After five days of quarantine and four COVID-19 tests, Penn State coach James Franklin surprised his family with a visit on Christmas Eve. The Franklins spent the next three weeks together, their first time in the same house since August.
Now back at Penn State, where his team is beginning winter workouts, Franklin returns to work without his family nearby. He also continues to hold out hope that they will reunite soon. But Franklin also is realistic.
"Our next hurdle is, when are they going to be able to come here?" Franklin said. "Because I don't see that happening anytime soon."
Franklin begins 2021 still uncertain when his wife and two daughters can return to State College and return some sense of family normalcy. Fumi Franklin and their daughters, Shola and Addison, have been quarantining at their family home in the South since March to protect Addison, who has Sickle cell disease, from being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19.
Franklin opened up last season about the strain he faced coaching while being separated from his family. When the season ended Dec. 19, Penn State decided not to play in a bowl game. So Franklin quarantined for five days, passed his COVID-19 tests, and was able to join his family on Christmas Eve.
He had not seen them in person since making a brief visit in August after the Big Ten initially canceled the 2020 football season.
"It obviously was a really good time," Franklin said Monday during a media conference call. "... They didn't know I was coming, so it was a pretty cool surprise to show up and be with my family. So that was great. We spent the last couple weeks with each other 24 hours a day."
Franklin still found time for work, hiring a new offensive coordinator in Mike Yurcich and navigating through the significant number of roster changes Penn State has seen this offseason. Upon returning (his seventh anniversary at Penn State was Jan. 11), Franklin said the process of rejoining his family remains ongoing.
Franklin has said that the State College region has limited resources for handling Sickle cell disease, complicating the family's plan to return permanently. In addition, since the COVID-19 vaccines are not yet approved for children, Franklin has to remain apart from his family while coaching his team in-person on a daily basis.
The coach referenced some options the family is considering, including having Franklin stay in a room above the garage of their State College home should the family return. Until then, he'll work apart as he did last season.
"They’re driving each other crazy, my two daughters," Franklin said. "They love each other but only so much. You can only take so much of your sister, you can only take so much of your mom. They were really excited to see me the first couple days, and by the end of the week they were ready for me to go back to work."
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