Column: Cooperation key to Franklins goals

James Franklin has been here before.
Four full months into taking the job at Penn State during one of the most tumultuous and challenging times in the program's history, Franklin is touring the Mid-Atlantic as part of the Coaches Caravan, whipping fans into a frenzy while trying to garner as much goodwill - and money - as possible.
For as much as Franklin has focused on making solid first impressions and generating the type of support that he genuinely feels is necessary to take the program to new heights (or back to old ones, depending on your perspective), striking a delicate balance between enthusiasm and maintaining a sense of reality remains on his mind.
Asked Thursday night in New York about the challenge of creating enthusiasm while tempering expectations, Franklin quietly laid out its magnitude.
"The last four years, that's the hardest thing to do," Franklin said. "How do you get people excited and enthusiastic and jumping on board without setting up false expectations?
"That's one of the more difficult things and I haven't completely figured out how to do that yet."
Coming from a program at Vanderbilt without any of the tradition Penn State fans have enjoyed for decades on end, the building process needed the support of Vanderbilt alums, the student population and frankly, anyone that would give the program a shot. Though the Nittany Lions aren't in the same situation, already owning a huge network of support, the rebuilding process of the actual nuts and bolts of the football product is not dissimilar.
Unlike Franklin's situation with the Commodores, however, he said he's taken encouragement from an observation made by fellow Penn State head coach, wrestling's Cael Sanderson.
Said Franklin, "Cael made a great statement though that I think is true. I think one of the things that is great about Penn State and different and unique is, a lot of places, they say, 'Hey once you get this thing rolling, we'll be on board with you.'
"What Cael noticed coming here is, people want to get in on the front end and help you go there. So that's exciting and that's unique. We want more of that."
As a result, the new Nittany Lions' head coach continues to focus on the benefits that can result from building intimate relationships with not simply a community or its leaders, but the individuals that comprise Beaver Stadium week in and week out.
Noting the urge that drew him into the RV fields the Friday night before this spring's Blue-White Game, all in an effort to individually greet fans and make a connection he believes is paramount to the program's success, Franklin remains determined to create an atmosphere of unity within the Penn State football community. With it, and maybe more important, the success that Franklin expects for the program moving forward, an opportunity to build successes through complete community ownership is what he said he envisions.
"It's a small college town and although we're going to have 107,000 people, I want to feel like that's all my buddies and all my family and all my friends that are at the game, and I want the people that are in the stands and in the community to feel like they have a big part in the reason why we're successful," he said. "I want them to feel like on third down, when that offense can't hear and they jump offsides, that they're a part of that. That when we get a big recruit, that they were a part of that, because when we were walking around on campus, they said 'Welcome to Penn State!' and gave them a big smile and a pat on the back.
"I want everybody to feel like they're a part of what we're building here. That's what's going to make it so unique and that's what's going to make it so special when we have the type of success that everybody wants us to have, is that everybody is going to feel a part of it. Everybody is going to feel a part of it."