James Franklin officially named as Penn State's new head football coach

Former Vanderbilt coach James Franklin has been named as Bill O'Brien's replacement. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

It’s official. James Franklin is the new head football coach at Penn State.

By a 6-0 vote Saturday morning, the compensation committee of the Penn State board of trustees approved Franklin’s contract. One member called it “an excellent contract for Penn State and for James Franklin.”

The contract’s length and salary will be disclosed later Saturday at the news conference to formally announce Franklin’s hiring scheduled for 4:15 p.m. at Beaver Stadium. One report on ESPN said Friday the deal could be worth as much as $4.5 million annually.

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

“I can't tell you how excited I am to come home,” Franklin said in Penn State’s news release announcing the hiring. “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.

Franklin, 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