Penn State expected to announce football coach Saturday
Ten days into the search for its next football coach, Penn State is expected to introduce the man who will replace Bill O'Brien.
University president Rodney Erickson and athletic director Dave Joyner have scheduled a 4:15 p.m. news conference Saturday at Beaver Stadium to make “a major announcement.” The Big Ten Network, which will broadcast the news conference, said the announcement is “regarding the university's new football coach.”
Vanderbilt coach James Franklin is expected to be named the 16th head coach in Penn State history. Franklin, 41, has spent the past three seasons in Nashville, Tenn., going 9-4 each of the past two seasons at the SEC school.
The Penn State Board of Trustees' recently formed compensation committee is meeting via conference call at 8:30 a.m. to approve an employment contract. ESPN, among other national outlets, has reported it is for Franklin, adding that he will be paid $4.5 million per season — a significant raise over what the university paid O'Brien.
According to Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers, if the compensation committee — chairwoman Linda B. Strumpf; Kathleen L. Casey; Mark H. Dambly; Karen B. Peetz; and Paul H. Silvis — approves the contract, the action will be taken in an public meeting over conference call at 9 a.m.
At that same time, Franklin is expected to address his Vanderbilt players during a team meeting, The Tennessean newspaper reported.
Franklin is described on the Vanderbilt website as “a relentless salesman and cheerleader for everything that represents the Star V.”
A Langhorne native, Franklin remained in-state for his college playing career (East Stroudsburg) and the first two seasons of his coaching career (one at Kutztown, one at his alma mater). With a resume of lifting a perennial conference doormat in Vanderbilt into respectability, Franklin has been a hot commodity on the coaching market the past two offseasons.
He was given a new contract by Vanderbilt after the 2012 season, and the school reportedly made a last-ditch effort to keep him Friday. Franklin met with athletic director David Williams, big-money booster John Ingram and other university bigwigs, according to multiple media outlets in Nashville.
Vanderbilt spokesman Rod Williamson maintained Friday night that there was “no change in status” with Franklin.
“I just left a meeting with our athletic director, and he still has hope that Franklin will remain here,” Williamson said via email.
Penn State interim coach Larry Johnson, when asked Friday evening whether his status had changed, told the Tribune-Review, “No, not at this time.”
Johnson, who has been on the Nittany Lions' staff since 1996, interviewed for the head job for the second time in a 25-month span.
Johnson is one of Penn State's top recruiters and has been tasked with keeping the Lions' 19-member 2014 class together since O'Brien's resignation last week.
Penn State's class is ranked 24th nationally by Rivals.com, two spots ahead of Vanderbilt's.
That's lofty company for the Commodores, who posted just one winning season in the 28 years before Franklin led the team to three straight bowl appearances.
Rivals.com national recruiting director Mike Farrell said Penn State landing Franklin would be “a great hire.”
“He's a guy who made his reputation (as an assistant) at Maryland as a tremendous recruiter, and he carried that recruiting over from Maryland,” Farrell said. “But what he's done at Vanderbilt has proven he can coach as well. A lot of people who knew him as a coach at Maryland are saying now, ‘This guy is more than just a recruiter now. He knows how to coach.' That's why this is a great hire. He's not just a guy who can recruit. You're getting a guy who can coach.”
As Penn State players awaited official word — they had not been told by the university as of late Friday — some were pleased when reports began to leak that it apparently would be Franklin.
“I think he's a great choice because he's an enthusiastic young coach and appears hungry to continue being successful as a college coach,” said West Mifflin's Adam Gress, who graduated three weeks ago after completing his senior season as the Lions' starting right tackle. “(The university community) would like him a lot because I believe he'd be excited about the football atmosphere Penn State has and would want to continue with Penn State's great football tradition.”