James Franklin

Jan 2, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin celebrates with his team after the Penn State Nittany Lions defeated the Utah Utes in the 109th Rose Bowl game at the Rose Bowl. Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

James Franklin is entering his 10th season as Penn State’s head coach. 

Franklin has had a successful tenure so far in Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions have won at least 9 games in half of his seasons at the helm, and 4 of those campaigns were 11-win years. 

Penn State is 78-36 overall and 49-30 in Big Ten play under Franklin’s leadership. His 78 total victories are good enough for 4th overall in Penn State history, behind Joe Paterno (409), Rip Engle (104) and Bob Higgins (91).

His winning percentage of 68.4% is second in program history among coaches who led Penn State for a minimum of 50 games. Only Paterno (74.9%) ranks higher. 

Penn State went 11-2 in 2022, setting the stage for a 2023 campaign with very high expectations. Franklin has not led the Nittany Lions to back-to-back double-digit win seasons since 2016-17. 

However, 2023 is also expected to be a year of transition for Penn State. Longtime quarterback Sean Clifford is out of eligibility, clearing the way for perhaps the best quarterback prospect that Franklin has brought to Penn State.

Former 5-star quarterback Drew Allar is expected to win the starting job this offseason. He was the No. 1-ranked quarterback in the country for the class of 2022, per 247Sports. 

If Allar is able to live up to expectations, it could help Franklin bring Penn State to even greater heights in the coming years. As good as the Nittany Lions have been during the regular season, they are still looking for another level of success. 

Penn State has just one appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game — which it won — during Franklin’s tenure. The Nittany Lions have not reached the College Football Playoff under Franklin. Their last national championship was back in 1986. 

Franklin, who signed a 10-year contract extension in November of 2021, will be hoping to change that in the coming years. 

Prior to arriving at Penn State, Franklin was the head coach at Vanderbilt. He was the Commodores’ most successful head coach in recent memory. He went 24-15 overall and 11-13 in SEC play at Vandy. Since Franklin left after the 2013 season, Vanderbilt has a total of 12 SEC victories. Vanderbilt also hasn’t reached bowl eligibility in the 9 years since Franklin departed. 

Franklin was also an assistant coach at Maryland and Kansas State prior to getting the Vandy job. His other stops includes roles with Kutztown, East Stroudsburg, the Roskilde Kings in the Danish professional football league, James Madison, Washington State, Idaho State and the Green Bay Packers. 

As a player, Franklin was a quarterback for East Stroudsburg — a Division II program located in Pennsylvania. He played quarterback there from 1991-94 and then immediately started his coaching career with Kutztown as a receivers coach. 

Franklin’s accolades include 1 Big Ten Championship, 1 Big Ten East title and Sporting News Coach of the Year honors in 2016. 

James Franklin’s coaching experience

Head coaching record

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