Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Penn State coach James Franklin can't mask what is going on in his program

Penn State coach James Franklin.
Penn State coach James Franklin.
Image: (Getty Images)

Penn State just can’t help itself. This football program is clearly out of control, but head coach James Franklin is trying his best to disguise it.

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Which is only making him look more and more inept. And complicit.

After Isaiah Humphries got into a fight with Micah Parsons in 2018, Franklin told the former Nittany Lions defensive back, “not to go to police,” according to a university report obtained by ESPN.

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An investigator wrote, “Mr. Humphries added that Coach Franklin came and said, ‘Don’t talk to the police because Micah is his start [sic] player and makes money, so if he gets in trouble, he’s gone,’ meaning Mr. Humphries would be gone.”

The report is alleging that Franklin threatened to cut Humphries from the team if he went to the authorities.

A Penn State spokesperson said yesterday, “Franklin has made it clear that he did not instruct Mr. Humphries to avoid contacting authorities.”

“We believe the claims relating to Coach Franklin have no merit, and we will continue to defend him vigorously.” The Centre County DA told ESPN that claims of sexual assault could not be substantiated, but that the case will remain open, allowing for others to come forward.

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Humphries’ accusation is in a draft report that was part of the 2019 Title IX inquiry into sexual assault allegations in the Penn State locker room. This is apparently why Humphries sued the school earlier this year.

Between this recent bombshell of the squabble between Parsons and Humphries and attempts to cover it up, to the investigation earlier this year of sexual assault inflicted on underclassmen teammates as some sick rite of passage, the walls of the Penn State locker room are black with mold.

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Humphries alleged that Damion Barber and Parsons threatened him, by saying he was “making me a bitch because this is prison,” adding that upperclassmen tried to place genitalia close to players’ faces and simulate sex acts. Humphries said towel-clad players would wrestle him to the ground. According to ESPN:

One player interviewed in the report told investigators that Barber, while naked, overpowered a teammate smaller than him and simulated sex acts, targeting him almost daily. The player said he didn’t see Barber do that to Humphries and, in his statement, questioned Humphries’ character, saying he lies for no reason, the investigator wrote in the report.

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Underclassmen being told, “I’m gonna Sandusky you” ... It’s beyond rotten in there.

What type of debilitating culture is this?

And we can’t talk about any of these recent allegations without mentioning the Jerry Sandusky child sexual assault scandal from almost ten years ago, when then-president Graham Spanier was indicted for failure to report child abuse to the authorities and conspiracy, along with a host of other indictments including perjury. Penn State’s vice president Gary Schultz, and A.D. Timothy Curley pled guilty for their role in a coverup, while Spanier went to trial and was found guilty of one count of endangering a child, a conviction that was later overturned on appeal.

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Then head coach Joe Paterno, was not charged but was told what was going on, yet failed to alert proper authorities.

The program has learned absolutely nothing. And Franklin has proven himself to be a sitting duck when it comes to transformative change within this program.

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If SMU can get the death penalty for the comprehensive conspiracy pay-to-play scandal of the 70’s and ‘80s, what the hell is stopping the NCAA from imposing something similar on Penn State? They already put Penn State on probation. What’s the next step, NCAA?

These players deserve better.

Humphries, who now plays for Cal, has spoken up about alleged sexual harassment by Parsons, defensive tackle Barber and defensive lineman Yetur Gross-Matos, all of whom deny the charges according to the report. Barber, Franklin, and the school are defendants in the suit Humphries filed in January.

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Humphries’ dad, Leonard, told ESPN the team tried “to make it seem like Isaiah was the problem” and that his son dreaded going into the locker room:

“He started losing his hair at 19. I mean, who loses their hair at 19? He was depressed. He was withdrawn. He lost 20 pounds … Really? This stuff is happening in the same locker room where the Jerry Sandusky stuff happened? Are you kidding me?’

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Good for Humphries for getting out of Penn State, but will the NCAA even pretend to care about these players’ safety?

The culture in this place is slowly getting worse — if that is even possible — so NCAA, are you going to step in to protect these players? Or watch from the sidelines.

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