Coach James Franklin Is Penn State
By Joey Johnston
At Happy Valley, fall traditions have included:
* More than 100,000 fans participating in the stunning White Out spectacles.
hat deafening chant: "WE ARE PENN STATE!''
* Nittany Lions coach James Franklin being linked to another job.
Finally, the rumors about Franklin's future have been put to rest. After finishing his eighth regular season, Franklin agreed to a 10-year contract at Penn State. So the Nittany Lions (7-5) are the picture of stability heading into the Outback Bowl matchup against the SEC's Arkansas Razorbacks (8-4) on New Year's Day at Raymond James Stadium.
"Obviously, this was talked about a lot during the season,'' Franklin said. "I had ongoing conversations with our leadership council and they were very informed the whole way. For the most part, I think we handled it well. The 10-year contract helps with that moving forward.
"I think with our recruits, it was a sense of relief. They were informed the whole way. But when you keep seeing things in the media, when you see other coaches say they're not doing anything and then they do, that gives you pause. Everybody feels better when it comes out publicly. And now we move forward.''
For Franklin, it has always been about moving forward.
With degrees in psychology and educational leadership, he has been well equipped to not only set the tone, but to understand his environment. He was an assistant in the Pac-12, ACC, Big 12 and NFL before getting his first head-coaching opportunity in 2011 with the SEC's Vanderbilt Commodores.
It was the place where scores of coaching careers had gone to die. Franklin practically made Vanderbilt into a destination job, going 24-15 in three seasons with three bowl-game appearances.
That got him to Penn State, where he's 67-33 with trips to the Rose, Fiesta and Cotton Bowls. And now, with the ink barely dried on his 10-year contract, the first day of the rest of Franklin's career will occur at the Outback Bowl.
"I'm blessed and excited to be where I'm at,'' Franklin said.
Inevitably, with success, Franklin said he knows he most roll with some changes. He has lost assistants to head-coaching jobs at Virginia Tech, Mississippi State and Old Dominion. Like many big-time coaches, every year brings more players who declare early for the NFL Draft.
At Penn State, Franklin has fought some incorrect perceptions. Maybe because the uniforms have never changed, Penn State is often lumped into the old-school category. Franklin still reminds the families of some wide-receiver recruits that, yes, the Nittany Lions actually do throw the ball - very well at that.
"One of the challenges when we got to Penn State is that for so long we probably didn't stay up to date with other programs,'' Franklin said. "We held onto the history and tradition we have. That's probably our biggest challenge. How do you stay true to who you are, but make sure you are changing and growing with the times?''
Franklin has brought 21st Century wrinkles to Happy Valley - everything from offensive philosophy to infrastructure to relentlessly aggressive national recruiting. Penn State remains one of college football's elite jobs. Big Ten championships and national titles are the standard.
James Franklin? He's not going anywhere.
Go ahead and start the new chant:
HE IS PENN STATE!