Relax, Golden Eagle fans. You haven’t run Tyrone coach John Franco out of town.
Soon after the Eagles’ 21-10 loss to Central Cambria in the District 6-AA semifinals, rumors circulated the borough that the 14-year coach was planning to vacate his post as the Golden Eagles’ coach because of the harsh criticism he received by fans for his game plan against the Red Devils.
As brutal as the complaints may have sounded from the 50-yard line, it’s not enough to make Franco want to pack up his toys and go home.
“I’ve been coaching for 30 years, and I’ve been criticized by the best of them,” Franco said. “Honestly, there’s nothing fans can say at this point that can bother me.”
Franco said nothing can compare to the kind of treatment he received at times from fans when he was coaching in Altoona, noting that Tyrone has the best fans he’s ever been around.
“We have great fans,” Franco said. “We have the best fans, so a few malcontents don’t bother me.”
In fact, Franco said, many fans have contacted him in person and by mail over the last several weeks to offer their support.
“I’ve been getting overwhelmed with letters and postcards from people saying ‘Don’t let the fans bother you,’” Franco said. “People think I’m upset with the fans. I’m not upset with the fans. I appreciate all of the support, and I’ve been amazed by the number of people who have come and said not to let it bother me. But it really doesn’t.”
While the realities of three decades spent in a profession that seems to invite criticism have given Franco perspective on grumbling fans, his even way of handling it doesn’t completely extend to his family, who sit, often unnoticed, with the rest of Tyrone’s following in the stands.
“It did upset my wife and family,” he said.
Franco has consistently stated over the last decade that his only issue with Tyrone’s fans has been with their lofty expectations, and their response when those outside expectations go unmet.
This season was a prime example, when the Eagles went undefeated through the regular season, established a school record for consecutive wins at 32 games, and won the MAC Nittany Division title for the fourth straight time.
The new winning streak mark was particularly impressive when you consider the former mark of 29 straight games had stood for nearly 50 years. To put it into perspective, when it ended in 1948, space exploration was a dream and words like Cold War had yet to enter the American lexicon.
“The streak should have been a big deal,” said Franco. “When you look at high school football and how important regular season games are, it’s really incredible that we could do that. It’s quite an accomplishment. But unfortunately, in this day and age, those things can be easily overshadowed by the playoffs.”