Now that the college football season is officially over until the fall, it is time to start the roller-coaster that is the coaching rumor mill. The NFL has already seen its fair share of firings and hirings, and now it is time for the NCAA to do the same. While progress in the college coaching sphere has been slower (most likely due to university bureaucratic red-tape), the wheels are starting to turn. The latest coaching rumors come from the home of the Nittany Lions, Penn State.
Rumors abounded Wednesday and Thursday that James Franklin, current coach at Vanderbilt University, will be the next coach of Penn State, with multiple sources claiming that Franklin had already accepted an offer from the university. The head coaching position at Penn State came open after former head coach Bill O’Brien left the program to become the head coach of the NFL’s Houston Texans. As it currently stands, Larry Johnson, the Nittany Lions defensive line coach, is serving as interim head coach.
Credence was given to the rumors when the Centre Daily Times reported on Thursday that the Penn State selection committee had scheduled a meeting for Saturday morning to discuss the compensation package for the university’s next head coach. The news of the meeting came on the heels of university administrators and certain members of the selection committee returning from a trip to Destin, Florida, where James Franklin just happens to have a vacation home.
— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) January 9, 2014
The Times-Tribune of Scranton reported on Wednesday that following said meeting in Destin, the selection committee offered the position to Franklin. This report is most likely what led to statements that Franklin had already accepted the job.
Vanderbilt’s athletic director, David Williams, is adamantly reminding players, fans, and media outlets that Franklin has yet to make any decision yet, however: “He just called to let me know that the reports that he had accepted the job were not true. I think it was a call to say, ‘I know what’s being said,’ and as I’ve said, he’ll be our football coach until he tells me he’s not. I’m hoping that will remain.”
Williams is not simply relying on hope, though. In speaking to Nashville radio station 104.5 FM on Wednesday, Williams announced just how far he would go to retain Franklin as head coach: “I’d shave my head (to keep Franklin), and I’d give him the money I saved going to the barber shop.”
Vanderbilt players are also Tweeting to their followers about the lack of authority behind the rumors that Franklin has already made up his mind:
No Decision Has Been Made! First Hand Knowledge.
— Caleb Azubike (@VandyKid_55) January 9, 2014
While others are trying to keep the ‘Dores fan-base optimistic even if Vanderbilt loses Franklin as its head coach:
I've never seen a coach make a tackle, block, or catch a pass.. We gonna be just fine Vandy Nation.. Believe that #ANCHORDOWN
— Andrew Jelks (@andre_dores50) January 9, 2014
Football is a business. James Franklin is a good man. If you can't be positive, don't be a part of #Vandynation. Thanks.
— Kyle Woestmann (@Kyle_Kain_Marko) January 9, 2014
Even Vanderbilt alums are getting in on the action, with PGA golfer Brandt Snedeker tweeting his plan to get Franklin to stay:
— Brandt Snedeker (@BrandtSnedeker) January 8, 2014
Considering Vanderbilt is not a typical football power-house, many fans may wonder why Franklin has become such a hot commodity. Over the past 3 years as head coach, Franklin led the Commodores to a 24-15 record, winning 16 of his last 20 games as head coach while leading Vanderbilt to 3 consecutive Bowl Games. Before Franklin, Vanderbilt had won a total of 13 SEC conference games in 10 years and had played in only 4 bowl games in school history.
Due to having overcome so much adversity at Vanderbilt due to a complete lack of interest or success in football, Franklin may be the perfect candidate for Penn State’s next head coach. Penn State still faces severe sanctions stemming from the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the most notable being the lack of scholarship positions available and the bowl games ban until 2016. As such, the next Penn State football coach will have to view the school as a final destination and not a platform through which to obtain a “better” coaching gig.
Considering Franklin has very close ties to the state of Pennsylvania (having grown up, played football, and coached in the state) and to former Penn State coach Bill O’Brien (the two coached together at the University of Maryland), he may well be the perfect candidate to fill the shoes worn so well by Joe Paterno. If hired, James Franklin will become the first black coach in the history of Penn State football, cementing the university’s transition away from its storied, yet marred, past and into the future.
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