Penn State’s James Franklin honored, gymnastics coach Jeff Thompson fired and more

We hope you’ll start your day with us here at as we work to prepare you for everything you need to know – Monday through Friday – around the world of Penn State sports. Whether it’s football, basketball, wrestling, hockey, baseball or just a wild story we hope you’ll find interesting, we’re here to share it all with you.

This is your Penn State Wake-Up Call for Friday, Feb. 24. Let’s get started.

Fruits of their labors

Penn State picked up some more hardware this week, and on Saturday the Nittany Lions will host a bevy of recruits in hopes of ensuring future success.

Lions coach James Franklin was honored as the ECAC FBS Coach of the Year at the Eastern College Football Awards Banquet at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Thursday. PSU was presented its 30th Lambert Trophy at the banquet.

All of this comes in the wake of a season in which the Lions went 11-3 and won their fourth Big Ten championship, and their first outright title since 1994. They also made their fourth Rose Bowl appearance, losing a 52-49 thriller to USC.

In the meantime, identified 13 high school prospects who will be in Happy Valley this weekend for PSU’s second Junior Day of the year. At the head of the list is Ricky Slade, a 5-star running back from C.D. Hylton High in Woodbridge, Va.

Slade, who made a verbal commitment to Penn State earlier this month, is one of the jewels of a 2018 recruiting class currently ranked No. 1 in the nation.

Gymnastics coach fired

PSU women’s gymnastics coach Jeff Thompson was fired Thursday. While no reason was given – the move was termed a “personnel matter” in a university news release – his dismissal comes roughly 10 months after several former gymnasts told the Daily Collegian that Thompson and his wife, Rachelle, the former associate head coach, forced them to train through injuries, encouraged them to shed weight and emotionally abused them.

Rachelle Thompson resigned on June 30, 2016, according to a follow-up story in Thursday’s Collegian.

After the Collegian ran its original story last April, athletic director Sandy Barbour told the outlet that school officials were aware of the allegations against the Thompsons and had been looking into them. Barbour went on to tell the Collegian that a regular review of the coaches would follow the season.

Assistants Kera Molinaro and Josh Nilson will serve as interim coaches the rest of the season. According to the university, a national search will be conducted for a permanent replacement.

Suriano’s status an open question

PSU wrestling coach Cael Sanderson said on his radio show Wednesday that freshman 125-pounder Nick Suriano, who injured his left ankle in last Sunday’s victory over Oklahoma State in the NWCA Dual Championship, will appear at the Big Ten Championships, March 4-5 in Bloomington, Ind.

Whether he wrestles – and how effective he might be if he does – remains to be seen. Sanderson played it close to the vest in his on-air interview, as noted by’s Jim Carlson:

“Well, you know I’m not gonna tell you anything, right. He hurt himself and he’s been spending a lot of time with our trainer, Dan Monthley, and Monthley is very good at what he does. But (Suriano’s) got some work to do and luckily he has some time; we’d like more time, but he has some time to get things rolling, and he’ll be in Bloomington for sure.”

Suriano lost by default to the Cowboys’ Nick Piccininni, and the Lions eventually fell behind 13-0 before storming back to win, 27-13.

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