Anytime a coach has success, someone’s going to come calling. Remember those Nick Saban-to-Texas rumors a few years ago? No coach is impervious to this.
Fittingly, CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd reports that Texas A&M is gearing up to make a big push to hire James Franklin should the Aggies decided to fire current coach Kevin Sumlin, and that Penn State is “preparing” for that eventuality.
But the idea of Franklin leaving Penn State for Texas A&M is laughable.
Most coaches would love to be in James Franklin’s shoes. Why would he give it up to rebuild somewhere else?
Maybe Texas A&M would have been a better place to coach back in 2014 when Franklin came to Penn State. The Nittany Lions were still under sanctions from the Jerry Sandusky scandal, while the Aggies were coming off their second straight bowl win and ranked in the top 20. Even after two years of Bill O’Brien doing some real heavy lifting to get Penn State back on track, it wasn’t going to be a fun job.
Meanwhile, Texas A&M was enjoying a nice post-Johnny Manziel glow, and Sumlin was beating Alabama instead of blowing 34-point leads. But the programs look far different now.
Sumlin’s on the hot seat after a 4-2 start, and among other things that’s meant racist hate mail and a regent outright calling for his ousting on Facebook. Why would Franklin leave a team that’s just reaching its potential to coach in that environment?
James Franklin has Penn State recruiting on an outrageous level, and is competing in the toughest division in the country.
The Sandusky scandal sanctions are over, and Penn State seems to be gaining steam each season. Franklin’s seat grew a little warm after he started his tenure with back-to-back 7-6 finishes, but an 11-3 season with a Rose Bowl appearance quieted the doubters. It also earned him a $20 million contract extension reaching until 2022.
Penn State is owning recruiting in Pennsylvania, making a solid dent in New Jersey, and getting most Maryland prospects it wants. A quick look at the latest recruiting rankings:
Those rankings will look a bit different come National Signing Day (cough, Alabama, cough), but Franklin’s got an excellent shot of recruiting a top-5 class this season. Franklin recruited the Nos. 13, 20 and 14 classes in his first three cycles with Penn State, but he seems to be on another level now that he has all 85 scholarships and some success on the field to show for it.
After seeing how fans still support Joe Paterno, Franklin also knows Penn State can turn him into a legendary figure if things go right. He certainly isn’t backing down from having a personality. From calling a timeout to make sure he had the right kick-block team up 56 points to comparing Pitt to Akron, Franklin isn’t some nobody in Happy Valley. He’s creating a persona Penn State fans are eating up.
And more importantly, he’s winning a lot of football games.
Franklin led the Nittany Lions to the cusp of a College Football Playoff berth last season, and with a 6-0 start he has them on an even better path in 2017. No early-season loss to Pitt to quell fans’ excitement this time around. In its place was a thrilling walk-off victory at Iowa. Michigan and Ohio State have already suffered losses, meaning Penn State has a path to the playoff if it wins out. Beating both of those teams is far from guaranteed, but expect Penn State to be favored against Michigan in Week 8.
Even if it’s laughable, the Aggies might as well shoot their shot.
You never know what a coach could be thinking until you ask, so it’s possible Franklin could be lured away from Happy Valley with an ungodly sum of money. Maybe A&M can entice him with idea of competing in a weaker conference with an easier path to championships, though that seems unlikely. If he can compete against the Ohio States and Michigans of the world, what would he have left to prove?
James Franklin might not leave Penn State for any job, and he certainly isn’t going to College Station. Texas A&M would be better off targeting Nittany Lions offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead.
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