Penn State football: 5 reasons James Franklin might take the Texas job
It’s all but tradition at this point. As December rolls around, James Franklin’s name continually pops up in the coaching carousel discussion. Last year it was USC and Florida State. This year it was South Carolina, and now Texas.
Born in Langhorne, Pa., and a former starting quarterback for East Stroudsburg University, being the head coach of Penn State is seemingly a dream job for Franklin. When pressed last season about the prospect of leaving Penn State, Franklin didn’t quite deny the notion that he could go elsewhere, but he did express how important Penn State is to him.
“It’s not often a coach gets an opportunity to move back to their home state and coach the team they grew up watching,” Franklin said just over a year ago in a statement announcing his new 6-year deal. “It’s even more rarer that it’s a school as rich in history and tradition as Penn State. It’s been an honor and privilege to be the head coach of the Penn State football program for the last six years.”
Rumors have long circulated that Urban Meyer was option No. 1 for Texas to replace current coach Tom Herman. Sunday night, however, the Austin American-Statesman reported that Meyer told Texas officials that he wasn’t getting back into college football coaching, citing health reasons.
Speculation has swirled that if the Longhorns couldn’t lasso Meyer, Franklin would be their next preference.
I, for one, don’t think Franklin has any intentions of leaving Penn State after this season, but it’d be foolish for any person not to at least hear out a program the size of Texas. But before Texas can begin (renew?) its search, there’s still the elephant in the room that is Herman. Herman is 31-18 in four seasons at UT and is coming off a huge 69-31 win over Kansas State. He still has 3 years remaining on his contract and is due $15 million if he’s fired without cause, not that Texas football is strapped for cash.
Franklin interviewed and was a finalist for the Texas job back in 2014 when he was still the head coach at Vanderbilt. The Longhorns hired Charlie Strong, and Franklin ended up in Happy Valley. The administration in Austin has since experienced turnover, with Chris Del Conte replacing Steve Patterson as AD, but Del Conte reportedly “thinks very highly of Franklin.”
With all that said, here are 5 reasons 2020 could potentially be Franklin’s last in Happy Valley:
1. The year from Hell
Penn State is 2-5. Franklin hasn’t seen his family in half a year. The upcoming recruiting class is on pace to be one of the worst in his tenure at Penn State. There’s an ongoing investigation alleging Franklin told a former player not to tell police about being assaulted by teammates. The honeymoon phase after a Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl appearance in 2016 is over.
On its own, 2020 may not be enough to push Franklin away, but after 7 seasons, things become stale. Outside of Brian Kelley at Notre Dame, there aren’t too many examples of coaches at high-profile programs that are continuing to get better with each season after several years. Most coaches have early success and then plateau (Mark Richt, Gus Malzahn, Jim Harbaugh).
It’s very possible that Penn State has already peaked under Franklin. Why not go try to do a similar flip at Texas?
2. Texas is a better job
There’s not many schools out there with a bigger pocketbook and better facilities than Penn State, but Texas is one of them. In the latest college financial report from USA Today, Texas athletics generated close to $60 million more revenue than Penn State ($223,879,781 to $164,529,326) and outspent the Nittany Lions by upwards of $40 million.
They simply do things bigger in Texas, from the weight room to the assistant coaches. Franklin has long been on the record of expressing his discontent about his assistants making lateral moves to other Power 5 schools. One way to prevent that is to pay them more.
Not accounting for bonuses, this year Texas will pay Herman’s top 11 senior assistants a combined $7.26 million. Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich makes the most ($1.7 million), and three other assistants will make at least $700,000. Penn State has not released numbers on its assistant coaches for this year, but in 2019 Brent Pry was the top-paid assistant under Franklin, making $693, 503. The man in charge of the 8th-best scoring defense is 2019 was the 73rd highest-paid assistant.
Throw in far better weather and one of the best cities to live in, and Austin starts to sound a little more attractive.
3. He can recruit anywhere
Normally making such a large geographical move from State College to Austin would be a major handicap on the recruiting trail, but Franklin can sell ice to an Eskimo.
Franklin’s 2018 and 2019 classes were both top-10 talent hauls. Until this year, he’s never signed a class ranked outside of the top 25 while at Penn State. His pitch in Pennsylvania may have grown old, but it could be just the cure for an ailing Texas program.
UT is no longer the school that all 9- and 10-year-old little Texans grow up dreaming of playing for. Look no further than Class of 2022 recruit Quinn Ewers. The top QB in his class and Texas native recently decommitted from the Longhorns in favor of Ohio State.
Texas isn’t just being out-recruited by national powers; in-state foes like Texas A&M are becoming the more desired locale. The Longhorns are in need of a fresh face to lead their recruiting charge. Franklin is just the guy.
4. The Big 12
Would you want to coach in the Big Ten East?
Every year, Penn State has to run through the gauntlet of Ohio State, Michigan and now whatever Tom Allen is building at Indiana, before playing a championship against a Wisconsin team that is perpetually somewhere in the top 20.
Meanwhile, the Big 12 can’t get out of its own way this year when it comes to qualifying for the College Football Playoff. A pair of 2-loss teams will meet in the conference championship game this season.
It’s been 6 years since a Big 12 champion finished with fewer than 2 losses, and if Franklin is worried about missing out on cupcakes like Rutgers, there’s always a Kansas program that is a combined 18-99 over the past 10 seasons. Talk about a much better quality of life playing in the Big 12.
5. He’s a nomad
Franklin has never been in one job for as long as he’s been at Penn State.
Dating back to 1995, when he was a receivers coach at Kutztown, Franklin held 11 jobs before coming to Penn State, never staying for more than five seasons (Maryland, 2000-04).
As stated earlier, your act can wear thin after a while, and Franklin has a history of not staying in one place very long. He’s 48 years old and still young enough for at least one more move. Heck, look at Mack Brown and Nick Saban coaching at the age of 69. And after a few months of nonstop beratement from fans, who could blame him for leaving?