STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (WHTM) — Rumors always seem to swirl around Penn State football head coach James Franklin, but especially whenever USC is involved. After USC fired its coach, the rumor of Franklin moving to the West Coast became deafening.
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The Trojans fired head coach Clay Helton this week after more than seven seasons. USC lost to Stanford in the Trojans Pac-12 opener 42-28.
As Penn State’s Franklin has emerged as one of the top names to take the job, the coach has been peppered with questions about leaving Happy Valley. All while No. 10 Penn State prepares for the biggest game of the season against No. 22 Auburn for the annual White Out game.
On Tuesday, Franklin said he “can’t stand any form of distraction” when asked if he’s considering the USC job, and went on to say he’d discuss it with the leadership team and then re-focus on Auburn.
“I talked to my staff about it, I talked to the players about it, the leadership council in detail, but I think that’s the best approach,” Franklin said of how he’s handling the rumors. “I’m concerned about my team and my future team. And when I say my future team, I‘m talking about the recruits.”
So it doesn’t sound like he’s interested… but here are three reasons Franklin shouldn’t take the USC job.
He said his focus is on his team and his future team. The freshman entering campus ahead of the 2022 season provide a lot of reasons to stay, 24 reasons to be exact. The 24 verbal commitments for the Class of 22 comprise the top recruiting class in the country (above Alabama, Ohio State, and Notre Dame).
No other school in the country boasts a better group and a better future for a Penn State program that is on the rise this season. Plus, Penn State has the most commitments in the class of any FBS school.
This group includes top running back Nick Singleton out of Governor Mifflin and No. 7 Kaytron Allen. It also includes Midstate standouts in Central York QB Beau Pribula, CD East’s Mehki Flowers, and Manheim Township WR Anthony Ivey.
After the 2019 season, Franklin signed a six-year contract extension. The deal is slated to run through 2025 and pay the head coach a total of $35.4 million over six years.
The contract averages $5.9 million in guaranteed compensation per year, good for a $550,000 raise per year from his previous contract. His salary rises year over year, and by 2025 he will make $6.5 million in guaranteed money.
Based on the numbers in 2019, he would be the 11th highest-paid coach in college football. He’s third in the Big Ten behind Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Purdue’s Jeff Brohm.
Now life isn’t all about money, but USC was paying Helton $4.8 million in 2019 before he was fired. He was the highest salaried coach in the Pac-12 among schools who reported that data.
More than the money, Franklin has job security in Happy Valley. While a college head coach’s job is not without criticism, he’s managed to go eight seasons without the Nittany Lions fans calling for his firing. Franklin’s 62-28 record at Penn State, three berths in New Year’s Six bowl games, and the 2016 Big Ten Championship don’t hurt.
Home is where the heart is
Pennsylvania is home. Franklin was born in Langhorne, Pa. in Bucks County. He graduated from Neshaminy High School, and went on to play quarterback for East Stroudsburg University.
He was a two-time All-PSAC selection and graduated having broken or tied 23 school records. He was inducted into the East Stroudsburg Athletics Hall of Fame back in 2016.
More than that, James and his wife, Fumi, have two daughters, Shola and Addison. The family has made a home here in State College, and that home includes Penn State Football.
Franklin talks about how hard 2020 was as his family was quarantined away from himself and the team due to the coronavirus pandemic (his youngest daughter has sickle cell disease). The girls spend a lot of time at the facility, helping in the smoothie bar or coming to practice.
Beaver Stadium, Lasch Practice Facility, and Happy Valley are home to the Franklin family. That won’t change just because there are palm trees and sunshine on the West Coast. (James & Co. can get that from their Florida residence anyways….)
This is not the first time Franklin’s name has been brought up for the job as USC has flirted with firing Helton before 2021.
“No matter what you say, people aren’t happy,” Franklin said. “So I decided I’m going to handle this internally. I talked to our team. It happens every single year. I’m not worried about distractions in the media and with the fans, I’m worried about my team.
So instead, James Franklin and No. 10 Penn State keep the focus on No. 22 Auburn. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. right here on abc27, with live post-game analysis and reaction from Beaver Stadium to follow from the abc27 sports team.