Columnist: PSU Should Steer Clear of 'Rape' Word has partnered with LexisNexis to bring you this content.

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You're Penn State, and you have an opening for a head football coach. Your squeaky-clean miracle-worker, Bill O'Brien, just finished up two years in Happy Valley and bolted for the NFL.

So now you're looking for another coach, an O'Brien clone, someone once again above reproach, because, after all, you are Penn State, and you still are just 26 months removed from the worst scandal in the history of American education. Not just athletics. All schools, all time.

What Jerry Sandusky did under the auspices of Penn State football was so horrible that one would think the mere thought of his despicable acts would guide every move by every person in a position of leadership at Penn State from now until, well, forever. For instance, because Sandusky raped young boys, you would think Penn State definitely would steer clear of anyone involved with that awful, terrible word: rape. That would seem to be a wise guiding principle for the search committee.

So, Penn State, who are you thinking about hiring?

A man whose tenure at Vanderbilt was marked by a rape scandal.

Penn State might make that hire?

Yes, Penn State.

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. Not at this time.

Last June, four of Franklin's players were charged with raping an unconscious 21-year-old woman in a dormitory, and a fifth player pleaded guilty to helping cover it up. All five were dismissed from the team.

If and when there is a trial, it will be Franklin's former players on trial. One of the players' attorneys was quoted as saying he wants to subpoena Franklin.

Whatever happens in that case, by hiring Franklin, Penn State will have attached itself to it. If there's a trial and Franklin's a part of it, Penn State would be a part of it, too.

Are Penn State's leaders still that tone deaf to the way the nation looks at its school, especially its football program?

Apparently so.

Franklin, a Pennsylvania guy who comes from the Philadelphia suburbs and went to college at East Stroudsburg, has not been implicated in any criminal wrongdoing by investigators. And to be fair, he is the man who quickly kicked the arrested players off his team.

Even so, it was a terrible moment in college athletics, a black mark for Vanderbilt, for Franklin -- and potentially, one that by association will mark Penn State.

Maybe Penn State's leaders subscribe to the "misery loves company" school of management. How else do we explain this?

And that's not all. Franklin has attracted other controversy. During a 2012 radio interview, he said one of the top qualifications for his assistant coaches is that they must have attractive wives.

Yes, Penn State's reported choice for new head football coach said exactly that, and not just in an off-hand remark, but as part of a long statement in which he declared it a job qualification.

"I've been saying it for a long time, I will not hire an assistant coach until I've seen his wife," Franklin said. "If she looks the part, and she's a D-I recruit, then you got a chance to get hired. That's part of the deal."

He continued: "There's a very strong correlation between having the confidence, going up and talking to a woman, and being quick on your feet and having some personality and confidence and being fun and articulate, than it is walking into a high school and recruiting a kid and selling him."

Franklin later apologized on Twitter.

David Williams, Vanderbilt's vice chancellor of athletics, covered for Franklin, saying, "Clearly what he said is not how he feels and not how we feel."

Clearly, though, after reading those full paragraphs of Franklin's feelings on the topic, isn't that exactly what he feels?

Maybe Penn State's leaders are yearning for a return to the 1950s in Happy Valley.

If so, they have their man.

January 10, 2014

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