Always the rumored candidate, he’s now, finally, the choice. James Franklin will be the next head coach at Penn State, according to CBS Sports’ Bruce Feldman. Franklin replaces the departing Bill O’Brien.
The 41-year-old Vanderbilt coach leaves the Commodores with a 21-15 record vs. FBS teams. They went 9-7 in the SEC over the past two seasons and finished in the final Top 25 both years. Vanderbilt had last done that in 1948.
Franklin could be a phenomenal hire for Penn State. The program needs a personality, someone with energy who will set a tone, will sell the program and will forge a new identity in the Post-Paterno/Sandusky era. The resurrection Franklin performed at moribund Vanderbilt is testament he can do just that. He’s a Pennsylvania native, who should understand the State and what the program means within it, without being a Paterno scion.
Penn State could be a phenomenal move for Franklin. College football “jobs” are, to a great extent, what the inhabitant makes of them. Folks questioning the wisdom of Franklin leaving Vanderbilt, Briles leaving Baylor or Fitzgerald leaving Northwestern is testament to that. But most jobs have more or less definite ceilings. A select few don’t. Those jobs don’t come available very often.
State College is low, due to scandal, sanctions and a decade of underperformance (more or less) at the end of Paterno’s tenure. But Penn State remains one of the nation’s top revenue programs. It is the one Big Ten job where a coach can challenge Ohio State and Michigan for the best recruits and compete nationally, on a yearly basis. The work isn’t easier at a job like that, but the effort can yield greater rewards.
[Photo via USA Today Sports]