Reports: Penn State to hire Franklin as football coach

Penn State has its man in James Franklin, a 41-year-old Pennsylvania native who grew up watching Nittany Lion football and reportedly is set to become the 16th head coach in the program’s storied history.

Several national media outlets reported Thursday that Franklin is expected to be named Penn State’s new coach. There has been no confirmation from PSU or Franklin, but ESPN and both reported Thursday that a deal will be finalized soon.

Penn State’s Board of Trustees will hold a teleconference Saturday morning, at which time the school’s compensation committee will discuss a contract for an as yet unnamed person. It’s believed to be Franklin, and if all goes as planned, the school could be ready to announce his hiring Saturday.

There’s only one potential drawback: Franklin hasn’t given his current employer, Vanderbilt University, any indication that he’s leaving.

Vanderbilt Athletic Director David Williams told The Associated Press that he spoke with Franklin on Thursday afternoon.

“He just wanted me to know that the things that are being said that he has made a decision to leave are not true,” Williams said.

Williams also said Franklin told him “the reports that he had accepted another job were inaccurate.”

Franklin has been Vanderbilt’s coach for three years, compiling a 24-15 record. The Commodores went 9-4 each of the past two seasons and won two bowl games, after winning only two bowl games in their previous 121 years.

Franklin’s name has emerged as a hot commodity in the coaching ranks the past few weeks. He reportedly was linked as a candidate for NFL jobs with the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns, as well as with the University of Texas.

There was one report from a TV reporter in Philadelphia on Thursday that Penn State interim head coach Larry Johnson, who has been with the school for 18 years, was not planning to remain with the team once a new coach is hired. Johnson, who has interviewed for the PSU job, told the AP he doesn’t know his future plans.

“I’m still the interim coach until a new coach is named,” Johnson said. “As of right now, I’m continuing to do my part.”

Penn State also has interviewed Miami (Fla.) coach Al Golden, former Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak and San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman.

The Penn State search committee has remained quiet throughout the entire process. There have been some leaks to the media about the candidates being interviewed, but there have been no details about how those interviews went.

Joyner and Penn State President Rodney Erickson flew to Florida on Wednesday to meet with Franklin, and there was widespread speculation the coach would be returning to State College with them that evening. Franklin, though, was not on the plane and remains in Florida, although he’s expected to return to Nashville today to meet with Vanderbilt officials.

Penn State is looking to replace coach Bill O’Brien, who left after two seasons to become head coach of the NFL’s Houston Texans.

Franklin and O’Brien once coached together on the staff at Maryland. Franklin also has served as an assistant coach at Kansas State, Washington State and in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers, among other stops.

Some information for this story obtained from The Associated Press.