For most of us, it’s the offseason. For Penn State football, the season never rests. True to form, James Franklin spent the week in a suit and tie shaking hands, kissing babies, and of course, taking selfies with adoring alumni and fans. The fifth edition of the Coaches Caravan took off this week and with it came all the hardware and trophies his football squad piled up during the 2016 season. After a one-year hiatus, the 2017 Coaches Caravan turned into a parade of champions that crisscrossed the great state of Pennsylvania. One thing is certain after watching the events unfold throughout the week – the hot-seat the head coach of the Nittany Lions once sat in not-so-long-ago is cool as ice, and rightfully so.
The Caravan began in York for lunch on Monday and made its way to Philly/King of Prussia for dinner. It landed in Hazelton on Tuesday afternoon and spent the evening in Harrisburg. Wednesday was reserved for Pittsburgh alone and an evening session before closing out with stops in Altoona and Williamsport as the 2017 Coaches Caravan headed home to Happy Valley Thursday evening. Fans who attended were treated to a meet-and-greet with all the coaches, pictures with the array of trophies won during Penn State’s Big Ten Championship run, and those ever-coveted pictures with Franklin. Other coaches that participated in this year’s Caravan included Coquese Washington (women’s basketball), Randy Jepson (men’s gymnastics), Denise St.Pierre (women’s golf), Erica Dambach (women’s soccer), and Tim Murphy (men’s and women’s swimming). Athletic Director Sandy Barbour was along for the first six events and Deputy AD, Phil Esten, made the final two.
A few of the highlights from this year’s tour included Washington informing the Hazelton crowd that a Franklin rant against Purdue and their “ugly uniforms” provided the rallying cry that brought them a late season victory and Franklin trying to flip the allegiance of a young Notre Dame fan by inviting him on-stage and handing him the silver football that rests atop the Big Ten Championship trophy. Franklin gave some insight into the Micah Parsons de-commitment recently by making it clear he considered a commitment no different than any other relationship and felt it was best for Parsons to de-commit while he took visits elsewhere. He also made a point that he does not necessarily appreciate the notion that his staff is just a group that can recruit very well but aren’t great coaches. After the three-year turnaround they performed at Vanderbilt and coaching Penn State to a conference championship during year number three, it’s hard to argue with the head Lion on that.
The first few Coaches Caravans which began in 2012 with then-coach Bill O’Brien had a much different tone than the 2017 version. What began as an opportunity to reach out to alumni and fans in the midst of adversity, evolved into a caravan of goodwill and a parade of champions following Penn State’s run for the Roses a season ago. Up next in the offseason that never sleeps for Penn State Football is the fifth edition of the Women’s Football Clinic on May 19th and let me tell you, if social media is any indication of the excitement brewing, those coaches better bring their A-game because the ladies of Nittany Nation are fired up and ready to roll!