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James Franklin on Where Penn State is ‘Lagging’ on Its National Title Push

Penn State ranking James Franklin Franco Harris
Penn State Athletics

Penn State coach James Franklin knows his team is supposed to be one of the best in the country in 2023, and he feels the program is closer to winning a national championship than it’s been at any point in his nine-plus seasons in Happy Valley. 

But there’s one area where Franklin feels Penn State’s “lagging”: Name, Image and Likeness.

Franklin discussed NIL and other topics on the podcast Next Up with Adam Breneman, hosted by a guy who played for Franklin from 2014-15, his first two seasons as Penn State’s head coach. It wasn’t the first time Franklin’s discussed NIL. After an April spring practice, Franklin talked with reporters about the area that’s been prevalent in college sports since 2021.

“I think over the last year, we’ve made significant progress,” Franklin said. “But if you give somebody a two-year head start in a basically three-year model, I think it’s (the result) pretty obvious.”

Franklin echoed that sentiment with Breneman. 

“For the first two years, we weren’t bold and aggressive with that rule,” Franklin said. “And I don’t care what industry you’re in. When the rules change, you better adapt and you better adapt quickly, and we didn’t do that. So I would say, two years ago, we were way behind; three years ago, we were way behind. In the last year, we’re starting to make some significant progress, but we’re two years behind.”

Franklin is confident that athletic director Pat Kraft and president Neeli Bendapudi have bought into the football program and whatever needs to be done to make it a national champion.

“I think Pat Kraft has recognized that, has done a great job of going out and educating our people. That’s what we’re doing as a football program as well. But we need all of the Penn Staters worldwide to understand this is where we’re at. And, again, back to that commitment level vs. expectations, this is a really good example.”

Since Franklin talked NIL in April, Penn State’s visibly progressed in the effort. Earlier this month school’s two primary collectives, Success With Honor and Lions Legacy Club, announced that they will merge to form “Happy Valley United.”

But, to borrow a line in Eddy Grant’s 1983 hit “Electric Avenue,” there’s still “a lot of work to be done” for Penn State to be nationally known for its NIL efforts. 

ON3Sports dropped its top 20 most ambitious NIL Collectives Thursday, and Penn State didn’t appear on the list. 

Franklin knows that, for now, it’s still an uphill climb and called on Penn State’s alums to step up.

“If all 750,000 alumni would just do something, there’s tremendous power in that,” he said. 

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