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Sunday column: ‘Today was an emotional day’

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Morning, Lunatics …

>> The Sunday column from Beaver Stadium reacts to James Franklin’s strong opening statement that Penn State will ‘dominate the state’ in recruiting. And it does so via my asking if he was referencing Pitt.

Here’s video of that exchange and more about Franklin’s recruiting goals …

News coverage of the coach’s day is by beat man Chris Adamski, and it’s highlighted by some surprising Pittsburgh ties.

Franklin’s intelligence, enthusiasm lauded, by Bob Cohn.

More reaction to the hiring, by Jason Mackey.

A photo gallery of Franklin’s day, by staff shutterbug Barry Reeger.

I’ll appear on WPXI-TV’s Subway Final Word at 11:35 p.m., along with Rob Rossi, Bill Phillips and host Alby Oxenreiter.

There also will be a Monday column about baseball, and I’ll be holding my nose through the whole thing. This topic burns me up in a bad way.

Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and more, including his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the top four columnists in the country -- highest circulation category -- by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the top three columnists in the country by the National Headliners Awards. For 2013, he was named top columnist in the state by the Keystone Awards and second-place by the Pennsylvania AP Managing Editors.

104 Comments

  1. dK, I guess the answer to your question about the gauntlet was “Yes”.

    Mr. Franklin seems impressive.

    I feel a strange sense of foreboding about the Monday column. Haven’t even read Sunday’s yet.

    Stuart

  2. Really good Sunday column. I share your early impressions of Franklin. KDKA TV showed a clip from the SC airport where Franklin greeted some fans on the other side of a chain link fence. He did ask each of them for their names, including a couple little girls, and then repeated the names. Very impressive. Curious as to how L.J makes out with the change.

    Stuart

  3. 11-13 in the SEC.

    Non-conference, beating the likes of UMass, Elon, Army and something called Presby CC?

    Dominate the State? Franklins also competing with WVU and Michigan St, OSU among others for WPIAL recruits. Not just Pitt…And as Pitt is well aware, there aren’t as many blue chip recruits out there. Penn States gonna have to get a fair share of the Florida/southern talent.

    Maybe Franklin is a good hire. But its not going to come easy.

  4. Penn State hired Franklin because of his success at Vanderbilt since that college hadn’t done that well since the end of World War Two, no more, no less, and, naturally, he can hopefully work enough of that magic with the Nittany Lions.

    • This whole “James Franklin won in the SEC at Vanderbilt” is one of the most overblown, twisted and misconstrued facts I’ve ran into in college/pro sports in awhile.

      Beating Kentucky and Ole Miss and finishing 4th in the EAST!?! with a .500 record is not having success in the SEC. He was 11-13 overall in the SEC. Take away probably 7-8 garbage wins against teams like UMass, Army…

      He won in the SEC? He is “relentless” recruiter?…Quit being so smug and look at the facts. Vanderbilt was a program that could only go up. None of you seem to think he could be just padding his resume for the next job? That buyout is chump change.

      • does knocking franklin make you feel better? does it make pitt a better program? fact of the matter is that franklin succeeded at a place where coaching careers almost always die. sure, vandy had only one way to go. but franklin indeed took it there. in only three years, his teams did things no vandy team had done. ever. does all this guarantee that he will succeed at penn state? of course not. no hire anywhere is a cinch. in any job. but to minimize franklin’s accomplishments is just plain silly.

        • I may be under rating Franklin, but I think yourself and others are making him out to be more than what he is.

          To be honest it may not matter. If he’s as bad as I say, he LL be fired. If he’s as great as you say, a bigger college or NFL team will scoop him up.

  5. Interested to hear from the PSU alums.

  6. Watched the entire presser. Franklin has a reputation as a relentless recruiter, so nothing he said in that regard surprised me, He will be a problem to recruit against for everyone in the Northeast, not merely Pitt.

    I had never heard him speak before, and really liked his high energy and enthusiasm. He also seems to be able to direct his sense of humor at himself – always a sign of a true “people person”. I thought he seems more comfortable with people than O’Brien was, and O’Brien wasn’t bad. A distinct improvement in this regard over Paterno, who was crotchety for years with non players.

    Can he keep LJ around? Can he coach on game day? Can he unite PSU as much as he seemed to hope for? We’ll find out, but I thought yesterday went very well.

  7. Hoo-boy.

    That about sums it up for me, too, Dejan.

    Everything about Franklin makes me feel, I don’t know, out of breadth.

    I think that’s a good thing.

  8. My dream job…going to be here for a long, long time…feel like I’m coming home…yadda, yadda, yadda. What newly hired college coach didn’t land his “dream job?” Take everything Franklin and all the others say with a grain of salt. I noticed his 5 million buy out clause drops significantly after a couple of years. WHat do you need a buy out clause for if you’re planning to be somewhere for a long, long time?

    • Todd Graham’s “DREAM HEAD COACHING JOB” ==>

      * Rice (errr, no)

      * Tulsa (wait, that was wrong…)

      * Pitt – sburgh (close….sorrrrrry…need to go where we have FAMA-LEE)

      * Arizona State (…hmmm, this is getting old)

    • The buy out clause is only prudent, and apparently pretty standard these days. Nothing more there.

  9. He had to show some boldness and confidence at his opening press conference. The Northeast is wide open for recruiting, and there’s no reason he can’t take control of that. Hopefully, his closet doesn’t still have skeletons waiting to pop out from his time at Vandy.

    Saints – pretenders. Brees can’t handle cold and wind very well. His arm is not strong enough, and I think he looks awfully short when he is not in a dome for some reason.

    Colts – pretenders. Luck made some amazing throws yesterday. But, just as he did last week, he had some awful picks. He didn’t get away with them this week, and it cost his team dearly. It would have helped if they had also … you know … made an effort at stopping the run.

    I was getting a bit concerned when it reached the 3rd quarter and we had not yet had the obligatory shot of Bob Kraft high fiving his son and guests in his box. From the standpoint of the NFL, there are only two owners – Kraft and Jerry Jones. Very strange.

    • It’ll likely be New England versus Denver in the Superbowl.

    • Not strange at all, Jim.
      Kraft and Jones are the 2 owners that combine money and ego.
      Want to know what GODell is thinking at any given time? Follow the money.

      Funny thing is, there are other super-rich owners out there, Bob McNair, Arthur Blank, Jerry Richardson, Paul Allen…………….. that don’t have the ego to try to take over the world.

    • I predicted about 6 weeks ago that the Super Bowl was going to be another nightmare matchup for most Steeler fans….San Francisco and New England.
      I’ve seen nothing to change my mind.
      I’m begging and hoping that I’m wrong as I am VERY protective of the Steelers at the top of the list of Super Bowl wins….6.

      Also….Say what you will but I can’t for the life of me believe that Bill Belichick is making yearly runs to the Super Bowl without some kind of “activity” behind his method.
      Do you mean to tell me that this guy has MASTER intelligence over NFL coaches like Tomlin, the Harbaughs, Sean Payton, Pete Carroll, etc….?!
      There’s just no way.
      Two words…..Lance Armstrong.

      • Interesting point about Belicheck and the Patriots, Daq.

        I think another factor as to why they make yearly runs is the division they play in. Much easier to win that divsion – - over the past 10 seasons or so.

        • No question the division helps, but there’s something going on.
          We know this man has been caught once (and Goodell swept the ashes of the proof under the carpet).
          Again….There is just no way this guy is THAT far ahead of many of his fellow head coaches.

          • Let’s keep in mind another factor……….
            without Tom Brady, Bellicheat has never made the playoffs.
            In fact, before coming to NE, he had only one winning season.

            I just wonder if it had been any other team except for NE, if Spygate would have been swept under the rug like it was. Bellicheck is a good coach, but I agree….. he isn’t THAT much better.

            Speaking of coaches……. didn’t people used to openly mock Pete Carroll? Was a bum in his first stint in the league? Won at USC, but left before the scandal hit?
            Mr. Carroll is doing quite fine for himself now.

            And, I don’t hear many people mocking him now.

            • Plan – No question Brady is a big part of it, but Belichick still logged double figure wins the year Brady was out with the knee injury.
              I stress my point that I just can’t imagine that Belichick has SUPER intelligence over the leagues smartest coaches.
              I can’t understand why most people find it outrageous to think he’s cheating again.

        • This constant Pittsburgh sour grapes about the Pats getting caught years ago is getting old. TC you are right, it’s a historiclly weak division. Yes I’m amazed how they won last night. I hope the Chargers win today. But it’s about time Pittsburgh got over it. Coach is totally unlikeable, but yes, as shown on the pregame show last night, people in the business know he’s good.

          • You can call it sour grapes (and I’m not going to deny I’m a Steeler fan that’s not big on the Pats).
            However…YOU can’t deny that this man hasn’t been caught before and it could happen again.
            Few people thought Lance Armstrong was guilty.
            How about now?

            • I could say the same thing about Tomlin for the next six years after the sideline incident.Comparrison to Armstrong is ridiculous. After being caught in 07, and knowing they would be the most closely watched team, do you think they would be that stupid again? With all the injuries he had this year, and Brady at 36, it is most likely his best coaching job ever. And everyone around the league knows it.

              • If you want to compare Mike Tomlin sticking a half of a foot out on the field compared to SpyGate…Go ahead and try.
                I just saw Jim Harbaugh 15 yards out on the field in the SF-Carolina game.
                Wonder if there will be a draft pick deducted for that?

                Do I think Belichick would do it again?
                In a heartbeat.
                Once a cheater….Always a cheater…..Just like Lance Armstrong.

            • If Belichick gets caught cheating again my guess is that the league would suspend him for a year. He was already fined heavily and the Pats were fined and lost a draft pick too. His owner was not happy with that. And I don’t think Belichick wants to be known as a two-time cheater.
              I think Kraft would fire him if he got caught again.

              • C’mon, TC, you know it’s the evil Belichick Regime.

              • Hard to say Thunder.
                Logic would say YES….But he was slapped on the wrist the first time AND they (supposedly) burned up the evidence.
                People in sports will do ANYTHING to win.
                And some take that literally…..

  10. I didn’t take his comment about dominating PA recruiting to have anything to do with Pitt. As much ad people in my age group want the good old days there is no Pitt v Penn State.

    • Have to disagree on that one John. I think 4 games between the two are now on the schedule, and buckets of ink will be used to compare the two conferences, and teams, and recruiting classes, and players, and more, “going forward”.

      Pitt will have to raise it”s game if it wants to compete for atheletes.

      Can Barry Rohrson start recruiting for football?

      Stuart

      • 90% of that ink will be in the PPG and the Trib.

        If both teams aren’t nationally ranked nobody else will care.

        • You are absolutely right, John.
          Thanks to JoePa, Pitt-Penn State is dead.
          Unless special circumstances occur like in Florida, where the state legislature gets involved, I don’t see a Pitt-Penn State for much of the future. THE rivalry of the Northeast destroyed by pettiness and jealousy in the early 80′s

          Historical fact: JoePa always blamed Pitt for the demise of his proposed “Eastern League”. However, Penn State applied to the same Big East Pitt went to !! And, Penn State always blamed Pitt for voting against their application to the Big East, but there was one problem…….. Pitt wasn’ yet a member, so Pitt couldn’t vote in favor or against Penn State.

          I know, pesky facts and all………..
          So, for pwtty jealousy, Pitt and Penn State will never be a true rivalry again.

          • Um, should be “petty”. Sheesh.

            • No jealousy here petty or otherwise. Still feeling meh about the hiring. I am trusting the administration to screw this up in some way.

              Advice to Coach Franklin…

              Be mindful and respectful of the past, just don’t be beholden to it. Do what you can to restore respect, success, and integrity with honor to a program that is beginning to find its way again.

  11. Everything’s roses on hiring day when you’re undefeated. Let’s see how loved he is and how dynamic a recruiter he is when he goes 6-6 this year.

  12. His first recruiting domination will to keep the QB there. O’Brien was a QB guru and that QB came to Penn State specifically to play for him.

  13. So over this Penn State drama, they’ve turned into every other attention seeking university football program. Keep dreaming “We Are”…. doesn’t exist anymore. James Franklin thinks he’ll dominate the state, never happened with JoePA, won’t happen with him.

    • Hear, Hear …..

    • Be nice if they would try to limit the slobbering until they guy actually accomplishes something.

    • EB
      Not sure what you mean by ‘they’ve turned into every other attention seeking university football program’?
      At least not with what has happened over the past couple of weeks.
      Their football coach left, they conducted a search (which nowadays gets closely covered by the media), they hired a new coach and held a press conference with the new coach.

      • Agreed. That was a cheap shot on Eric’s part. I’m not sure how conducting a search for a new head coach = being attention seeking.

  14. The trouble with college recruiting these days is that the Northern and Midwestern colleges are competing with the Southern and Western colleges for the talent. Also, the stars are opting for the pros after a couple of years. And so, hopefully, James Franklin can reverse that a bit for Penn State.

  15. Just a reminder for hoops fans. Duquesne is actually on national television today.

    La Salle vs. Duquesne 2:30 ET NBCSN

  16. We seriously gonna let Nisky walk for nothing? Not sure another team will give up a lot for a UFA so time to start making cap space to get him signed. Or at least sign him then deal with cap in off season. Clearly he’s developed into more than a 5th dman. He’s averaging over 20 minutes while producing .5 points a game and is a +24. He’s lugging the puck with more confidence than we’ve ever seen from him and he’s getting shots on net while displaying lateral skating ability and touch.

    Anyone who wants to point to depth on d as reason to let him walk or trade him is missing the point. Maatta, despres and bortuzzo all have flashes on greatness mixed in with inconsistency. Thats to be expected considering their age. However, you win cups with consistent players who’ve developed and can hold their own against good teams every other night. Enter Nisky.

    • I would rather let Orpik walk at this point. I don’t see both of them here but if neither are traded before the deadline Shero will surely deal their rights for a package of picks.

    • It would be great to keep him. Orpik can’t get an offer next year so that will free up some money. I really wouldn’t mind them moving Martin this season. It will hurt them a little now but it is time to let the young D play. If you move Martin plus Orpik’s money would make it possible to keep Niskanen. Short of giving him away at the deadline that is probably the best play.

      • I would sign Orpik as well. He’s being criticized cuz he’s not perfect against the best players in the world. Personally I think that’s highly unfair considering he’s consistently a plus player and IMO big part of PM’s resurgence. I’d go forward with Orpik and Nisky in my top 4 and let the youngsters battle it out for the last 3 spots.

        • I can’t see any wisdom in bringing Orpik back in 2014/2015. They already committed to his replacement in Scuderi. Next season you could look at Letang, Scuderi, Maata, Niskanen, Depres, Bortuzzo, as your six and still leave Engo, Dumoulin, Samuelson, Harrington, and Populist. I would be completely comfortable with that D.

          • Wouldnt be surprised to see Maatta in WB next season. Maybe he even switches spots with Harrington. I know that sounds crazy but he’ll be eligible for the AHL and his skating has room for improvement. Considering how high his ceiling is i would give him atleast 20-30 games in AHL as PP QB and unquestioned number 1. Harrington will be just as impressive and after this season in WB i expect him to kick the door down next season.

            Problem with top 6 you laid out is that other than tanger, scuderi and nisky there isn’t anyone who has proven they can consistently defend opposing top 6 and high end talent. Enter Orpik(at hopefully equivalent or slight increase to cap hit).

            If you look at winning organ-I-zations they mostly dont care how good players look like when they’re 20-22. They let them marinate and unleash them when they’re 22-24 after being well seasoned. That method doesn’t hurt your cap either. As good as despres, bortuzzo and maatta are now, I’m more interested in what they’ll look like in a couple seasons. Bortuzzo is on a one way deal so he’ll be here. Despres and Maatta have all the potential in the world and with despres we need to find out if he can sink or swim starting next season but they need time before I have them in my top 5-6 in ink.

          • Agreed. There’s little chance Orpik comes back – nor should he. It’s time to start embracing the youth on this team. The problem is that Niskanen won’t be back either – the offers on the open market will be too good. Still, Letang, Scuderi, Maatta, Depres, Bortuzzo, and Engelland/Dumoulin/Samuelson/Harrington is a solid top six with plenty of backup in case of injury.

    • well said, Monster Mash

  17. DK,
    I enjoyed your column and video clip. My initial thoughts of Franklin is that I am impressed and excited for him to take over the program.

    But I didn’t really think much about or much into his statements regarding ‘dominating the state in recruiting’.

    That’s because that is what I expect him to say. Or any new head coach at a major program in any state.

    I am a PSU alum and why would I or anyone else (no matter where they graduated from) really care that he said that? Did it hurt Pitt’s feelings?

    I would expect Paul Chryst to say same the same type of thing —- and it wouldn’t matter to me one bit that he said it.

    Shouldn’t that be a goal of any program – to dominate your own state?

    DK: Honestly, TC, I didn’t think much of it the first time, even the second time. When he kept pounding it, it became a bit beyond the norm. I actually had an entirely different question planned on a different topic. Went with this based on his remarks.

  18. Since 2005, Ohio State has won or tied for 5 Big Ten championships. Wisconsin has won or tied for 3 and Michigan State has won or tied for 2.

    Those are the schools Coach Franklin needs to out recruit. Oh. and Maryland and Rutgers come as conference schools that will also be mining Pennsylvania for talent.

    • A great point. All of those coaches will certainly point out to those recruits that for the next two years, their teams have a chance to play in Jan, where Penn State players will be done in early Dec.

      Exposure is critical to those who want to play on Sunday. Some of those recruits will also be told by rival coaches that Franklin may be in the NFL in 2-3 years anyway.

    • In response to your post above: I will be watching Duquesne if I can. Been intrigued since I watched him coach a rag-tag bunch last year against an over-confident Gtown. He may well be the best coach in Pittsburgh (no offense to the guy in the Italian suits, who certainly is not chopped liver).

  19. Newton’s passing looks crisp and pretty accurate. Maybe there won’t be a Harbaugh in the SB this season.

  20. Even though I predicted the 49ers would go to the championship game I am certainly rooting for the Panthers.

  21. If the fourty niners win, we’ll have one person to blame, Ric Flair.

  22. Great comeback and road win by Iowa at OSU. Down 9 early in the 2nd half, they just went nuts and buried a strong OSU team that doesn’t lose at home often 84-74.

    Iowa has opened my eyes a few times now. They’ve lost some really close games, but they are extremely athletic – which is not something you expect from Iowa.

    • That is the biggest win for the Hawkeyes since yucky Steve Alford was patrolling the bench. Legitimate sweet sixteen team right there.

      • I agree, Osh. Went into Madison and gave a terrific WI team a hard way to go almost to the wire before succumbing. Then, won at OSU today. I have no ties to Iowa. Just like seeing the occasional underdog rise up.

        B1G looks stacked to me, btw.

  23. This is the first Duquense Dukes basketball game I’ve followed in years. If only LaSalle wasn’t pulling away at this time as it always does in Pittsburgh.

  24. JF did not throw down the recruiting gauntlet to Pitt but to Ohio St., Michigan, the rest of the BT and powers outside the conference. PSU is beyond competing with Pitt. DK, you slurred us fans again by saying it was Paterno faction that caused BOB to leave. Why don’t you walk the parking areas before the Blue-White game to learn what the fans believe?

    DK: This is funny.

    O’Brien was the one who brought up being frustrated enough by the Paterno people that he could put his “fist through the windshield.” His words, not mine.

    Franklin was the one who emphasized “the state” multiple times. Not the Big 10. Not Ohio State or Michigan. But “the state.” As in the one we live in. And the one region of that state Penn State really hasn’t been recruiting in recent years is Western Pennsylvania. That’s why I asked, and that’s why he answered as he did.

    Now, I type this and know I might as well be ramming my forehead against broken glass, but so be it.

  25. NFL owner update – I have not seen either the SF or Carolina owners boxes yet – although I did step away for a few minutes and I understand FOX may have cut away to a live shot of the “classy” Bob Kraft and his son watching from their Boston estate.

  26. Bad news for the Panthers – Durand Johnson with a torn ACL. Will have a big effect as he was really coming on. Next man up time!

    • This is a huge blow. He could heat up and give Pitt instant offense.

      Coach Dixon, coach up another one !!

      • I hear ya my friend. Pitt is chock full of solid defenders and role players, but Johnson fought something to the table that no one else really did. More minutes for Newkirk for sure.

        • This weakens Pitt’s bench for sure.
          Just wonder how this will affect Dixon’s substitution patterns? There isn’t another player with the instant O Johnson could give………….

  27. I think if a college football program wants to win its conference and get into the new playoff, they have to compete nationally for recruits, FL, TX ECT.

    No offense to yinzers but PA isn’t pumping out the football players it was 30 years ago. Add to that, the competition for the elite players is pretty fierce.

    Even if Franklin gets the ” lionshare” from PA, is that enough anymore? I thought a lot of the success Pitt and WVU had was when they were getting speed from FL.

  28. I thought he was emphasizing the state?

    If I’m a recruit, especially one from PA, wouldn’t you rather want to play for Munchak? Played at PSU, long NFL playing career, credible position coach, NFL head coach. Was loyal to Oiler/Titan organization for decades.

    And to boot, isn’t he sort of a Paterno guy who honors the legacy? I’m saying that because it sounds like a faction up there wants that.

    Penn State is kinda due to make bad hire. I know that’s not scientific. But you obviously weren’t scandal proof either. Good schools can make bad hires.

    • I’m not a Penn State alum. In the video and based on DK’s column he emphasized being the best in the state, which may partly be a reaction to the apparent recent history that they did not try to recruit heavily in all parts. He did also say they would look nationally.

      I have no idea who recruits would rather play for. This guy seems to be pretty motivational.

  29. He just seems like the Flavor of the Month, sexy hire to me, Wilver. I learned a lesson, with Todd Graham, who I hailed. But its probably not fair to compare the two…I think WVU people feel Holgorsen has lost a lot of his shine.

    Truthfully, if PSU and Pitt can somehow renew the rivalry, id like to see Penn State do well cause I think that would elevate Pitt in some ways.

  30. Ouch, Duquesne.

    This was your moment to shine.

  31. Neither Pitt nor Penn State are relevant in college football. Just because 1000 RV’s are at the erector set with 1000′s of nitters pouring out like circus clowns to go watch a mediocre football team doesn’t mean anything. PSU joined the Big Ten and have two with one shared Big Ten championships in 20 years. That isn’t dominating anything nitters. I recall the last Pitt game 12-0 Pitt. One good year in the last 13 years is not exactly making Pitt and Chryst quake. And I assure you OSU still wants to put another 60 on your team this year. Of course the new coach of integrity U is already raiding the verbals from Vandy. Classy guy.

  32. I’m surprised the Chargers are making a game of it. Good for them.

  33. Best joke from Golden Globes so far comes from Tina Fey on “Gravity

    “George Clooney would rather drift off and die than spend another moment with a woman his age.”

  34. Watching the A-Rod story on 60 Minutes. Wow! The slime is flowing out of the TV screen.

  35. By the way, Dejan. Very interesting column.

    I don’t know if I agree with where you took it. Not sure i disagree, either. But it made me think. So, you know, don’t do that again.

  36. Brady vs. Manning. Again.

    Jim Nantz will undoubtedly begin collecting autographs on Wednesday.

  37. Regards to the program that should have gotten the death penalty, that is the bright side. College football is sleazy with respect to recruiting. Now the Nits are besides themselves with the possibility of rounding out the class at the expense of Vanderbilt’s commits. Even Todd Graham left Pitt’s recruits alone after he left. What does that tell you? Guy’s a clown.

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