James Franklin has gone underground in Vanderbilt, but the fat lady is singing the blues for Franklin and the Commodores. No, not the ones Lionel Ritchie sang backup for. Soon, Vanderbilt’s coach will likely complete his meteoric rise to either the NFL or an elite college football program. Franklin has a complicated relationship with big-boned women so that may only expedite his coaching staff’s exodus from what many of us knew was a stepping stone job.
Franklin’s been realistically connected to more upper-tier coaching jobs than any other coach in the entire nation during college football’s silly season. Sure, Gus Malzahn’s name has been mentioned as a target of the Cleveland Browns and he was on the Texas Longhorns’ shortlist, but he never actually appeared to have conversations with athletic directors about those openings.
Conversely, Franklin is in a completely different circumstance than Malzahn, who was prepping for a national championship.
Franklin was the runner-up to his more introverted peer Charlie Strong for the Texas opening, but kept his usually verbose tongue in a quiet room while the process was underway.
Since Strong broke the color barrier at Texas, something Franklin accomplished at Vanderbilt, he’s moved on to other opportunities.
Using mediums, one can only presume, USA Today has read Franklin's brain waves and his cerebral sportex appears to be on the same wavelength as Penn State's.
Vanderbilt coach James Franklin would be inclined to take the head coaching position at Penn State if offered, a person familiar with his thinking told USA TODAY Sports. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because matter is supposed to be private.
(Wasn't this the plot to Being John Malcovich? But I digress...) Bill O’Brien’s exit from Penn State created a vacancy that suited Franklin perfectly. The No. 1 quarterback prospect in the Class of 2013, Christian Hackenberg never vacillated from his commitment, turned in a brilliant season as a true freshman and the program has won 15 games without the potential of a bowl invite.
Just as remarkable has been Franklin winning 16 of his last 20 games and a pair of 9-4 seasons at the SEC’s equivalent to Yale.
Whomever is hired will be recruiting for a class of freshman that will be able to compete for a Big Ten title and bowl game by their sophomore seasons. It’s not Alabama or Texas, but for Northeasterners, Penn State is the crème de la crème and Pennsylvania is an emporium for high school football talent.
The Alabama of the North or Yale of the SEC? Franklin’s future is his to decide, but we can already eye which way he’s leaning.
Drumming up fan support has been a challenge for the extremely loquacious Vanderbilt coach, but midway through debilitating NCAA sanctions Nittany Lion fan support has remained consistent.
However, silence speaks volumes. Franklin would not address his commitment to Vanderbilt during last night’s BCS National Championship, which all but assures us that he’s leaving for access to better resources and superior recruits. Reportedly, Franklin interviewed with Penn State on Sunday, the day Vanderbilt beat Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl. Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner said that he'd be hiring a coach in the next few days.
Franklin’s assistants may be showing his hand by following a few Penn State recruits on Twitter during the holidays. It’s not just any offensive coaches. Offensive coordinator John Donovan and defensive coordinator John Shoop, who are probably hoping he takes a college job, haven’t been too subtle about their social media interactions.
Yet, at the 11th hour, a surprise has arisen in the form of a potential interview with the Washington Redskins. It’s an inspired choice for Washingtonians and Marylanders who remember the then-Terrapins offensive coordinator/coach-in-waiting growing tired of well, waiting for Ralph Friedgen to retire and hopped on a plane to Nashville.
Another potential obstacle that could make things messy, could be Franklin's proximity to a sexual assault investigation that resulted in the dismissal of five Commodore players, including one who helped cover it up and stuck to Franklin's coaching staff like barbeque on ribs That dark cloud looms even larger at Penn State in the wake of revelations about Joe Paterno's decade-long silence about Sandusky's sickening transgressions.
In the coming days, Franklin will have a plethora of options to consider. However, it sounds like it’ll be difficult for a native Pennsylvanian, who became a National Player of the Year candidate playing quarterback in the Division II shadow of Penn State to turn down that job. It doesn’t require a Vanderbilt degree or someone familiar with Franklin's thinking to figure that out.