James Franklin halts job speculation, agrees to new 10-year deal at Penn State

STEVE HEISER
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Penn State head coach James Franklin

James Franklin has agreed to a new 10-year contract to remain as the Penn State head football coach through 2031.

The terms were approved by the Subcommittee on Compensation of the Penn State Board of Trustees on Tuesday.

The deal was announced in a school-issued news release.

The contract includes a yearly base salary of $7 million, retention bonuses of $500,000 each year and a $1 million annual loan for life insurance. Franklin previously signed a six-year deal in 2019. The terms of that contract would’ve had him earn $5.75 million next season with a $250,000 raise each remaining year.

Should Franklin leave for another college or NFL coaching job before April 1, 2022, he would owe Penn State $12 million. If he leaves between that date and Dec. 31, he’d owe $8 million. The buyout decreases to $6 million in 2023, to $2 million the next two years and $1 million each year thereafter

Franklin’s future at Penn State had been a topic of much speculation in recent weeks, with his name linked to job openings at both Southern California and LSU.

During that time frame, Franklin never definitively said that he planned to remain with the Nittany Lions beyond this year, although he did talk repeatedly about his loyalty to the program. Even earlier on Tuesday, during his weekly news conference, Franklin said he had nothing new to report on the job front, but that he hoped to have an update on Wednesday.

Now, with Tuesday’s announcement, it appears likely that Franklin will remain in Happy Valley for the long haul.

“Penn State's future is bright, and I'm honored to continue to serve as your head football coach,” Franklin said in the news release. “Nine weeks ago, the administration approached me about making a long-term investment in our football program. This prompted numerous conversations outlining the resources needed to be competitive at a level that matches the expectations and history of Penn State. What's most evident from those conversations is the importance of our student-athletes’ success both on and off the field.

“With the support of President Barron, Sandy Barbour and the Board of Trustees we've been able to create a roadmap of the resources needed to address academic support, community outreach, Name, Image and Likeness (NIL), facility improvements, student-athlete housing, technology upgrades, recruiting, training table and more. This renewed commitment to our student-athletes, community and fans reinforces all the reasons I've been proud to serve as your head football coach for the last eight years and why my commitment to Penn State remains steadfast.”

Importance of facilities: Earlier Tuesday, during the news conference, Franklin talked about the importance of facility upgrades.

"We have to compete 364 other days a year with everything. Everything matters," Franklin said. "When we go to these other schools and these other campuses, try to go see them. It's pretty easy on social media to track kids and where they're going and what they're doing and what they have and what they see. There are universities all over the country putting out information. For us, I'm always studying best practice. It would be pretty easy to do. We've done it internally. There will be a time and place for me to speak on these things."

The university has made recent efforts in that area. In February, the board of trustees voted to approve a $48.3 million project to renovate and expand the Lasch Football Building, Penn State's primary football facility that's complete with a 13,000-square-foot weight room, athletic training facilities, meeting rooms, staff offices, a players' lounge and a whirlpool therapy room, among other amenities.

"We've made great strides," Franklin said. "I don't want it to come off the wrong way. I'm very appreciative of the strides we've made. But there was a long period of time where we did nothing and it put us behind and we've been playing catch-up."

Barbour weighs in: Sandy Barbour, the Penn State vice president for intercollegiate athletics, said the commitment to Franklin and the football program is important.

“We are excited to have James Franklin lead our football program for a long time,” Barbour said in the news release. “We will continue our collective efforts to constantly improve in all aspects of our program. We have made, and will need to continue to make, significant investment in our football program because we believe we have a very bright future under James. With this contract, we are signaling our sustained commitment to being one of the premier programs in the history of college football.”

Franklin, who will coach his 100th game at Penn State Saturday at Michigan State, owns a 67-32 record as the Nittany Lions’ leader. The Lions are 7-4 this season after a 5-0 start. Franklin guided the Nittany Lions to the 2016 Big Ten Championship, as well as bowl games in seven of his eight seasons as head coach, including the 2017 Rose Bowl, 2017 Fiesta Bowl and 2019 Cotton Bowl.

Franklin, however, has a 2-13 record at Penn State against top-10 teams.

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