Penn State officially hires Vanderbilt’s James Franklin as head coach
Penn State’s coaching search is over. The Nittany Lions made it official on Saturday afternoon, naming Vanderbilt’s James Franklin as head coach. The 41-year-old becomes PSU’s 16th head coach in school history, replacing Bill O’Brien, who had a 15-9 record in his two seasons as head coach.
Franklin put up a 24-14 mark at Vanderbilt, including three straight bowl appearances and back-to-back bowl wins, the latest being a 41-24 win over Houston in the Compass Bowl. Vanderbilt finished the season ranked No. 24 in the AP Poll. During the school’s press conference, the turnaround at Vanderbilt was stressed as well as Franklin’s emphasis on family, academics and teamwork.
“We feel we had a great pool of candidates,” Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner said. “Coach Franklin is the right choice for us.”
Before Franklin, Vanderbilt won 14 games in its history over teams with winning records. Under Franklin in three seasons, the Commodores beat four such teams, as SB Nation’s Jason Kirk mentioned in his piece on Saturday. The challenge at Penn State isn’t to bring the Nittany Lions back to being a perennial powerhouse, at least not a first. Franklin will be tasked with continuing the growth and progress the school made after the Jerry Sandusky scandal under O’Brien. The now-Houston Texans coach had to press the reset button under heavy sanctions, and the foundation is in place.
“We’re going to dominate the state, ” Franklin said during his press conference. “We’re going to dominate the region. I’ve worked at a lot of institutions that tried to compete recruiting against Penn State University and it was an unbelievable challenge. This school has everything that players are looking for. [...] With everybody pulling the rope in the same direction, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to take this program where it needs to be.”
Franklin said Penn State was his dream job, and that his plan is to “go out and win a bunch of games” so he and his family can stay there for a long time. With his name attached to a laundry list of jobs over the past two offseasons, the fact Franklin went with PSU does make a statement. He’s from Pennsylvania. He played college football at East Stroudsburg in Pennsylvania. His first job in coaching came at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania.
The same tools and approach Franklin took at Vandy should carry over nicely into PSU, assuming he is able to recruit and reach the players currently on the roster and keep the momentum going that O’Brien started.