James Franklin’s first two seasons at Penn State have produced decent, but relatively uninspiring results. The Nittany Lions have gone 7-6 in Franklin’s first two years at the helm, and some might say the former Vanderbilt coach is under pressure to do much better in his third season.
Franklin’s boss, athletic director Sandy Barbour, disagrees. She dismissed any possibility of Franklin entering the 2016 season on the hot seat, and is cognizant of the fact that Penn State is still feeling some aftershocks from the earthquake that was the NCAA sanctions stemming from the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
“James Franklin wants to win a national championship, and I believe we’re gonna be able to do that,” Barbour said, according to Scout.com’s. Mark Brennan. “Is it gonna be this year? Probably not. But that’s why you play, because you never know.
“But that’s not the expectation this year,” Barbour said. “The expectation is, are we building to that, are we showing progress, are we making progress toward being a Big Ten and ultimately a national championship contender?”
Those expectations might not be what Penn State fans want to hear. But they’re realistic and mindful that Penn State is still trying to replenish talent and stock the pantry with contributors. The key word is “progress.”
The Nittany Lions might not have to win 10 games, but they certainly can’t return to mediocrity and another six or seven-win season might warm up Franklin’s seat a bit. Because, as Barbour notes, the current product is not up to Penn State’s standard down the road.
So it isn’t Big Ten title or bust like it might be in Ann Arbor, Mich., or Columbus, Ohio. But perhaps ascending away from .500 with a win against one of the big three in the Big Ten East will be a sign of improvement, a sign of hope.
After what Penn State has been through since the Sandusky scandal ravaged the program, a sign of hope should be all fans, and Barbour, can ask for.