|John Beale / Associated Press|
|James Franklin takes over as Penn State's head coach after leading Vanderbilt to nine-win seasons in 2012 and 2013.|
Calling it his dream job and where he wanted to be, James Franklin officially was introduced as Penn State's head coach at a news conference Saturday afternoon.
Franklin, 41, was 24-15 in three seasons at Vanderbilt. He will replace Bill O'Brien, who left to become coach of the NFL's Houston Texans. Franklin also was targeted by several NFL teams as a possible coaching candidate this offseason, but Saturday he said, "I'm a college guy, I'm a relationship guy."
CBSSsports.com reported that Franklin has signed a six-year deal worth more than $4.5 million per year. That is believed to be the second-highest salary in the Big Ten, behind only Ohio State's Urban Meyer ($4.6 million per season), and a top seven or eight figure nationally.
Franklin is a Pennsylvania native who guided Vanderbilt, long an SEC doormat, to consecutive nine-win seasons in 2012 and '13. The nine wins tied a school record for single-season wins set in 1915, and his 24 victories in three seasons is the most in a three-year period at the school since 1926-28. In his final 20 games at Vandy, Franklin was 16-4 -- a wins total in that span surpassed only by Alabama's Nick Saban in the SEC.
Franklin had been the offensive coordinator at Maryland from 2008-10 before being hired by Vandy. He had been the coach-in-waiting at Maryland under coach Ralph Friedgen and athletic director Debbie Yow. But after Yow left for the same job at North Carolina State, new athletic director Kevin Anderson removed the coach-in-waiting designation. Now Franklin will have the opportunity to go against Maryland in the Big Ten.
Franklin has numerous recruiting ties to the Baltimore/Washington, D.C., area, which means he almost certainly will go head-to-head against Maryland on the recruiting trail.
As for recruiting overall, he said that Penn State would "dominate the state. We are going to dominate the region."
Franklin became Vandy's coach in December 2010, when the Commodores were coming off consecutive two-win seasons under Bobby Johnson. Franklin took Vandy to three consecutive bowls. The Commodores had been to four bowls total before Franklin's arrival.
Vanderbilt finished 23rd in the final coaches' poll and 24th in the final Associated Press poll this season. It's the second season in a row, but just the third time in school history, Vanderbilt has been ranked in a season-ending poll.
Top current NFL players from Penn StatePenn State has produced numerous outstanding football players, take a look at the top former Nittany Lions currently in the NFL.
Franklin does arrive with some baggage. Four Vandy players were charged in an on-campus rape case in August and have yet to go to trial. Given the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State, athletic director Dave Joyner will receive some criticism for hiring a coach whose players were involved in a sexual assault.
During the news conference, Joyner said the vetting of Franklin was perhaps the most thorough of anyone at Penn State.
"My belief, without a doubt, is James Franklin is a man of extremely high character," Joyner said.
Franklin also received heat in the summer of 2012 for saying that his assistants must have attractive wives. The next day, he apologized and tweeted that, "My foot doesn't taste good."
Franklin remained a hot coaching commodity, though, to the extent that he was on the radar of a few NFL teams seeking coaches this offseason.
Penn State won 15 games in O'Brien's two seasons despite being on NCAA probation because of the Sandusky scandal. But the organization already has eased some of the recruiting sanctions and is expected to remove the postseason ban sometime this year. Once depth is restored to normal levels, there's no reason to think Penn State won't again challenge for Big Ten titles. Franklin's history should mean Penn State's offense will be one of the best in the Big Ten annually, and if he hires the right staff, defense won't be an issue, either.
Joyner deserves credit for nabbing Franklin. The question now becomes how long Franklin will remain at Penn State. He is going to win with the Nittany Lions. And despite what he said about Penn State being his dresm job, the NFL teams are going to keep after him. Can he turn them down?
Joyner obviously took that into account by giving Franklin $4.5 million a season. That should make Franklin's eventual decision a lot tougher. Still, Joyner had to be worried about the "now" rather than a few years down the line. In that vein, he made an excellent hire.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.