Christopher Smith

Penn State Hires Vandy's James Franklin

Created on Jan. 09, 2014 4:23 PM EST

Multiple news outlets are reporting Thursday that James Franklin will be the next Penn State coach.

Franklin, who coached Vanderbilt to a 24-15 record in his only three seasons as head coach, got interest from three NFL teams and saw his name mentioned for the USC and Texas openings before finally landing a big-name job, albeit with baggage.

The Nittany Lions are not eligible for postseason play for two more years and also must deal with NCAA-imposed scholarship limitations until the 2016 season due to remnants of the punishment levied following the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Franklin inherits a team that won 15 games the last two seasons and retains (at least for now) talented freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg. But NCAA punishments have rotted the team's depth, and contending for a .500 record will be a challenge in 2014 in the realigned East Division of the Big Ten, which includes Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan.

He'll have to fight through two or three rough seasons to get in position to contend for a Big Ten championship, leaving behind a program that by all accounts he fought like heck to build, but it's smart timing. Though he won nine games in back-to-back seasons at Vanderbilt, including consecutive bowl wins, it's tough to see Franklin's value rising higher than it is now.

The SEC East went through a bit of a fluke season in 2013 with Florida and Georgia suffering for various reasons, and the Commodores beat both. It's hard to maintain historic success, and the 2012-13 seasons are the best back-to-back years in Vandy football history. Expectations at Vandy suddenly exist, and it's hard to imagine Franklin's name bandied about so frequently if the team won, say, six or seven games the next season or two.

With Franklin to Penn State and Charlie Strong to Texas, African-Americans filled two of the three biggest openings this offseason. Texas A&M signed Kevin Sumlin, another African-American head coach, to an extension in December. Black head coaches still are underrepresented in college, but it appears the college football world is turning a corner.

Hopefully we aren't far from the day that we don't even notice race when it comes to football coaches. The group of hirings that includes Franklin is a step in that direction.

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