The Pros and Cons of James Franklin’s Contract Extension
Penn State head football coach James Franklin received a 10-year, $70 million dollar contract extension to remain the head coach with the Nittany Lions. Since his hire back in 2014, Franklin has found success in rebuilding the Nittany Lions program which included a Big Ten championship back in 2016. While things haven’t been the same during recent seasons, there are several pros and cons to keeping the Penn State coach in Happy Valley.
Three of our CommRadio Football Insiders break down those pros and cons.
For the short term, the decision to give James Franklin this contract extension should pay off extremely well. One of Franklin’s main strengths has always been his ability to recruit and that was shown this season as the Penn State coach did arguably his best job in that department. The Class of 2022 for Penn State football currently ranks fifth in the nation and includes some elite talent including now five-star running back Nicholas Singleton and five-star quarterback Drew Allar. Keeping Franklin means keeping that recruiting class and any potential top-tier classes he can bring in down the road. Outside of recruiting, Franklin has built a strong enough resume in Happy Valley to warrant the extension which includes a Big Ten Championship in 2016, a Cotton Bowl victory in 2019 and a 67-33 overall record.
On the down side, Franklin’s reputation has taken a turn for the worst ever since that 2019 season as the Nittany Lions have gone 11-10 over the past two years. During that time, the Nittany Lions have lost several close games including four games by one-possession this season. Three of those losses were against ranked opponents with whom Franklin has also struggled against in games over his Penn State career. Franklin only has one win against Ohio State during his tenure and just three wins against Michigan as he has struggled to beat the top teams in the Big Ten conference since his hire back in 2014. While stability is a good thing, those recent struggles could prove to be a concern.
Franklin’s $70-million payday signals a focus on commitment and preparation for a program often struggling to stay in fighting form. Franklin’s inked extension emphasizes to his roster and recruits that despite the buzz around other elite program opportunities, Happy Valley is where Franklin belongs. A 67-33 record over eight seasons, two bowl game victories and a Big Ten Championship in 2016 speak on Franklin’s impact with Penn State and are results of the unrivaled mentality. Franklin is not without motivation, as his coaching style and approach has produced a closely-bonded team capable of running with the Big Ten “big dogs” Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines. In financial terms, Franklin’s built-in incentives such as receiving a $350,000 bonus for a Big Ten Championship or $400,000 bonus College Football Playoff appearance could prod Franklin’s urgency to improve the Nittany Lions’ standings and playoff projection.
Franklin’s contract extension until 2031 stamps out his name from the looming rumor mill of coaching possibilities at LSU and USC, but make no mistake that Franklin holds the cards. Penn State guaranteed Franklin the $70 million regardless if Franklin were to be fired for any reason. The buyout amount set for Franklin to leave for another position is $12 million through April 2022 and will decline. Penn State’s decision to stay with stability is not foolproof since it gives Franklin the ability to back out and still get paid. Nittany Lion faithful are hopeful that the extension will raise hopes about the program’s overall improvement and offer Franklin the boost needed to elevate a storied organization.
For the first time in Franklin’s tenure at Penn State, his recruiting class is ranked in the top five in college football. He’s getting a 6-foot-4 quarterback that’s third in his class and the number one ranked quarterback, also the highest for Franklin. Now, more than ever, the Nittany Lions have an identity under Franklin. And this is a head coach who dug a program out of the mud, who in just three seasons led a program to a Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl appearance. While his decision-making and in-game adjusting remain in question, there is no doubt Franklin is a player’s coach who makes all the right choices to keep his student athletes satisfied and to lead them to success on and off the field.
Success can mean many different things in college football. For some programs, it means a winning record at the end of the season. For others, it means making a New Year’s Six bowl game. For very few, it means making, if not winning, the College Football Playoff. The Nittany Lions are looking to become one of those few, but Penn State’s definition of success has lingered under Franklin, who said three years ago that his Nittany Lions were a great program, but not an elite one. Franklin had his time to rebuild the Penn State program, but that time is long over. With his best recruiting class ever coming in next year, the success threshold is getting higher for the Nittany Lions. Penn State fans want more: some wins against Ohio State, some Big Ten Championship appearances, some College Football Playoff appearances. If Franklin can’t deliver on those expectations, Happy Valley will begin to turn on the head coach. Drew Allar could turn into the best quarterback Franklin has ever had. But if their relationship doesn’t live up to the hype, Franklin may not be at Penn State through his full extension.
Logan Bourandas is a third-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
Emma Holtz is a second-year majoring in public relations. To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jack McCune is a fourth-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism
Jack McCune is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism from Yardley, Pennsylvania, which is outside of Philly and just across the Delaware River from New Jersey. He attended Pennsbury High School in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania. He’s a huge fan of the Eagles, Phillies, 76ers, Penn State football and Penn State basketball. He’s a sports anchor and multimedia reporter for the Centre County Report. He’s a Football Insider for CommRadio. His talk show, Broad Street Bros, airs Thursday nights at 5:45, as he talks about Philly and Penn State sports. He hopes to some day become a play-by-play announcer for football, basketball and/or baseball, and he is also interested in becoming a bartender.
Third-Year / Broadcast Journalism
Third Year / Public Relations