NCAA FOOTBALL: Decision looms for PSU's leading candidate
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — James Franklin appears to have a decision to make. Stay at Vanderbilt or take over as coach at Penn State.
Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams said Thursday night he exchanged text messages with his football coach and Franklin “basically said that he is our coach. He hasn’t made a decision.”
Williams would not confirm Franklin has an offer from Penn State, but has indicated Nittany Lions officials have been in contact with the coach.
CBS.com was first among several media outlets to report Franklin is expected to be Penn State’s replacement for Bill O’Brien, who left for the Houston Texans.
“He just wanted me to know that the things that are being said that he has made a decision to leave are not true,” Williams said.
Penn State had no official comment, but the university did announce Thursday night that a new compensation committee is scheduled to meet Saturday morning in a closed session to discuss a contract for someone not yet being identified by the school. The school also said there will be a brief public session Saturday morning.
Earlier in the day, Williams said Franklin had called “to let me know the reports that he had accepted another job were inaccurate. And I didn’t ask anything more than that nor did he volunteer anything more than that.”
Williams said he met with Franklin on Tuesday night and spoke with him Wednesday, too.
Penn State interim coach Larry Johnson said Thursday night he hasn’t been told anything about his future.
“I’m still the interim coach until a new coach is named,” Johnson said. “As of right now, I’m continuing to do my part.”
Vanderbilt had only one winning season since 1982 before Williams hired Franklin in December 2010. The Commodores also had only four bowl berths before Franklin arrived, and he now has taken them to three straight bowls.
The 41-year-old Pennsylvania native is 24-15 in his three seasons as Vanderbilt’s head coach, matching Dan McGugin for the most wins in school history over a coach’s first three seasons. The Commodores are 16-4 over the past 20 games, second in the SEC only to Alabama. Vanderbilt won the final seven games of 2012 and the final five of 2013 in a stretch that also includes back-to-back bowl wins.
Vanderbilt has gone 9-4 and finished in the final Associated Press rankings each of the past two seasons, including No. 24 in the poll released Tuesday. Vanderbilt hadn’t finished in the final AP poll before Franklin arrived since 1948 under Red Sanders.
Franklin was given a contract extension in December 2012 designed to keep him at Vanderbilt for years to come. Asked if Vanderbilt has worked to restructure Franklin’s deal since the Commodores beat Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl on Jan. 4, Williams said they have an ongoing process to remain competitive.
“We think that we had a good season and a successful season, and we constantly reward people for that,” Williams said.
O’Brien guided the Nittany Lions through two seasons of severe NCAA sanctions after taking over for the late Joe Paterno and went 15-9. Miami’s Al Golden drew interest from Penn State during this search, though he stated Saturday he intended to stay with the school.
Former Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak, a former Penn State offensive lineman, and 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman also have reportedly gotten a look from Penn State.