It's official: James Franklin is Penn State's new head football coach

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Saying he was “excited to come home,” James Franklin officially was named Saturday as the new head football coach at Penn State.

Franklin, 41, a native of Langhorne, Bucks County, who coached for the last three seasons at Vanderbilt, succeeds Bill O’Brien as the 16th football coach in Penn State history.

His hiring was made official after the compensation committee of the Penn State board of trustees voted 6-0 to approve Franklin’s contract. Terms of the agreement were expected to be announced at a news conference scheduled for 4:15 p.m. at Beaver Stadium, but quoted a source as saying the deal is for six years and $27 million.

“I can't tell you how excited I am to come home,” Franklin said in a news release. “I grew up watching Penn State football and now to be at the helm of such a storied program is a tremendous honor.  It's important to me to be a part of a university that strives for excellence in everything they do. When football student-athletes come to Penn State, they have a unique opportunity to receive a premium education while playing at the highest level of competition.

“I'm incredibly excited to get to know the students, alumni, and fans who have demonstrated such loyalty to the university as a whole and to the football program in particular. I've worked my way through every division of football and no other school boasts a fan base like we do.”

Franklin’s hiring ended a nine-day search by a committee chaired by athletic director Dave Joyner.

“Our primary focus was to identify someone who shared our commitment to integrity, academics and winning championships,” Joyner said in a statement. “We have found that person in James Franklin.

“Coach Franklin is a highly regarded coach and tremendous leader, but more importantly, he shares the same vision for Penn State football that we, and our fans, have for the program. His record shows that he takes great pride in the academic and athletic success of his student-athletes. We're thrilled to welcome coach Franklin to Penn State.”

At Vanderbilt, Franklin led the Commodores to back-to-back nine-win seasons for the first time in university history. He was very popular there, and Vanderbilt athletics director David Williams made a concerted effort to keep him.

In a statement, Williams said Franklin notified him Friday night that he was leaving for Penn State.

“There is no question that James Franklin’s outstanding work has helped put Vanderbilt football on the national stage,” Williams said. “We are extremely sorry to see the Franklin family leave our university and community, and we thank them and wish them the very best.”

Franklin met with Vanderbilt players Saturday morning to inform them of the move. Quarterback Patton Robinette said Franklin did not explain why he was leaving.

“He didn’t and it really doesn’t matter what he was thinking,” Robinette told the Tennessean. “It’s a business. College football is a business. He’s going to do what’s best for his family.”

Franklin, a graduate of Neshaminy High School and a star quarterback at East Stroudsburg in the early 1990s, has been described by friends as “energetic” and “passionate” and is considered an offensive-minded coach and a fine recruiter.

One of his first tasks is to address the Nittany Lions’ 2014 recruiting class and convince them to keep the commitments they made to O’Brien and his staff.

One recruit, four-star quarterback Michael O’Connor of Bradenton, Fla., had expressed doubts about early enrollment at the university next week but now says he will speak with Franklin before making a final decision, according to Blue White Illustrated.

Franklin also must persuade the doubters in the Penn State community that he did not cover up a rape incident last summer involving five players who were kicked off the team after being charged. The prosecutor in the case told the Inquirer on Thursday there was no evidence Franklin was involved “in any way whatsoever in covering it up or anything like that.”

--Joe Juliano