UNSUPPORTED BROWSER
Football

James Franklin announced as next coach at Penn State

Photo: Mark Humphrey/AP

James Franklin is the new head coach of Penn State after spending three seasons at Vanderbilt.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Penn State has hired James Franklin as its next head coach.

Franklin, 41, who led Vanderbilt to bowls in all three of his seasons there, replaces Bill O'Brien, who left the Nittany Lions after two years to coach the NFL's Houston Texans. Penn State made the announcement Saturday, after the school's compensation committee met to finalize the contract.

That committee approved the hiring by a 6-0 vote Saturday morning.

Franklin won 24 games with the Commodores and is a Pennsylvania native with strong ties in-state. Penn State officials met with him this week in Florida. He will be asked to build off a foundation that O'Brien set amid scandal. Despite a lack of scholarships, a bowl ban and player defections from the late Joe Paterno's roster, O'Brien led the Nittany Lions to two winning seasons (8-4, 7-5) while restoring some tempered enthusiasm in Happy Valley.

That torch has now been passed to Franklin, who played at Division III East Stroudsburg (Pa.). He set seven school records as a senior, and also has coached at Washington State, Idaho State, Kansas State and Maryland. With the Terrapins, he was offensive coordinator and assistant head coach.

Members of Penn State's trustee committee on compensation met with Athletic Director Dave Joyner and others Saturday morning to discuss the contract, which the group called "excellent" for both Franklin and the Nittany Lions.

"Dr. Joyner and I have stressed that our No. 1 priority in hiring a new coach was to hire an outstanding leader for our football program, one who will continue our long tradition of student-athlete success on the field and in the classroom," Penn State President Rodney Erickson said. "We have achieved that goal. On behalf of the University and the entire Nittany Lion nation, I am proud to welcome James Franklin as Penn State's 16th head football coach."

Much of Saturday's meeting, at which specific terms of the contract were laid out for trustees, was done privately. The actual vote was public, lasting roughly a minute, and Penn State made the formal announcement of the hiring moments later. Trustees said Franklin's contract terms would be revealed Saturday afternoon.

"The contract is in line with other recent coaching contracts," committee chairwoman Linda Strumpf said.

Franklin took over a Vanderbilt program that went 2-10 each of the two seasons before he was hired Dec. 17, 2010. He went 24-15 in his first three seasons as a head coach, matching Dan McGugin for the most wins in school history over a coach's first three seasons.

The Commodores are 16-4 over the past 20 games, which is second in the SEC only to Alabama. Vanderbilt won the final seven games of 2012 and the final five of 2013 in a stretch that also includes back-to-back bowl wins.

He also led Vanderbilt to rankings in the final Associated Press poll each of the past two seasons, including No. 24 in the rankings released Tuesday. Vanderbilt hadn't finished in the final AP poll before Franklin arrived since 1948 under Red Sanders.

Franklin also has doubled the number of nine-win seasons in school history by going 9-4 each of the past two seasons. Vanderbilt last won nine games in 1915 before Franklin. In 2013, the Commodores also beat Georgia, Florida and Tennessee in the same season for the first time.

He now has a new challenge and some big shoes to fill. O'Brien met the task of succeeding Paterno with ferocity and passion. He changed the culture by, among other things, placing names on the backs of the jerseys, playing loud music during practice to fire up players and overhauling the offseason weight training program. All along, he was lauded.

At the same time, though, he always paid homage to Paterno and his legacy. He said and did the right things to appeal to Penn State fans, and made the most of his 24 games at Penn State. In the end, that made him even more marketable to the NFL.

But what he left behind - especially in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal - would be difficult for any coach to adopt:

- Though there is talk that this may be reduced at some point, Penn State's bowl ban has not been lifted yet and runs through the 2015 season.

- While some scholarships have been restored, there is not the full allotment that other Big Ten schools - including new members Rutgers and Maryland - have at their disposal.

- Recruiting season is in full swing right now, a time when high school seniors may cross the Nittany Lions off their list.

- And the trials of three former Penn State officials accused of trying to cover up the scandal at the time - president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president for finance Gary Schultz - are still to be completed.

After a lackluster start - O'Brien lost to Ohio and Virginia to open his career - Penn State rattled off five straight wins, and finished the year with a rousing 24-21 win over Wisconsin at home.

This season, the Nittany Lions started off better - wins over Syracuse and Eastern Michigan opened the year - but dealt with inconsistency issues along the way. All that said, like his first season, O'Brien closed with a flurry, defeating the Badgers, this time in Wisconsin, 31-24, to close out the campaign.

O'Brien developed bonds with his players, but never let that get in the way of the task at hand. He needed to grow college football players into Penn State players, and in many cases, he was successful. It's now on Franklin to push that mission forward.

Close

To continue enjoying content from the most trusted name is sports, please be sure to update your current bookmark.

Our updated web address is http://www.si.com.

To continue enjoying content from the most trusted name is sports, please be sure to update your current bookmark.

Just follow these 4 easy steps:

  1. Click the Chrome menu on the browser toolbar.
  2. Select Bookmarks.
  3. Select Bookmark manager.
  4. Locate your current Sports Illustrated bookmark, click the Organize menu, then select Edit. You can now easily update the web address of your Sports Illustrated bookmark.

    Our updated web address is http://www.si.com.

To continue enjoying content from the most trusted name is sports, please be sure to update your current bookmark.

Just follow these 2 easy steps:

  1. Click the Safari bookmark manager on the browser toolbar.
  2. This will open the Bookmarks Bar. In the Bookmarks Bar, select your Sports Illustrated bookmark and manually edit the Address field.

    Our updated web address is http://www.si.com.

To continue enjoying content from the most trusted name is sports, please be sure to update your current bookmark.

Just follow these 3 easy steps:

  1. Click the Firefox bookmark manager on the browser toolbar.
  2. Select Show All Bookmarks.
  3. This will open the library window. In the Library window, select your Sports Illustrated bookmark and manually edit the Location field.

    Our updated web address is http://www.si.com.
Don't Show This Again