Saturday was deemed a homecoming for James Franklin as he was officially introduced as the new head coach at Penn State in the media room of Beaver Stadium. After three seasons of rebuilding the Vanderbilt program, Franklin landed what he referred to as his “dream job.”
“I’m excited to come home. That’s probably the thing I take the most pride in – coming home. I’m a Pennsylvania boy with a Penn State heart and I’m so excited to be here,” Franklin said. “I think I’m the right guy to come back and unite this state and bring this program back to where it can be.”
Franklin was raised in Langhorne, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia, and spent portions of his childhood in Pittsburgh, so Franklin knows the lay of the land. Franklin, who grew up a Penn State fan, said that he “dreamed of this opportunity.”
Franklin is replacing Bill O’Brien, who left Happy Valley to take the head coaching position of the Houston Texans after just two seasons. Before landing the Penn State job, Franklin was also linked to NFL positions, but Franklin expressed his love for the college game and made it clear that he intends to be at Penn State for years to come.
“We’re going to build this program the right way and we’re going to do it for the long haul. We plan on being here for a very very long time. This is my dream job. This is where I want to be,” Franklin said.
“I’m a college guy. I’m a relationship guy. It’s about people. I love kids. You’re not going to find a coach who cares more about their players than me.”
Franklin is inheriting a Penn State program that is still crippled by scholarship reductions and a bowl ban. Beyond that, there is a perceived divide among certain fans who Bill O’Brien sounded off about in an explosive story in the Harrisburg Patriot-News. While O’Brien – after two years on the job – expressed frustration, Franklin hopes to unite the community as a whole.
“Everybody is so passionate and has such strong opinions because they care so much about this university and what it stands for. They just want a great university. They just want a great football program. They want to do it with honor,” Franklin said. “We’re here to bring this university back together and unite it so we can all be so so proud of what it stands for on and off the field.”
“We’re going to focus on the things that we can control. I’m just going to coach and love these young men in this program and help them develop them into the young men that they want to be. We want to be a really positive part of this community.”
While he led to Commodores to three straight bowl appearances, things weren’t perfect with Franklin’s Vanderbilt program either. Franklin was asked to address the ongoing investigation in which four of his players were charged in the rape of an unconscious woman and how that impacted the interview process.
“It couldn’t have been a more thorough interview process. We discussed everything. [That was] the most challenging thing I’ve ever been through personally – as a father of two daughters – and professionally. We were honest. We were up front and we made decisions quickly and tried to do everything we possibly could to respect the situation with the utmost class,” Franklin said.
Franklin comes into his new position just three and a half weeks from national signing day for the 2014 recruiting class. He’ll need to quickly assemble a coaching staff and move forward with re-affirming the commitments of the recruits that O’Brien and company had assembled. Franklin, who is known as a relentless recruiter and has ties throughout the state, doesn’t envision that being a problem.
“We are going to dominate the state. We are going to dominate the region. This school has everything that young men are looking for,” Franklin said.
That must be music to the ears of Penn State fans.
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