Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour said she couldn’t stand to watch college football on television the past two Saturdays, knowing the Nittany Lions weren’t playing it.
James Franklin said he couldn’t stand not to.
“I am somewhat relentless, and I can't help it,’’ Franklin said during a news conference Thursday. “So I harassed Sandy with probably 45 text messages and phone calls about trying to kind of figure out what's going on.’’
Finally, the news came that Penn State and the Big Ten Conference will play football in 2020.
Other than that, the picture was fuzzy, as the Big Ten Conference announced a return to play Wednesday.
Franklin and Barbour filled in some of the picture Thursday.
“It's been challenging, but our parents have persevered and the players have persevered and so is the staff,’’ Franklin said.
“And now we're all trying to kind of navigate this new normal. Know this new normal that we all have right now.’’
What we have is nine games scheduled to begin the weekend of Oct. 23-24 and end the weekend of Dec. 18-19. The actual schedule — who plays whom and when — will be announced soon, probably this week.
That ninth, final weekend will consist of the conference championship game and “plus-one’’ matchups of like finishers in the East and West division races, East runner-up vs. West runner-up, and so on.
The Big Ten has decided not to sell tickets to the games, although Barbour said an attempt will be made to allow families of players and staff to attend. Tailgating will not be permitted on University property.
Franklin said Penn State has already moved into the full 20-hour week of practices and meetings. The conference will allow practices in full pads, meaning blocking and tackling, starting Sept. 30.
“It doesn’t change a whole lot for us,’’ Franklin said. “A lot of this stuff, we’ve already kind of had set.’’
The program has taken a hit from the pandemic, though, particularly in recruiting. The 2021 recruiting class ranks 33rd in the country and eighth in the Big Ten, according to 24/7 Sports.
“Up to this point, no, we haven't gotten it done. We have not recruited up to the standard that we normally have,’’ Franklin said.
He said not being able to get recruits on campus, where they can get a taste of the campus and the atmosphere, has been a huge factor.
“Those are the things that make Penn State so special,’’ he said. “We’ve got to be able to adjust. We got to be able to make some strategic changes and find a way.’’
On the other hand, 2020 essentially doesn’t count as a year of eligibility, which creates roster flexibility that might help in dealing with the grind of nine games in nine weeks, after playing no games for nearly 10 months.
“I think one of the advantages of this year, not counting from an eligibility standpoint, is you don't have to worry about the redshirt guys only playing four games,’’ Franklin said.
“It opens your roster, allows you to play more people, which I think you may need based on opt-outs, quarantine or whatever.’’
Also on the positive side in a possibility Franklin didn’t quite dismiss: All-America linebacker Micah Parsons returning.
Parsons opted out of the 2020 season Aug. 4, before the Big Ten shut down. He has signed with an agent, normally a disqualifier, but it’s possible the NCAA would make an exception given the pandemic.
“Well, you always keep the door open,’’ Franklin said. “It was pretty fun hitting Micah up right after it happened and watching all the fans go crazy.
“So we’ll how it all plays out, but obviously it makes it more complicated the longer they’ve been gone. But I also know that Micah, as well as others, probably wouldn’t be in this situation, if it wasn’t for the circumstances that we’re under.’’