A day after inadvertently feeding into speculation about the potential USC opening, Penn State coach James Franklin said Wednesday night that he has “all the plans in the world to be here (in Happy Valley) and to be here for a long time.”
The speculation regarding USC started to pick up Tuesday afternoon when Franklin was asked at his weekly press conference whether he wanted to address rumors regarding the Trojans’ interest in him as a head-coaching candidate. But he deflected them, insisting he wanted to remain focused on Maryland, and those non-answers eventually led to even more speculation about his potential interest in the job.
Franklin hoped to put those rumors to rest Wednesday night. The head coach does not normally start with an opening statement after practice but made an exception this time. His full statement is below:
“In an attempt yesterday — a failed attempt — to try to keep the focus on Maryland, I got asked a question yesterday about another school and tried to keep the focus on Maryland like I always do and the next opponent, and that didn’t go over very well. I didn’t feel like it was appropriate to talk about another school or another person’s job status, so that’s why I addressed it the way I did. But, obviously, I have all the plans in the world to be here and to be here for a long time, so I just wanted to address that because it became something that I did not want it to be or intend. So I wanted to put that statement out there and then obviously would love to talk about Maryland and our practice today.”
Franklin was asked a follow-up question Wednesday, regarding how important that message was to recruiting. But Franklin again deflected. “Again, I’ve said what I’ve said. I really want to talk about Maryland and the upcoming opponent,” he said. “That’s what I wanted to talk about all along.”
Tuesday comments: The speculation surrounding USC could’ve likely been avoided if Franklin had made a similar statement Tuesday.
Instead, at Tuesday’s press conference, Franklin responded to a question about USC with a slight shrug. “It’s the crazy, mad time of year where these types of things happen,” he said, before emphasizing he wanted to keep the focus on Maryland. Less than an hour later, he appeared on the Big Ten coaches teleconference and was asked whether he would be the Penn State coach next season.
Franklin offered a similar non-answer, but the reporter persisted. “Yeah, well, it’s a yes-no question. Speculation would be a lot less if you said, ‘Yes, you are (staying).’ Wouldn’t you say?” Franklin replied, “Yeah, I answered your question.” And the reporter responded, “Well, you didn’t.” And that was the end of the call — one that was replayed over ESPN radio and which sent a barrage of fans to post thread after thread on fan message boards.
Not the first time: It’s not the first time Franklin had been faced with this situation, but he had taken a different tact in the past. In 2015, when rumors tied him to the opening at Miami (Fla.), he told reporters at the time, “This is where I want to be.” And in 2017, when Texas A&M was the potential suitor, Penn State’s athletic department released a statement in addition to a tweet by Franklin that reaffirmed his commitment to Penn State.
At this point, Clay Helton remains the coach at USC — although most national media believe he’ll be canned if his team loses to a heavily favored Notre Dame this weekend. USC sits at 5-6 and is on the verge of its first losing season in 18 years.
Franklin is 44-20 in his fifth year with Penn State, although he’s just 3-12 combined against Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State. Franklin’s contract is relatively easy for him to get out of, but not exactly vice versa. He has a $1 million buyout but, if he’s fired without cause, he’ll be owed more than $20 million.
Franklin and the Nittany Lions will look to improve on their 8-3 record at 3:30 p.m. Saturday against Maryland at Beaver Stadium.