After two successful seasons as head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions, Bill O’Brien has bolted for the NFL and won’t be returning to Happy Valley anytime soon. O’Brien did his best to keep the Nittany Lions’ program alive during his time there, and he did a fantastic job. The foundation has been set for the next coach to continue building back the trust and integrity of the Penn State program.
The only problem: The head coaching position at Penn State is still being filled by an interim coach. There have been a few names linked to the Penn State job over the past few weeks — most notably James Franklin of Vanderbilt University, former Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak and Al Golden, head coach of the Miami Hurricanes. Munchak has reportedly interviewed with Penn State regarding the head coaching position, but he vehemently denied those reports. Golden interviewed but said several times that he is no longer a candidate for the job. That leaves Franklin, the hottest name on the market, as one of the best remaining choices.
Hiring Franklin certainly won’t please the folks that want Penn State to hire a “Penn State guy” or someone that is affiliated with Joe Paterno, but make no mistake — he is the most qualified man for the job
Franklin took over the head coaching position at Vanderbilt in 2011, and in his three seasons there he is 24-15 overall and 11-13 in the best football conference in the country, the SEC. Vanderbilt has been known as a purely academic university over the years, but Franklin was able to somehow transform their terrible football program into a respectable member of the SEC. Penn State has much better facilities than Vanderbilt does, spends much more money towards recruiting and can put over 100,000 butts in the seats every Saturday at one of the most historic stadiums in the nation, Beaver Stadium.
Franklin may have hit his ceiling at Vanderbilt. While he has brought the program to life, it is hard to imagine a team that isn’t even the most popular team in the state of Tennessee will ever win more than eight or nine games per season. At Penn State, Franklin could compete for Big Ten championships and eventually national championships once the bowl ban is lifted (which could be sooner than you think).
If Penn State is willing to offer a significant amount of money to Franklin, there isn’t any reason to believe a deal can’t get done. Rumors are swirling that if Penn State offers, Franklin will accept. It is up to Penn State Athletic Director Dave Joyner and his people to get it done.