a situation like that again. But I have extreme confidence that he will handle that situation with great class and honor and do the right thing.
Q. You've recruited against Penn State and talked a lot about relationships and people, which ties right into recruiting. In what areas of the country would you like to really get into in terms of Penn State recruiting? And how has recruiting against Penn State helped you now recruit for it?
COACH FRANKLIN: I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but we're going to dominate the state. That is the first thing that we're going to do. I believe in the high school coaches in this state. I know how well [players are] coached and developed. I know how talented this state is as well. I know how important football is here. I think that's very, very important. So that is the first thing we're going to do. We're going to work very, very hard and put a staff together that will help us dominate the state of Pennsylvania.
Then obviously being able to recruit aggressively in this region as well. New Jersey, obviously Pennsylvania, New York, New England, Virginia, Delaware has been very good to Penn State traditionally. I think also we were going to take a national approach by position. We will do that as well. So everybody will have recruiting areas, everybody will be in the state. Every one of our staff members will have an area in the state. We'll also have areas in the region and the states that surround Pennsylvania.
We'll recruit nationally as well, because I think you sell yourself short when you don't do that. We could have a Penn State alumni in California whose son always grew up wanting to go to Penn State. So having the ability to recruit nationally so that we're aware of where all the great players are in this country, I think that's important. But our team will be comprised and mainly made up of Pennsylvania young men.
Q. Everybody knows you coached with [Bill O'Brien] on the same staff at Maryland. I read somewhere you guys were friends. Have you kept a relationship throughout this time, and especially this past week and the couple weeks leading up here did you maybe bounce some things off him and find some things out?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, me and Billy [O'Brien] were on the same staff. We kind of were brought up in this profession under Ralph Friedgen. Billy was with him at Georgia Tech, and I was with him at the University of Maryland, and we were able to get back together at the University of Maryland. Me and Billy lived in the same neighborhood. Colleen [O'Brien] and my wife are good friends. They've spoken this week about the most important thing, which is school districts and houses.
I think Billy and Colleen think they're slick. I think they're really just trying to get us to buy their house. But they're a great resource for us; there is no doubt about it. We know each other very well. He's got a big job to do. I have a big job to do, so I don't want to spend too much time bothering him. But it is a tremendous resource for us.
Q. When you say you're going to dominate the state, which I believe you've said four times today, and you also mentioned having Pittsburgh roots. There is one other major college program in the state. Could what you're saying right now be interpreted as throwing down the gauntlet at Pitt? Obviously, Penn State hasn't been as active in Western Pennsylvania as it was in the past.
COACH FRANKLIN: Well, I have tremendous respect for the University of Pittsburgh, tremendous respect for their coach, tremendous respect for their university. But when I say Pennsylvania, and when I say Penn State, that is the whole state. We will recruit every corner of this state, every school of this state, every neighborhood of this state. And when I say recruit, not only just the student athletes, I mean the people of the great state of Pennsylvania. We will recruit everybody, and that is with tremendous respect for the University of Pittsburgh. But we are...Penn State.
Q. You said today it's been emotional for you. Can you describe what your emotions have been throughout this entire process when you realized this would be a legit opportunity for you, and what it meant for Vanderbilt to push back and the AD make the public comments that he wanted to keep you and what that meant to you?
COACH FRANKLIN: Again, I'm a relationship based person. So the way we interact with our players and the reason we've been successful at Vanderbilt is because we have unbelievable chemistry on our staff and with our players. That's why we'll be successful here as well because these kids will know how much we care about them. I believe you can be unbelievably challenging and demanding on people if you love them hard as well. That's what we're about.
So with that, it's hard to walk away from something that you poured your heart into, that you poured your heart into. Those kids, some of them might be a little disappointed or angry right now, and that's natural. That's natural. But being able to walk into that room today and do it the right way and talk to them face to face and let them know how much I care about them and how I want to see them all go on and do wonderful things in their communities, in the classroom and on the field, I hope they understand that I'll always be a part of their life. Do anything I possibly can to help them. That's what this program is going to be based on as well. It's about relationships and treating people the right way.
Q. When is the last time you were at Penn State, and what was it like earlier on stepping off that plane and being greeted by a few Penn State fans?
COACH FRANKLIN: Last time I was here I was a recruiter at University of Maryland. At that point you were allowed to have a Nike combine. You were allowed to go out and be at those. They've changed those rules. That was the last time I was here. Before that, obviously, when I was trying out to try to be the quarterback and I got rejected from coach [Jim] Caldwell.
But stepping off that plane today was unbelievable. The fans and the media at the airport got a chance to walk over and meet two beautiful young women by the fence and be able to shake their hands, young ladies. Just the sense of pride in this place, I think that is the biggest thing. We were able to establish a sense of pride at Vanderbilt with those kids and with that program. But to step off the plane today and meet the people, and walk around the facilities, and see everybody that shows up here today, it's special. It's probably even more special being a Pennsylvania kid, and like I mentioned before, a Pennsylvania kid with a Penn State heart, with the same values and the same morals.
Q. Have you had much contact at all with Larry Johnson? Would he be somebody you might reach out to remain on the staff? And also Ron Vanderlinden. You've had a working relationship with him as well, would he be a potential staff member?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, they're both guys we'll have discussions with. Ron [Vanderlinden] gave me my first big opportunity at the University of Maryland. I was there with him for one year. Larry [Johnson], I knew Larry very well because he recruited in the Maryland and D.C. area and had a lot of success. We've known each other through that. So, yeah, like I mentioned before. We're going to sit down and talk to current coaches. We're going to talk to coaches that have Penn State ties. Again, like I mentioned before, I'm fiercely loyal to the guys that were at Vanderbilt with me. And if you look at that staff, it's a northeast staff.
I remember when we first went there, people said you didn't hire anybody with SEC ties. I went out and hired a bunch of really, really smart guys that I believe in and that I've known for a very, very long time. So I think a lot of those guys are going to be a great fit here as well.
But my job and my responsibility is to put the best staff together that I possibly can for Penn State University, and that's what we'll start doing as soon as I can get out of here. So if you want me to start working on it, just stop asking questions and I'll get out of here.
Q. The previous staff had almost filled its allotted scholarships before they left. How will your approach be with the kids that have already verbally committed for the 2014 class?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, we're going to reach out to those guys right away. One of the things that's kind of unique and interesting is a lot of those guys that we had recruited in the past, so I have a relationship with some of those guys already. [It's the] same thing with the guys on the current roster, [but] since they turned me down last time, they'll be at the bottom of the depth chart and have to work their way back up. [laughs]
But I think the fact that I'm from this area and have a lot of connections, I think there's going to help in the transition. High school coaches that I have relationships with, and they know the type of man I am and what we represent, I think those things are going to help. But, yeah, I need to get on the phone with these people as soon as we possibly can. I think there are still some scholarships available. We want to make sure we maximize those as well. I really wish that we had 35 scholarships in this class, because I think we can put together one of the top recruiting classes in the country. But I guarantee you those are coming. Those are coming.
We've got too many things to sell here at this great institution. We've got too many things to sell that families and young men are looking for.
Q. When did you become interested in coaching? When did you set that as a career? You said you majored in psychology at Stroudsburg, who have been your biggest coaching influences?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I took a job working at Kutztown, made $1,200. I filled soda machines up in the morning, I remember the players were walking on the campus and they'd make fun of me filling the soda machines up on campus. I lived in a guy by the name of Joe Ludwig's basement, and caught the bug of coaching. I ended up going back to East Stroudsburg. Actually, I coached at Kutztown for six months, then I went over and played in Europe. Did that for six months, then went back to Stroudsburg as an assistant. It just kind of went from there. Taking classes and getting my degree, that was very important to me to getting my masters degree. I was close to continuing on to get my Ph.D. at Washington State, but I just caught the bug.
I've had a lot of influences. Debbie Yow the athletics director at N.C. State and [Vanderbilt athletics director] David Williams, those two will be mentors and friends for the rest of my life.
Ralph Friedgen had a huge impact on me. When I worked for Ralph, Ralph was in "Sports Illustrated" as the No. 1 mind in College Football, and I remember saying to him, Ralph, everybody says you're a genius. He goes I'm not a genius, I just outprepare people, and that had a big impact on me. The time that I spent in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers and Mike Sherman had a big impact on me.
Going to Kansas State and taking over for a legend in Bill Snyder who was still involved in the program, and I met with and still stay in contact with, had a big impact on me.
Denny Douds who the consistency that he's brought to that program and the consistency of his message is something that always hit home with me. I'm a guy that's always writing things down. I read a lot of books, whether they're business books, leadership books, whether they're sports books. So I'm constantly trying to grab information and things that I think can help our program and help our kids, so that's what we're constantly trying to do as an organization.
Q. At Vanderbilt you had to rally the fans to show up at the games. At Penn State you don't have to do that. You'll have at least 90,000 in that stadium.
COACH FRANKLIN: What's the stadium hold?
COACH FRANKLIN: Is there a reason you said 90,000?
Q. That's when it's at its worst, but I know you're going to bring it back up.
COACH FRANKLIN: 107,000 from here on out. That stadium will be sold out every single game from here on out.
Q. That's what everybody wants to hear. What will you he feel when you see that, and can you describe where your work ethic comes from?
COACH FRANKLIN: Walking into a stadium that is sold out and is passionate, everybody talks about the impact it has on recruits, and it has a tremendous impact on recruits. When you're a 17-, 18 year old kid, it's hard not to be affected by that. But same as coaches. I've got a bunch of coaches that have been calling me all day. From this morning until now I have 278 text messages on my phone. That's from friends, people excited about this opportunity, from people that want an opportunity to come join us here.
Penn State is a special place. There are only a handful of Penn States in this country. An opportunity to coach here is such a tremendous honor that I take so much pride in. We're going to wake up every single morning, do a back handspring out of bed, excited about the opportunity to represent this great institution.
My work ethic comes from my mom. My dad was in the Air Force, was stationed in Manchester, England, and met my mom. They eloped to Ireland, got married, then he brought her back to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
My dad ended up getting a job working for GM in Trenton, New Jersey. So we moved just outside of Philadelphia. Dad wasn't around a whole lot after that, and my mom, in this country without any support system, raised me and my sister. She had a lot of jobs. She was a janitor at my high school, and I saw how much she invested in her children. I was raised by nothing but women. Women had a huge impact in my life.
My aunt on my dad's side, my Aunt Lawanda is the assistant dean at the engineering school at Howard. I've been raised by powerful, intelligent, strong women my entire life. My mom has had the biggest impact on me, the type of man I am, my work ethic, and to this day I still wake up trying to make her proud.
Q. Wondering where you see over the last couple years the healing process of this university and what role you see yourself in that? And also unrelated, had you ever met Joe [Paterno] along the way?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, every chance I got, whether it's the [AFCA] convention and I saw Joe [Paterno], I was that guy that walked up and introduced myself. I remember recruiting in the state of Pennsylvania against Joe, and I thought we were doing pretty good. I walked in and had to show my I.D. and do everything I possibly could to get into the school. Joe walked in and shut the entire school down. They had an in school assembly, and I realized I had no chance. I really had no chance.
But the healing process is why I'm here. It's why we're all here, to bring this great university back together and try to unite the former players, the current players, the alumni, all the people. Because I think that is the reality is everybody just takes great pride in this university and they want to see it great in everything, academically, athletically, socially, spiritually, the whole package.
I know that I'm a guy that believes that as well. I believe I'm here for that. So we're going to work very, very hard in not only developing our student athletes in this football program, but also trying to reach out and connect with all the people that take such pride in this great university.
Q. Following up, Bill O'Brien, despite his success here the last couple years was hounded a lot by a certain wing of the community who always looked at it through kind of the glasses of what would Joe Paterno have done? How are you prepared to handle kind of the second guessing that may come from that swing with this job?
COACH FRANKLIN: Well, first of all, [I have] tremendous respect for Joe Paterno and what he did here and how he built this program. I think that the biggest thing is what I said before is that everybody is so passionate and has such strong opinions because they care so much about this university and what it stands for. I think the fact that they have someone sitting in this role right now that cares just as much about it as they do, I think is important.
I've gotten a bunch of great phone calls in the last week. You know, Matt Millen has reached out and been great, really been supportive and has given me really good insight. LaVar Arrington has been great. As soon as he found out my dad side's of the family was from the Hill, we connected right away and had a great conversation. Todd Blackledge, I had a chance to sit down with him doing the ESPN National Championship Game. He pulled me aside and we had a chance to have a good conversation.
Last [time] trip me and my wife went on the Nike trip and developed a good relationship with Sue Paterno, and she reached out and sent an email to my wife as well. I think that's what everybody's looking for. They just want a great university. They want a great football program. They want to do it with honor and do it the right way, and that's what we're here to take this university and bring it back together and unite it so that we can all just be so, so proud of everything that it stands for on and off the field.
Q. You mentioned earlier about some of your initial concerned with this job regarding the leadership, the uncertainty there. You also mentioned the scholarship limitations. There is still a bowl ban on the table as well. What were your discussions? Did that come up during the interview process as well? What are some of the other concerns as you try to sell this program?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, we did discuss that. They couldn't have been more open and honest and thorough. I couldn't have been more open, honest and thorough. What we're going to do is wake up every single day and maximize that day both academically, athletically, socially and spiritually. We'll wake up every day and attack that day.
We'll focus on the things that we can control. The things that we can't control. I'm going to leave those things up to the administration. I'm going to leave those things up to the politicians, and I'm just going to coach and love these kids in this program and help them develop into the young men that they want to be. That's our focus. Focus on the things we can control, work hard every day to develop the best student athletes we can, develop the best football program we possibly can, and be a positive part of this community. I think that's the thing that we look at.
We're coming here to win football games, but we know ultimately we're here to graduate players and educate kids. But the thing that excites us the most is the opportunity to make a positive impact on this community. When I say this community, I'm talking about State College, but I'm also talking about the state of Pennsylvania and this region. I think Penn State has the ability to touch so many people in such a positive way, and that's what we want to do.
Q. Getting back to your statement about recruiting, can we take that as an intention to strike hard into the fear of coach [Urban] Meyer who is considered the top recruiter in the conference right now?
COACH FRANKLIN: You can take it as a guy that is passionate about being at Penn State. You can take it as a guy that takes tremendous pride in the high school players from this state. You can take it as a guy that has the utmost respect for the high school coaches in this state. And what we're going to do is we're going to get everybody to understand that if we all buy into what Penn State is all about, and everybody's pulling the rope in the same direction, and everybody's saying if we stay home that we've got a chance to build something very special, and then accent those young men that stay home with talent from surrounding areas and nationally, that the sky is the limit for us.
So we're just going to focus on Penn State. We're going to focus on how great that we can be by waking up every morning and maximizing that day. Again, we're going to focus on us. By focusing on us, we're going to be able to reach our dreams.
Q. You mentioned wanting to focus on yourself. Coming from the SEC, such a tough conference now in the Big Ten east. You talk about coaches Urban Meyer, [Mark] Dantonio, Brady Hoke, and now yourself. How about that challenge of what that top level of competition maybe means to you?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, tremendous respect for those coaches, tremendous respect for those institutions. I have tremendous respect for the conference that I just left. I think what a better way to get prepared. What a better way to come here and compete at the highest level and be excited for the challenges that that presents.
But I believe, I believe in the history of this institution. I believe in the core values of this institution. The integrity, the character that this place is all about, and I believe. I believe in everything that this place is about and where it's going.
We're excited for those challenges on the field. We're excited for those challenges in recruiting, and we're excited to be able to look at graduation rates and everything else. We'll compete in everything we do. Our four core values will be to have a positive attitude. Every single person associated with our program will have a great attitude and be very appreciative of the opportunity they have at Penn State.
Number two, we're going to work extremely hard. You know, there is not going to be a program or a coach in the country that's going to outwork us.
Number three, we're going to compete in everything we do, starting in the classroom. We're going to compete in everything we do.
Then the fourth thing is our guys and everybody in our program are going to know that you've got to sacrifice. You've got to sacrifice things that the common man won't sacrifice to get to where you want to go in life. There are four core values and we're going to live by them every single day.
Guys, thank you so much for being here today. We had an unbelievable first experience. We still have a lot left on our plate. I look forward to getting to know everybody on a more personal level. And once again, I can't tell you how proud I am to be your football coach and to represent everybody in the great state of Pennsylvania, and to be a part of Penn State University. We are...Penn State.