It’s time for Penn State to “re-up” James Franklin.
Shoes To FIll
Let’s be honest, despite what the outside world thinks of Joe Paterno, it was never going to be easy to follow him at Penn State. Paterno won more games than any other college football coach in the history of the sport. The community around State College, PA respects the man to this very day. His coaching legacy is without question one of unparalleled success. His accomplishments include a 409-136-3 overall record, a 24-12-1 mark in bowl games, to go along with pieces of 3 National Championships, 3 Big 10 Titles, and numerous other awards. Were it not for the crimes of a former assistant coach the Big 10 championship trophy would literally be named after Paterno.
Before James Franklin
As we are all well aware, the NCAA decided to throw the book at the University and it’s football program following the Freeh Report. Scholarships were reduced and post season play was suspended. Former Patriots OC and current Houston Texan’s head coach Bill O’Brien was the first coach to take the reigns of the program in the post-Paterno era. He guided them to an amazing 8-4 mark and was named both the Big 10 and National Coach of the Year for his efforts. The early success lead O’Brien to receive overtures from the NFL which he quickly took up, leaving the program after his lone season. His early exit opened the door for Penn State to employ their 16th head coach in school history.
A New Era
James Franklin was eventually chosen to lead the program back into the national spotlight. Despite the continued loss of scholarships, Franklin managed to keep the program competitive within the Big 10. To their surprise, the University’s postseason ban was lifted part of the way through Franklin’s maiden season. He managed to guide his team to Bowl eligibility at 7-6 despite having significantly fewer scholarships than any other program in the nation. In December of that year, Penn State defeated Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium 31-30 in overtime cementing Franklin’s place in the PSU lore. I was personally at this game and the atmosphere was palpable among the Penn State fanbase.
Since that first campaign at the helm in State College, James Franklin has built the program back up into a championship contender. He managed a second 7-6 season before putting up three straight years of at least 9 wins which included a Big 10 Championship and two New Year’s Six Bowl Appearances. Among his most significant achievements are his efforts at recruiting which have brought players like Saquon Barkley, Miles Sanders, and other to Happy Valley. His shotgun based read-option scheme have updated the Old School scheme favored by Paterno for so many years. Following the loss of Trace McSorley, the winningest QB in program history, 2019 seemed like a transition season for the program. It would inevitably take a year to get Sean Clifford ready for primetime. Clifford had Redshirted his Freshman season and only played in 3 games as a Redshirt-Sophomore.
All the thoughts of 2019 being a transition year went out the window when Clifford and PSU began the season 8-0 with wins over Michigan and Iowa among others. Now last week’s loss to Minnesota have not increased the team’s chances of winning championships this year but, they have not dashed them either. If Penn State wins out against Indiana, Ohio State, and Rutgers they will win the Big 10 East and have an opportunity to avenge their loss to Minnesota or play the team that knocks the Gophers out of the top spot in the West.
The game against Ohio State will be the biggest game of the season within the conference, one with both conference and playoff implications. However, even if Penn State doesn’t prevail in this contest, yet wins the other two manageable games, Franklin will have made a strong case for a contract extension. If he manages to get to 10 wins that will be 3 out of the last 4 seasons in which he has done so with a single 9 win campaign in the last 4. That is simply a remarkable accomplishment considering the bleak outlook for the program just a few short years ago.
PSU NEEDS Franklin
If PSU does not lock him up early, Franklin will have no shortage of suitors for his services. He is a gifted recruiter with a knack for ingratiating himself with his athletes. A coach who was able to win games in SEC at Vanderbilt, and bring Penn State back from the brink of the abyss would surely appeal to schools like Florida State, USC, and others seeking to once again see double digit victory years. Franklin is under contract for the next couple years, but with only a one million dollar buy out clause in his deal, Penn State will likely need to re-up their head man in order to keep him in town. Simply put, it is time for Penn State to give James Franklin a long term extension and lock him up for the foreseeable future in Happy Valley.
Luckiest man alive. Father, Husband, Son, Brother, and college football enthusiast. Ph.D in 20th Century U.S. History. Love researching and writing about things that interest me. Looking forward to sharing my musings on college football with all the readers of this amazing website. Follow me on Twitter: @ReflipeWThenuz