Penn State's James Franklin wants to be first African-American coach to win national title

The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)
Penn State's James Franklin, seen above in a file photo, says his goal to become the first African-American head coach to win a national title is important to him.

Penn State’s James Franklin said Tuesday that his goal of being the first African-American head football coach to win a national championship “is probably something I do carry with me that is important to me.”

Franklin, who is in his sixth season leading the Nittany Lions, referenced his objective last week during HBO’s “247 College Football” series featuring Penn State and addressed the topic again at his weekly teleconference.

Franklin said he was inspired when two African-American NFL coaches, Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts and Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears, matched up in Super Bowl XLI at the end of the 2006 season. At the time, he was the Kansas State offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

“I think it had a profound impact on the sport and on the game and coaches that look like me and look like Lovie and look like Tony,” he said. “Then when you saw it happen at the NFL level and felt like that was an important moment within the sport and hopefully opened up some opportunities for others, that hopefully, the same thing could happen in college football.”

Franklin is one of 13 African-American head coaches this season out of 130 FBS teams, a number that he acknowledges “is not great” and one that “hasn’t really changed in a long time, hasn’t grown.”

He said while he is focused on his family and his program at Penn State, his goals and aspirations align with both.

“They align with Penn State and they align with my family and the type of role model that I’d like to be for my daughters and those types of things,” he said. “So it’s not something that I spend a whole lot of time talking about, but it is probably something I do carry with me that is important to me.”


Official word: Franklin received word from the Big Ten regarding the controversial replay overturn of tight end Pat Freiermuth’s third-quarter touchdown against the Hawkeyes.

He just didn’t seem interested in discussing the conference’s stance.

“I did, but it’s not appropriate to talk about here in this setting,” Franklin said after a lengthy pause. “If (the Big Ten wants) to say something, they’ll say something. I’m not going to speak on behalf of the Big Ten.”

Freiermuth had what appeared to be a 16-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown, which was ruled a score on the field by referee John O’Neill’s crew. However, after a collaboration with on-field officials, replay official Tom Kissinger reversed the ruling, placing the ball just inside the 1-yard line, a decision that received plenty of criticism not just from Penn State fans on social media, but national football analysts as well. Penn State ended up having to settle for a field goal.

Running back status quo: When it comes to his running backs, Franklin said, he feels he should just have a recorded statement.

“We have four running backs we really like,” he said.

Just as he said it last week and the week before and the one before that.

Penn State’s stable of running backs has drawn that much attention, positive and negative.

This week was no different, even after freshman Noah Cain’s second consecutive 100-yard rushing performance in a 17-12 win at Iowa. But also no different this week is Franklin’s support for the status quo.

So, the four-headed attack at running back lives on, at least officially.

Still, while the Nittany Lions may technically be implementing a rotation, Cain is clearly the back getting the bulk of the carries as the offense flourished the last two games with him on the field. He gained 102 yards on 22 carries against Iowa. Sophomores Journey Brown and Ricky Slade and fellow freshman Devyn Ford each had just four carries.

Against Purdue on Oct. 5, Cain had 105 yards on 12 carries; the other three had 16 carries combined.

The (Scranton) Times-Tribune contributed to this report.