James Franklin is a home-run hire for Penn State

I never posted the column I wrote in Monday’s paper about how good of a hire James Franklin is for Penn State. Well, here it is. Enjoy.

There are home-run hires and then there’s what Penn State got when it tabbed James Franklin as the 16th football of the Nittany Lions.

If you weren’t totally on board with the decision all you should have needed to do to get your full support was to watch Franklin’s hour-plus long introductory press conference Saturday.

From his promise to “dominate the state” in recruiting to acknowledging the what Joe Paterno did at Penn State, Franklin proved why he was so coveted by Penn State when Bill O’Brien bolted for the NFL’s Houston Texans.

I admittedly didn’t know a lot about Franklin. I knew of his success at Vanderbilt, where he had as many nine-win seasons the past two years as the Commodores had had in the previous 121 seasons, and of his local connection as an East Stroudsburg University graduate who was a candidate for the Harlon Hill Trophy in 1994.

I had no idea Franklin was such a charismatic, captivating character. He spoke clearly, with conviction and like a man who has no doubts about who he is, what he wants to accomplish and how he’s going to reach his goals.

That’s exactly what Penn State needs.

As irritated as I was by O’Brien’s departure I knew full well that if he returned to Happy Valley for a third season that rumors of his departure would again dominate the 2014 coaching hot stove. It was no secret that O’Brien had one eye on the Nittany Lions and the other on an NFL head coaching job from the time he arrived in State College.

Some were curious if Franklin would be in the same boat. The Washington Redskins were interested in him, but Franklin put those concerns to bed when he said Saturday that Penn State was his “dream job” and that he planned to be there for a very long time. O’Brien never said anything close to that. He wouldn’t even commit to being there after both of the past two seasons.

That’s not to say that NFL teams won’t chase after Franklin. If he has success at Penn State they’d be dumb not to, but hopefully he will stay true to his word. Everything I’ve read and heard about him leads me to believe Franklin is in this for the long haul and to help Penn State return to the top of the mountain.

It won’t be easy. Not by a long stretch.

While rumors have circulated that the NCAA may further decrease the sanctions it unjustly placed on Penn State it’s certainly not a sure thing. Getting scholarship back was a start, but at the present time the Nittany Lions are still ineligible for the postseason until 2016.

That’s where Franklin’s personality will help.

Get him in a recruit’s living room and I don’t see how a young man and his family could say no. To borrow a line from the movie Tommy Boy, “Franklin could sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves.”

Happy Valley was anything but on New Year’s Eve when O’Brien left. There should only be smiles now that Franklin is on the job.


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