Everything at Penn State is humming: Fresh off a Big Ten title and trip to the Rose Bowl, the Nittany Lions are 6-0 heading into the bye week and rank third in the country behind only Alabama and Clemson.
Of course, that means reported interest in Penn State head coach James Franklin is bound to surface. The first of likely more such stories has emerged.
Penn State is preparing for Texas A&M to make a run at Franklin if the Aggies part ways with coach Kevin Sumlin, according to a report by CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd. If Texas A&M moves on — and that’s still a big “if” — it appears they’ll look in Franklin’s direction.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Penn State is in danger of Franklin leaving.
The leader of the program has stated on multiple occasions — from his introductory press conference on — that Penn State is his dream job and he wants to build something long-term. Franklin has established recruiting connections throughout the state and region, and after two mediocre seasons he has found top-5 success with the Nittany Lions. Things are pretty cushy for Franklin in Happy Valley.
The interest shouldn’t come as a surprise to Nittany Lion fans. Franklin’s young (45 years old), recruiting-savvy (No. 3-ranked 2018 class) and experienced in the SEC (24 wins in three years at Vanderbilt). He’s an attractive candidate for the Aggies, who’d have to pay Penn State a modest $2 million buyout. It’s also worth noting that Franklin signed an extension that takes him through 2022 back in August.
“My family and I are very thankful to be a part of the Penn State community,” Franklin said in a written statement after the contract announcement. “I am pleased with the progress our program has made in the community, in the classroom and on the field. I look forward to diligently working with President Barron and Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour on implementing a plan that puts our University and our student-athletes in the best position to compete on the field and in life.”
It’s not time for Nittany Lion fans to freak out over this reported interest. It’s worth keeping an eye on, but don’t expect this to be the last time a major program is after Franklin.
Again, all this might be moot, as Sumlin isn’t exactly a bottom-of-the-barrel coach. He was the 2012 SEC Coach of the Year, mentored Heisman winner Johnny Manziel and is one of six active coaches to defeat Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide.
He does lack some of the luster he once had. Three consecutive eight-win seasons isn’t what Aggie fans expected after Sumlin’s guys tallied 11 wins in his inaugural campaign — but a lot of steps still need to be taken before Texas A&M drops Sumlin, potentially pursues Franklin, and more.