The curious case of the dumbbell thief in the gym at James Franklin’s Colorado condominium complex was solved with an admission from the Penn State football coach.
They were in his condo unit.
In these crazy times, you work out however you can, you do whatever you need to do.
“(My wife, Fumi, and I) kind of got into an interesting deal the other day because we won’t go in the weight room with other people in there,” Franklin said during a video conference with reporters earlier this week. “So, I took the 25-pound weights and brought them up to the condo, because we couldn’t get in (the gym). A guy was dominating the weight room for two hours a day. Then he left a nasty note in there. He said, ‘Whoever stole the 25-pound weights, could you bring them back?’ So I wrote a little note that said, ‘Well, could you stop dominating the weight room for three hours a day?’ “
Dominating the state is a great thing, in Franklin’s mind. Dominating the condo’s weight room in the age of social distancing? Not so much.
The Franklins are doing what practically the entire nation is asked to do these last few weeks, sheltering in place and avoiding person-to-person contact to help curb the spread of COVID-19. Certainly, that includes avoiding the gym when others are using it.
And there’s good reason for that.
They are taking no chances. Their youngest daughter, 12-year-old Addison, has sickle cell anemia, a red blood cell disorder that compromises her immune system.
“She has got the full-fledged disease. So it hits home for us, as I know it does for a lot of families,” Franklin said. “We’re very aware of that and trying to be sensible.
“It’s not something we’ve messed around with, at all. We’ve been on total lockdown.”
Typically, this is a busy time of year for Franklin, from both a recruiting and spring practice standpoint. In some ways, it still is. He’s working full days, video conferencing with coaches and recruits, staying in contact with players and trying his best to provide answers and positives in a time when there aren’t enough of either. But, he’s also getting something he has always coveted: More time with his wife and daughters.
There’s a balance there, he said. He’s there when his daughters wake up, and there to tuck them in when they go to bed. But he’s also in the midst of an important month for the program, and that’s a conversation he had to have with his family, coming to a compromise on the work-home balance when they go hand-in-hand.
“Being around the family is always something that I try to maximize as much as I possibly can, even when times are crazy,” Franklin said. “There’s that fine line with me, and I tried to remind my whole staff about this, that in some ways, this is a blessing in disguise. I’m getting more time with my 12-year-old daughters than I have in a long time. So I’m going to embrace that.”
In the hours after spring practice was put in danger, Penn State officials began talking about the nightmare scenario: What if the coronavirus pandemic isn’t contained by the fall?
From day one, Franklin said, he and Penn State vice president for intercollegiate athletics Sandy Barbour have discussed the potential financial impacts of games not being played, or played in front of crowds mandated to be much smaller than 107,000 in Beaver Stadium.
Football is easily the biggest money-maker among Penn State athletic programs, bringing in more than $100 million in revenue for the athletic program in 2018.
“This is going to have a major impact, on some universities more than others,” Franklin said. “I think, in a perfect world, we can lock this thing down over these next couple weeks and month and hopefully be able to get back to things similar to what they’ve been in the past, hopefully by summertime or late summertime and, hopefully, by the fall.
“Obviously, if this goes into the fall, with the revenue that football brings in for Penn State and for the revenue that football brings in a lot of universities across the United States, that’s going to be a whole other conversation.”
Departure of the Mac
There was some football news that came out of Franklin’s first meeting with the media since the pandemic began to sweep the nation.
Receiver Mac Hippenhammer is no longer on Penn State’s roster. The 5-foot-11 junior, whose lone catch last season came against Indiana, left the team to focus on his baseball career. The shortstop started 13 games for the Nittany Lions’ baseball team this season, hitting .205.
“This is a conversation we’ve had for the last two years. I knew we were trending in this direction,” Franklin said. “I had a really good conversation with (baseball coach Rob) Cooper about it. I think he has a bright future and we’re excited about his opportunities there.”