It started with "I love you." It ended with "But I'm leaving."
James Franklin was officially hired as Penn State University's new football coach on Saturday, ending a three-day process of rumors and reports that put Franklin at the Nittany Lion helm as early as Wednesday night. The 41-year old coach had spent three years at Vanderbilt, leading the Commodores to back-to-back nine-win seasons in 2012 and 2013.
Franklin's deal is worth up to $4.5 million per year. On Friday, reports swirled that Athletic Director David Williams was prepared to offer Vanderbilt's rising star head coach a contract that would have added up to 10 years and $50 million in total compensation, along with various facility upgrades. Unfortunately, Franklin's move to the Big Ten went deeper than a contract could cover.
He began his PSU tenure with a familiar pitch to fans and players:
When football student-athletes come to Penn State, they have a unique opportunity to receive a premium education while playing at the highest level of competition.
- James Franklin
Franklin went 24-15 in three years at Vanderbilt, compiling an 11-13 record against SEC competition. His 11 conference wins give him the fourth-most victories against SEC opponents of any Commodore head coach - a statistic that is in no way depressing for Vandy fans.
It is unclear who will succeed Franklin in Nashville. Reports suggest that the university has been in touch with several high profile coordinators and assistants from across the NCAA. Hot names include Stanford's Derek Mason, the San Francisco 49er's Greg Roman, and Vandy's own Herb Hand. Hand, who has a track record of developing and recruiting players, a boisterous personality tailor made for SEC Media Days, and a history at Vanderbilt that predates the James Franklin era, could be a solid fit to take the reins if he does not follow his former head coach to Happy Valley.
Williams will have his work cut out for him when it comes to replacing a record-setting head coach. However, Franklin leaves Vanderbilt in much better shape than he left it thanks to a roster stocked with highly-rated recruits, a campus with new player-friendly facilities, and an administration that is newly committed to developing a football legacy. While the news on Saturday may be grim, there's a new dawn on the horizon for Commodore fans.