Penn State has landed James Franklin as football coach, bringing to State College, Pa., the most coveted college football coach in the nation.
Although the architect of an amazing turnaround at SEC doormat Vanderbilt denied all week that he had made a decision to leave for Penn State, university trustees approved his hiring Saturday morning and announced a contract was in place, details of which would be released in the afternoon.
“The contract is in line with other recent coaching contracts,” said Linda Strumpf, a trustee and head of the university’s committee on compensation.
Franklin, 41, arrived in Vanderbilt in December 2010 after the Commodores had posted back-to-back seasons with records of 2-10. He equaled the best three-season start to a coaching career at Vanderbilt by going 24-15, including consecutive bowl victories the last two seasons when the Commodores went 9-4 in back-to-back seasons.
Perhaps more impressive is that Franklin led Vanderbilt to a 16-4 record in the Commodores’ last 20 conference games, a mark only surpassed by Alabama.
He replaces Bill O’Brien, a former assistant coach and offensive coordinator with the New England Patriots who took over at Penn State two years ago in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sexual-abuse scandal that cost legendary coach Joe Paterno his job. O’Brien guided the Nittany Lions to a record of 15-9 in his tenure while facing scholarship limitations and losing several key players who were eligible to transfer in the wake of harsh NCAA penalties.
A statement by Penn State President Rodney Erickson said that Penn State’s “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,. 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.”