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By Not Kowtowing to Columnist Blowhards, Penn State is Finally Moving On

Columnists of America, I offer you a choice: Either James Franklin is good enough for Penn State or he isn't good enough for anyone, and no, you can't have it both ways anymore.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Dennis Dodd, Christine Brennan, and Keith Olbermann all have one thing in common: they're rape enablers.

I mean, if James Franklin is the bad guy that they're clearly insinuating he is, if he's truly so unfit to come to Penn State because of his involvement in allegedly covering-up sexual assaults by some of his players, if hiring him to become the 16th head coach of the Nittany Lion football program would be an affront to Jerry Sandusky's victims, then those three, as well as every other self-righteous columnist joining this confederacy of dunces and moralizing this week in place of doing some writing that requires an iota of logical thinking, should have been protesting his employment at Vanderbilt. They should have called for him to be fired. When he was a top candidate for the Texas job, they should've argued for his disqualification. As he drew interest from the NFL, they should have made damn sure that every potential employer knew what they'd be getting in James Franklin: a great football mind tainted by his own moral lapses. They should have done more.

I mean, hell, if he's not fit to be the head football coach at Penn State, then he's not fit to be the head football coach anywhere else, right? Never mind, of course, the fact that the allegations that he participated in a cover-up came from Buzzfeed, of all places; that after a lengthy investigation, the District Attorney cleared Franklin of any wrongdoing; that he kicked the accused players off of his team as soon as he found out about their behavior; and that, since it was at little old Vanderbilt and not big bad Penn State, the media couldn't give two shits about this story when it actually happened. I may be wrong, because Google isn't perfect, but it looks like Dodd didn't write anything about the scandal when it actually happened two summers ago, and hasn't written a negative word about Franklin since. In fact, he endorsed him for the USC job, writing that the lack of interest from Southern Cal was inexplicable. The same silence goes for Brennan, too. In any event, they certainly weren't calling for Franklin's head. Olbermann at least didn't have a job in sports, and he's almost always better than this. But like moths to a flame, suggest some sort of impropriety around the Penn State football program, and no matter how many dots they have to connect, all of a sudden, it's a moral catastrophe waiting to happen.

James Franklin is not the problem. These columnists hijacking his hire to claim the moral high ground are.

Okay, fine, Dodd, Brennan, and Olbermann aren't rape enablers. But maybe they, of all people, can appreciate the irony of being called that. James Franklin is not the problem. These columnists hijacking his hire to claim the moral high ground are.

Sorry, I forgot. Two years later, after the overwhelming majority of college football fans have moved on, after the Bill O'Brien era turned Penn State into likable scrappy underdogs persevering through what the nation perceives to be unjust sanctions, after the NCAA itself started to back off, recognizing that our football culture isn't the problem and never really was, after Penn State football has become, undeniably, about football again, and after this hire was hailed by literally everyone else outside of Nashville as a terrific coup for Dave Joyner, it's still their job as sports columnists to be the moral vanguard of a nation.

That's how we get these petulant, churlish blowhards saying things like:

"James Franklin is a coveted 41-year-old head coach who probably would make a fine hire for any of his other suitors. Just not Penn State."


"Franklin has not been tied to the case, at all. But he was the coach when it happened and that should be enough -- especially at Penn State."


"Penn State football is still a toxic waste dump and the last thing you need at a toxic waste dump is a guy who had a train full of chemicals derail and blow up in his last town."

Aye, there's the rub. At Penn State, we're not allowed to hire the best man for the job because of something so insignificant it wouldn't have affected his employment anywhere else, because of an alleged indiscretion that has, obviously, been well vetted and researched and then cleared once again by administrators who must have known the chorus of idiots would start chirping as soon as the news came out. And it's all because of the ouroboros that is media outrage which becomes a spectator sport in its own right, feeding on itself until it becomes the story, until these writers become the story.

Here's how bad things have gotten: I'm actually imploring the three of them to read Gregg freaking Doyel. Doyel, who at times is among the worst columnists when it comes to self-aggrandizement, and who's earned the ire of just about every thinking sports fan for his #hottakes, actually put some thought and reason into his piece about Penn State hiring Franklin--and I'll say this about Doyel: at least unlike the others, he has the conviction to stand behind his arguments. He's no coward. And yesterday, he didn't have the knee-jerk reaction that's become Brennan's trademark when it comes to writing about our university. He didn't seem to join Olbermann, in inducing nausea at the mere thought of Penn State football. Unlike Dodd, he didn't think that being cleared of any wrongdoing nonetheless makes Franklin guilty of some sort of horrible moral failing that make him unfit to be our head coach. And so, surely enough, he wrote things like:

"While terrible things are alleged to have been done by some of his players at Vanderbilt, terrible voids of leadership were not done by James Franklin."


"Nothing about the way James Franklin has presented himself makes me think he did anything wrong at Vanderbilt."


"James Franklin was neither a good hire, nor a great one. James Franklin was perfect."

Imagine that, someone actually taking the time and exercising the modicum of brainpower required to think this situation through, and coming up with a conclusion so anathema to the reflexive "Penn-State-bad" of the blowhards. James Franklin isn't perfect, and his crack about analyzing his assistant coaches' wives to gauge their recruiting ability was undoubtedly a joke in poor taste. But would any of these self-important windbags have spent even one line of copy on them if he'd been hired by Texas or the Redskins or the Lions? You know why Penn State still even resembles, in any way, the toxic situation Olbermann described? Because lazy columnists like him have refused to let anyone take from them a topic they can mine whenever they want to muster up some overblown false outrage about a complete non-story like this one, and because their mouth-breathing acolytes are similarly prone to that unbecoming brand of resentment-posing-as-indignation. If there's still a negative connotation about Penn State, it's because they won't stop insisting there is one. To the extent that we haven't moved on since the scandal, it's because they won't let us.

At some point, you almost have to wonder if maybe this isn't about James Franklin, that it's really about Penn State, that these schmucks would have had a problem with anybody we could've tabbed to coach our team, that they would've found some dirt on Al Golden or Mike Munchak or even Larry Johnson--can you believe that Penn State really hired someone who learned from Joe Paterno?--that it's really a cause for their affronted wrath when we win a damn game or two, or threaten to become the national powerhouse we once were. This university can do no right, because then what would they have to write about?

The only good news is that, finally, after two long years of catering to those voices, our administration is no longer afraid of offending them. They're as exasperated as we are. They're willing to fight back, albeit if silently, and to do right by us all.

By Saturday, James Franklin will be the head football coach at Penn State. I'd tell Dodd and Brennan and Olbermann to take that and shove it, but the sad thing is, I really doubt they even really care.