Last month, James Franklin gave an interview to the Reading Eaglewhere he said the following:
Q: How would you describe the challenge of being in the same division with Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State?
A: Like most things in life, there are some real positives about it. We're able to tell kids they're going to compete against the very highest level week in and week out. What makes it tricky, they're not having to deal with some of the things we're dealing with and working through, which magnifies it. Those programs as well as others know that and use that against us. We have that conversation with every single prospect. We don't usually initiate it, but it's coming from somewhere.
"What we're dealing with and working through" is a clear reference to the continued Jerry Sandusky fallout, and Franklin referenced that specifically elsewhere in the interview. "The people we're competing with - Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame - this is just not something they have to deal with," he said. "Although we want to move on, those other schools are not letting us move on."
So that's two times Franklin seems to draw a pretty clear line between Penn State's issues and negative recruiting by Penn State's geographic rivals -- the insinuation being that the Nittany Lions will go back on probation after recent details of the former defensive coordinator's crimes came to light over the summer.
Those comments followed Franklin from Reading to Chicago, where on Tuesday he clarified his comments to Fox Sports:
"All I said was that every kid that we're recruiting is also being recruited by Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Notre Dame and that they don't have the same challenges that we have now. Then, in a separate quote, I mentioned that right now we're (dealing) with negative recruiting. It was two separate quotes, though, over a 35-minute interview.
"I never said that any of those schools are the ones doing the negative recruiting against us. They're not. There is one other particular school, but I didn't name who that was."
With the entire conference's media and half the league's coaches housed in the same place, those comments made the rounds quickly, which other Big Ten coaches purportedly called out by Franklin were forced to issue denials.
Mark Dantonio: "That's not our M.O. and that's not how we do business."
Urban Meyer: "Absolutely not. That's the first I've ever heard of that. That's a pretty strong allegation. I will address that with coach Franklin."
Jim Harbaugh and Brian Kelly weren't in the house Tuesday, otherwise they would have been asked as well.
So, what to make of this?
A) It's a non-controversy controversy, a specialty of the Internet era, where comments to a local paper were taken out of context and promptly blown out of proportion.
B) It's a Machiavellian move by Franklin to win Penn State sympathy while simultaneously throwing dirt on Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Notre Dame while at the same time denying any such thing. (As an aside, if it's anyone other than those four schools negative recruiting against Penn State... what does Franklin care? You are, as you like to say, Penn State. No one else in your region aside from the above four can touch that.)
C) It's a non-controversy controversy, a specialty of the Internet era, where comments to a local paper were taken out of context and promptly blown out of proportion.
In the end, Franklin's own athletics director summed up the non-troversy by telling the Centre Daily, "Negative recruiting goes on every day. Everywhere." (4:34 mark)