We Are Penn State. This Nittany Lion motto rings all too familiar for collegiate sports fans. The depths beneath the saying were built on the basis of a winning football program and overwhelmed the university with passion. Despite the all too devastating sequence of events that led to sanctions raining down on PSU, former head coach Bill O’Brien resurrected a program left for dead. To the dismay of many of the Happy Valley faithful, O’Brien used his two seasons at State College as a stepping stone to land the head coaching position with the NFL’s Houston Texans.
This go around, Penn State will lay its fragile trust into the hands of James Franklin. The story of Franklin is a rather complex 19-year journey that culminated with a six-year contract worth approximately $4.5 million per year signed on January 11, 2014. Franklin’s road to that magnificent day had more than a few winding turns.
The 56-year-old began his coaching career as a wide receivers coach at Division II’s Kutztown. From there on, he continued to climb the coaching ranks until he held the same title at the local University of Maryland. Over time, Franklin became recognized as a major personality on the Terrapins sideline and major factor and after four years was hired at the professional level with the Green Bay Packers. After a disappointing 2005, Franklin returned to the college ranks as the offensive coordinator for the Kansas State University where he orchestrated a potent Wildcat offense that was among the NCAA’s best. Still, Franklin wasn’t happy and decided to book his homecoming to the University of Maryland.
Once again hired as an offensive coordinator, Franklin continued his success leading Ralph Friedgen’s offense and being awarded as the unoffical heir apparent to Friedgen. The timing, however, was not right for Franklin and the Maryland football program as the latter chose Randy Edsall to replace Friedgen in 2011. Franklin moved on to accept the head coaching job with the Vanderbilt University, his last pit stop before being hired by PSU. Obviously, harbored feelings remained between the two parties and it has continued into the Franklin’s first summer at Penn State. Maryland and Franklin have made it very clear they do not get along and November 1st should make for an emotional match-up.
Franklin’s expectations will remain high heading into the 2014 season and the Nittany Lion faithful will not be afraid to let their new head coach hear their opinions. No matter what, “He is James Franklin” and together “They are Penn State.”