Ron Cook: James Franklin bracing for 'heartache' of college football seasonJuly 2, 2020 9:46am

July 01-- James Franklin is Pennsylvania's highest-paid state employee. He agreed to a six-year contract extension last winter that will pay him $35.4 million through 2025. He doesn't expect any sympathy because of a personal sacrifice he will make to coach Penn State this season, if there is a college football season. He doesn't need sympathy. He doesn't want it.

But that doesn't change the fact that this fall will be especially difficult for Franklin.

"A lot of heartache over it," Franklin told HBO's "Real Sports" last week.

The younger of Franklin's two daughters, Addison, has Sickle cell disease. To protect her from being exposed to the coronavirus, Franklin and his wife, Fumi, have made a tough decision. He will spend the season with his team. His wife will stay at the family home in Destin, Fla., with Addison, who turned 12 in March, and their other daughter, Shola. The kids will be home-schooled.

Franklin doesn't expect to see his family until January at the earliest.

"There was a lot of tears, a lot of emotion having this conversation," he said.

Franklin told the Penn State media in the spring that the family spent the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic at their condo in Colorado, then, after returning to State College, didn't leave their home for a month.

"We've been on lockdown from the beginning," Franklin said. "It's not something we've messed around with at all. We've been on total lockdown."

Franklin is hardly alone when it comes to dealing with the impact of the coronavirus.

Wake Forest football coach Dave Clawson also will spend the season away from his family because his wife, Catherine, is a cancer survivor. "When I'm working on a daily basis, coaching 110 to 120 players and having a staff of 50, I don't know how I could go home at night and honestly tell my wife I couldn't have come in contact with (the virus)," he told ESPN. "I love coaching, but I love my wife more. There's no way I'm going to do anything that would put her at risk."

Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley won't take part in the restart to the NBA season late this month because his 6-year-old son has respiratory issues. "As committed to my Lakers teammates and the organization as I am, I ultimately play basketball for my family," Bradley told ESPN. "And so, at a time like this, I can't imagine making any decision that might put my family's health and well-being at even the slightest risk."

Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman won't play this season because he has three young children, including a newborn. He said he hated the thought of not being able to see his mother for two or three months.

There are other examples.

Penn State is expected to have another strong team this season, one that could contend for the Big Ten Conference title, maybe even make it into the College Football Playoff. The program has come a long way since it lost to Pitt and, two weeks later, to Michigan by 39 points in 2016, Franklin's third season. Penn State is 40-9 since with a conference title in 2016 and bowl wins against Washington and Memphis. Franklin is considered one of the top 10 coaches in college football. One of the sports' prominent voices, Bruce Feldman of The Athletic, ranks him No. 3 behind Alabama's Nick Saban and Clemson's Dabo Swinney.

Will this be the season Penn State finally gets by Ohio State after three tough losses in a row and becomes, in Franklin's words, an "elite program?" If it happens, he won't be able to enjoy the best part. He won't get to share his success and his team's success with his family.

"It's the right thing to do for my daughter," Franklin said.


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