Friday is the six-month anniversary of James Franklin being named as Penn State’s 16th football coach.
It hasn’t taken him long to have his voice heard – both by fans and by university accountants.
A pair of bits of news came out Thursday concerning the program, and both seemingly have Franklin’s fingerprints on them: Penn State intends on spending $2 million to upgrade its football facilities, and some encouraging numbers were released concerning the Nittany Lions’ season ticket base.
First, the upgrades. According to the agenda for Friday’s university board of trustees meeting (I first saw it reported by Mark Wogenrich), the board’s committee that deals with capital planning has recommended the expenditure of $2 million to renovate the team meeting room and lobby of the Lasch Football Building and add new paint and seating to the team training table at the on-campus Pollock Dining Commons.
The project is almost entirely cosmetic – the agenda says the work “includes new carpeting, lighting, furniture, finishes, and wall graphics” at the 89,000-square foot Lasch Building. I can’t say that I’ve set foot in scores of big-time Division I football facilities (I’ve been to Penn State’s, Pitt’s and West Virginia’s), but PSU’s weren’t by any means extravagant — but it also wasn’t the embarrassment that Franklin tried to paint it as when he dropped an our-facilities-need-upgrading bombshell at an alumni event in Pittsburgh in May.
At the Sheraton Station Square that evening, there were almost audible gasps when Franklin explained that the facilities at his former head-coaching stop, Vanderbilt, were better than PSU’s – and that Vandy’s were the worst in the SEC. It was the lone “downer” for the alumni and supporters on hand during what was otherwise largely an everything’s-rosy pep rally.
Franklin that night (and at subsequent stops along the Coaches’ Caravan tour of Pennsylvania and neighboring areas) suggested he was embarrassed to show recruits their indoor practice facility. He talked about the “branding” and repeatedly implied that to stay a “first-class” program, the Nittany Lions needed to spruce up the facilities. He implored media and alumni to do a YouTube search of the football buildings at Oregon, Oklahoma State or Auburn, for example.
Before he’s even coached a game, Franklin is appearing to get his way. That said, there’s no indication this might not have happened regardless. When I was in the building in March, a large mural of Bill O’Brien still stood. New coaches are routinely given new latitude to change details as they please.
And as for the cost? Two million dollars sounds like a lot for some paint and carpet and chairs. But that ties us into the second bit of news from Penn State Sports Information on Thursday: Season tickets from last season have renewed at “more than 94 percent” and that “more than 4,000” new season tickets have been sold.
The release implores fans to buy their season tickets prior to Tuesday, when new partial (four-game) season tickets and public single game tickets go on sale. Short of purchasing a full-season plan, the partial-season route is the lone avenue of ensuring a ticket to the Ohio State game Oct. 25 under the lights at Beaver Stadium. The game against the Buckeyes is tied to buying the four-game pack of that and games versus Akron, Maryland and Michigan State.
According to Vivid Seats, Penn State’s average ticket price of $141 (its median price is $115 and tickets are available for as low as $40 for the Akron and Massachusetts games) is 14th-highest in the NCAA. At $141 a ticket, it would take approximately 14,000 tickets to earn $2 million.
If 4,000 people have bought season tickets since Franklin was hired – much of that based off the palpable buzz he’s created in State College – that’s 28,000 total game tickets sold. So, in a way, Franklin has paid for his desired upgrades himself.