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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Pittman, Franklin genuine, like old friends

by Wally Hall | December 30, 2021 at 2:36 a.m.

TAMPA, Fla. -- It didn't show.

On Wednesday at 12:31 p.m. EST, Sam Pittman made his debut as a head coach in a joint press conference for a bowl game.

There was no gap between Pittman and Penn State head coach James Franklin who was making his 10th joint press conference.

It might have helped that it was almost a lovefest between the two head coaches.

They were both funny, insightful and relaxed.

At Monday night's bowling outing for both teams they, along with Pittman's wife Jamie, sat and talked.

Apparently they really got to know each other and came away with a deep mutual respect.

Neither would go into specifics about what they discussed, but in general it was shifting landscape of college football which is undergoing a new problem of players opting out of playing in a bowl game to prepare for the NFL.

Penn State's count was up to six starters who won't be playing here Saturday in the Outback Bowl, which will be televised on ESPN 2.

That creates problems, but the coaches knew about the opt-outs before the players tweeted it out.

Both were gracious about being here, and Franklin commented that the weather was great, just like back home in Happy Valley, where it happened to be snowing.

That got the first laugh of the press conference, but by the time it ended, both had gotten their share of chuckles.

Pittman was just Pittman in his next-door-neighbor manner, which is the real him.

There's nothing phoney about him.

Sure, his image got bruised recently when he fired a local agent and signed with powerful Jimmy Sexton, who has used the Arkansas Razorbacks in the past to get clients big raises at other schools.

Gus Malzahn was never coming to Arkansas, but he was dangled four years ago. He got a huge raise at Auburn that ended up owing him more than $20 million after firing him last season.

The bruise is fading and will be gone because Pittman really does love the state of Arkansas, the Razorbacks and each and every one of his players.

Besides, the Razorbacks got him cheap to begin with, and after taking a program from 4-20 the two seasons before he came, to 11-11 in is first two seasons, he is worthy of being paid more. In fact, Arkansas probably doesn't want its head coach to be 12th in the SEC in pay.

Anyway, both coaches were asked about coaching at their dream jobs where neither was offered a scholarship to play.

Franklin laughed and called it "rejection," and told how he made a great pass in a Penn State camp when he was in high school, and he thought the quarterback coach would come talk to him.

"He didn't," Franklin deadpanned.

Pittman saw it a little different. He wasn't rejected because he was never offered by any major program.

It was that kind of press conference: Entertaining.

Joint press conferences are rarely informative because neither coach is going to give anything away and when Pittman was talking about the great loss of Treylon Burks Franklin pretended to be taking notes.

Both coaches seemed to be enjoying every aspect of the Outback Bowl from bowling to beaches to press conferences.

When they were asked how they were handling the balance of football and fun events, Pittman said he had no experience, zero, at being the head coach at a bowl so he figured everything was as balanced as it should be.

When the press conference ended the two hung around on the podium for pictures, and then they embraced in a bear hug and slaps on the back.

It was genuine, just like the butt-kicking each will try give the other this Saturday.

Print Headline: Pittman, Franklin genuine, like old friends


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