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Neil Rudel on Penn State football: James Franklin paying big price by coaching without family around

As the cloud of the coronavirus darkens the entire sports world with uncertainty, James Franklin is planning a major sacrifice.

He confirmed earlier his week that he will coach the football season without his family in State College.

In an interview with Bryant Gumbel of HBO Sports, Franklin said the decision was made for his wife, Fumi, and two daughters, Shola and Addison, to remain at the family’s home in Destin, Florida, and have the girls home schooled this year.

Addison, 12, suffers from sickle cell anemia, making her more vulnerable to the virus, and the family felt this is the safest approach.

“It’s the right thing to do for my daughter,” Franklin said.

Franklin told HBO “tears were shed,” and there’s “heartache” over the emotional discussion. He also told Fox that he probably won’t see his family until “January or February.”

When the virus began to spread in March, the Franklins stayed in their condo in Colorado before returning to State College, but remained quarantined at home for a month before then heading to Florida.

Part of this is the price to pay for one of the top dozen jobs in college football. No question, Franklin is obviously well compensated at approximately $6 million per season (through 2025), but this is an expensive tradeoff.

Presuming the season gets played, Penn State should figure in the national picture. The Nittany Lions are ranked in everybody’s top 10 — and even in the top 5 in some — as they seek to bang on the door to the College Football Playoff.

Whether they do or not is immaterial, at least for now.

Franklin’s daughters have been very visible throughout his tenure, soon to start its seventh season, and when the team wins or loses, either on the field or at home, it’s nice to be able to share the joy with and/or be consoled by loved ones.

In that regard, no matter the record, James Franklin’s 2020 season will be hollow.

NOTABLE

— Franklin said a number of players have not returned to campus for voluntary workouts, and Penn State has delayed its annual student ticket sale until later this summer due to the virus and the uncertainty of how many tickets will be available.

— College players are more empowered than ever before, and they’re using their voices to incite change. Standout Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard called out the administration, including (and specifically) coach Mike Gundy for racial insensitivity, which prompted an immediate apology. Gundy is, and should be, on borrowed time. Iowa’s Black players raised similar concerns about the Hawkeyes’ tenured weight training coach, Chris Doyle, who was promptly given a “separation agreement.”

— Sorry to see that former Williamsburg and Penn State athlete Christian Appleman has fallen victim to cuts at the University of Connecticut triggered by the virus. Appleman has served as the associate coach of the Huskies’ men’s tennis team, which was eliminated Wednesday, effective in 2021.

Neil Rudel covers Penn State football and can be reached by email at nrudel@altoonamirror.com

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