EDITORIAL: James Franklin's salary may seem outrageous, but in real world, it's deserved
- James Franklin recently had his contract reworked at Penn State.
- The details of the new deal haven't yet been released.
- Franklin's Nittany Lions are 41-11 over the past four seasons.
- The new deal will likely make Franklin one of the top-paid coaches in the nation.
What is a big-time college football head coach really worth?
There are two answers to that.
In a perfect world, where folks are rewarded based on a true relation to their contributions to society, college football head coaches would fall far below real everyday life-savers, such as doctors, scientific researchers, police officers, firefighters and military service members.
However, it’s obvious we don’t live in a perfect world.
In the real world, college football head coaches earn what the free market says they’re worth.
In the real world, Penn State head football coach James Franklin deserves the raise he recently received.
New contract: At this point, we don’t know the exact size of that raise. The terms haven’t yet been released, although they will be in the near future.
The best guess here is that Franklin will receive at least a $1 million annual bump, boosting his yearly salary to about $7 million per year. He’ll also likely have the opportunity to earn another $1 million on annual bonuses.
Those numbers seem reasonable, based on the fact that the last time his deal was reworked, in 2017, he received a $1 million raise to about $5.7 million, with the chance to earn $1 million in bonuses.
By any measure, those numbers are astronomical, but they're not out of the ordinary when compared to other top college football head coaches.
Going into the 2019 season, USA Today had Franklin just outside of the top 10 on its list of the nation’s highest-paid coaches. His raise will almost certainly boost him into the top 10, maybe even the top five, but he'll likely still trail the top earners, such as Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Alabama’s Nick Saban, who earn in the $9 million range.
PSU's hand was forced: There were also rumors in recent weeks that Florida State was highly interested in Franklin for its open head-coaching position. There was also speculation that Franklin also expressed interest in the Seminoles.
Franklin almost certainly used that mutual interest to leverage his raise. There's nothing wrong with that. It's the American way.
Given those factors, PSU was almost forced to give Franklin a new deal.
The prospect of losing Franklin was clearly something that the PSU administration didn’t want to risk.
There’s good reason for that.
PSU not elite, but very good: Since emerging from the aftermath of the severe sanctions imposed on the program by the NCAA in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Franklin has reestablished the Nittany Lions as one of nation’s better teams. The PSU program isn't elite, but it is very good.
In the last four years, the Lions have an overall record of 41-11, including a Big Ten title in 2016. They’ve been ranked in the final AP Top 20 in 2016, 2017 and 2018, including top-10 finishes in 2016 and 2017. With a win in the Cotton Bowl, PSU will likely finish in the final AP top 10 again this season.
Other factors in Franklin's favor: Maybe even more importantly, fans have returned to Beaver Stadium in droves during the Franklin era.
In 2013, just two years after details of the Sandusky scandal were revealed, PSU’s average attendance plummeted to fewer than 97,000 fans per game. Under Franklin, attendance is back up to the 106,000 range. That average increase of 9,000 fans per game translates into millions of dollars annually. That money helps support a PSU sports program featuring 27 teams.
Finally, Franklin’s players have, for the most part, behaved responsibly and graduated at a high rate (86%) during his tenure.
Put all those factors together, and in the real world, Franklin is deserving of his raise.