Penn State hires Vandy's Franklin as next football coach -, GA News Weather & Sports

Penn State hires Vandy's Franklin as next football coach


James Franklin, who led Vanderbilt to three straight bowl games for the first time in the program's 124-year history, has been named the 16th head football coach at Penn State University.

Franklin, 41, replaces Bill O'Brien, who led the Nittany Lions to a 15-9 mark in two seasons after replacing legendary Penn State coach Joe Paterno.

Franklin will be formally introduced at press conference in State College, PA, at 3:15 CT.

The university made the announcement after its Board of Trustees approved Franklin's contract.

"I can't tell you how excited I am to come home," Franklin said in a news release. "I grew up watching Penn State football and now to be at the helm of such a storied program is a tremendous honor. It's important to me to be a part of a university that strives for excellence in everything they do. When football student-athletes come to Penn State, they have a unique opportunity to receive a premium education while playing at the highest level of competition.

"I'm incredibly excited to get to know the students, alumni, and fans who have demonstrated such loyalty to the University as a whole and to the football program in particular. I've worked my way through every division of football and no other school boasts a fan base like we do. We Are...Penn State!!"

Franklin was Vanderbilt's head coach for three seasons, leading the team to back-to-back nine-win seasons for the first time in the program's history. He compiled a 24-15 record, including bowl wins in the past two seasons. He was named the 27th football coach in school history on Dec. 17, 2010.

A team meeting for the Vanderbilt football players and coaches was held early Saturday morning. The team learned of Franklin's decision at the meeting.

Athletics director David Williams will hold a press conference at 12 p.m. Saturday to discuss Franklin's departure and the direction of the football program.

"I received a phone call last night from Coach Franklin saying he was going to accept a new opportunity," Williams said in a statement released after the team meeting. "There is no question that James Franklin's outstanding work has helped put Vanderbilt football on the national stage. We are extremely sorry to see the Franklin family leave our university and community, and we thank them and wish them the very best. Because of James, Fumi, Shola and Addy Franklin, our program is stronger in every way than it was just a few short years ago. While I will personally miss them, I want to assure our campus community and Commodore Nation that we are prepared to begin the process that we've used in the past to identify and hire our other very successful head coaches. We have every expectation to hire an outstanding new football coach to build upon the progress that has been made in recent years."

Franklin's 24 wins matched Dan McGugin, Vanderbilt's all-time win leader, for the most wins in school history by a coach in his first three seasons. He garnered a lot of interest from other college and professional teams after his second regular season with an 8-4 record.

The Commodores finished the 2013 season ranked in the Top 25 for the second straight season, marking another first in the program's history. Vanderbilt finished ranked No. 24 in the final Associated Press poll and No. 23 in the USA Today Coaches Poll released after Monday's national championship game.

Until 2012, Vanderbilt had not won nine games in a season since 1915 and had only two nine-win seasons in school history.

Franklin's Vanderbilt team was 16-4 over the last 20 games. Only Alabama in the SEC had a better streak. The 20-game stretch also includes a seven-game win streak to end 2012 and a five-game streak to end the 2013 season.

Prior to Franklin's arrival in 2011, the Commodores had not won consecutive games since a five-game winning streak to open the 2008 season.

Franklin was interviewed on Wednesday in Destin, FL, by members of the Penn State search committee, including Penn State President Rodney Erickson and athletic director David Joyner, according to the Harrisburg (PA) Patriot News.

The compensation committee of Penn State's board of trustees approved Franklin's new contract during a conference call on Saturday morning.

"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," Erickson said in a news release. "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.

"Coach Franklin's record of success is extraordinary, but even more impressive is his passion for not only the game of football, but also creating an atmosphere in which student-athletes can succeed. His character, work ethic, values and knowledge of the game make him an outstanding fit for our program and to lead our student-athletes."

"We launched this search with several priorities, but our primary focus was to identify someone who shared our commitment to integrity, academics and winning championships," Joyner said in a news release. "We have found that person in James Franklin. Coach Franklin is a highly regarded coach and tremendous leader, but more importantly, he shares the same vision for Penn State Football that we, and our fans, have for the program. His record shows that he takes great pride in the academic and athletic success of his student-athletes. We're thrilled to welcome Coach Franklin to Penn State."

Franklin is a native of Langhorne, PA, and was a standout quarterback at East Stroudsburg University. He's served as offensive coordinator at Maryland and Kansas State and in a variety of roles at Kutztown, East Stroudsburg, James Madison, Maryland, Idaho State and Washington State throughout his coaching career. He also coached the Green Bay Packers wide receivers in 2005.

He reportedly interviewed for the Houston Texans job that eventually went to O'Brien, who he is replacing at Penn State. Franklin was linked to the job opening at the University of Texas and was set to interview with the Washington Redskins before they decided to hire Jay Gruden.

Franklin became the front-runner, according to national media sources, for the Penn State job on Tuesday.

After winning the BBVA Compass Bowl on Saturday in Birmingham, AL, Franklin went to Pasadena, CA, to serve as a guest analyst on ESPN's coverage of the BCS championship game.

Penn State interviewed several coaches that had ties to the university.

Sources said former Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak interviewed for the position. The Pro Football Hall of Famer played at Penn State before being drafted by the then-Houston Oilers, which became the Titans.

Miami coach Al Golden, a former Penn State captain, reportedly interviewed for the post before withdrawing his name from competition.

Larry Johnson, who was named interim head coach after O'Brien's departure, also met with the search committee. Johnson has been an assistant coach at Penn State for 18 seasons.

San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman may have also interviewed for the job. Reports were he was a finalist for the job in 2011 when O'Brien was eventually hired.

O'Brien led the program through the NCAA sanctions handed out after the child abuse scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky rocked the Penn State program and the dismissal of Paterno, who was the head coach for 46 seasons and was an assistant coach for 16 seasons.

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