Penn State coach James Franklin said Wednesday that telling his players the 2020 season was postponed was “gut-wrenching” and that he is bothered by the way the Big Ten made the decision.
Franklin described his feelings in a call with the media about a lost fall season in which his Nittany Lions were ranked No. 7 in the preseason coaches poll.
“Witnessing the confusion on our guys’ faces when I shared the news of [the] postponement last week was gut-wrenching. It is my responsibility to help our guys chase their dreams, and delivering the news felt like I was doing the opposite. It felt like I was taking away their dream to play at Penn State, even if for some it’s only temporary,” Franklin said as he opened the call with a lengthy statement, his first since the Big Ten announced on Aug. 11 that fall sports were postponed.
“We as a coaching staff and administration fought as hard as we could to fulfill the desires of our student-athletes and their parents to play this fall. While I appreciate the complexities and difficulties of this decision for the leaders of our conference, I am extremely frustrated because we still have very few answers to communicate to our young men and their families about their futures and very little understanding of the factors contributing to the decisions.”
And families remain frustrated, too.
Parents of players from Penn State, Nebraska, Iowa and Ohio State wrote to conference commissioner Kevin Warren, asking him to explain the league’s decision to postpone the season until the spring. Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields launched a petition drive asking for reconsideration. And on Friday, Randy Wade — the father of Ohio State defensive back Shaun Wade — will visit the Big Ten’s headquarters in Illinois to get some answers and expects other parents to join him, he told ESPN.
Franklin said Penn State had protocols in place to keep student-athletes safe amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our student-athletes have matched our institution’s diligence by following the recommended health and safety protocols with the intent to play this fall,” he said. “Our most recent COVID-19 test of our entire program — student-athletes, coaches, trainers, strength and conditioning and equipment staffs — yielded zero positive results after our first week of practices.”
Franklin continued: “That is attributed to the steadfast efforts of our medical professionals, student-athletes and staff. We’re heartbroken for our student-athletes because of how much they have sacrificed to put themselves in position to compete at the highest level, but now they are left frustrated and unsure of what the future holds.”
The Big Ten and Pac-12 announced plans to move their football seasons to the spring, while the SEC, ACC and Big 12 are continuing to plan for a fall season. The SEC is slated to begin play Sept. 26, while the Big 12 has a full slate of nonconference games on Sept. 12 and the ACC has 10 games slated for Sept. 10-12, including five league contests.
One SEC coach, Lane Kiffin of Mississippi, called on the NCAA to allow players in conferences without a fall season to transfer immediately.
“Kids are having their schools or their conferences deciding to shut down, so they can’t play, and a lot of them have a lot of money on the line with the next level, or they just want to play their last year,” Kiffin said in an interview with the SEC Network on Tuesday. “So it’s really unfortunate that the NCAA is not allowing them to transfer and be eligible immediately. We’re being told that won’t even go into a waiver process, so I feel really bad for those kids. It’s not their fault. Why can’t they come play somewhere? That doesn’t make any sense to me.”
–Field Level Media