James Franklin to USC? Why Penn State Coach Might Have “Mutual Interest” In Trojan’s Job



It took only two weeks for one of college football‘s most high-profile coaching jobs to become the history of the young season.

USC fired sixth year coach Clay Helton on Monday, two days after the then 14th-placed Trojans suffered a humiliating 42:28 loss to Stanford at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. After the initial reaction to Helton’s dismissal, the question arose of who would replace him as the next head coach of the Trojans.

Some of the usual suspects – including Jacksonville Jaguars coach Urban Meyer, Fox College football analyst Bob Stoops, and Iowa state coach Matt Campbell – made the rounds. But one coach who apparently rose to prominence early on in the USC’s search for a coach is Penn State‘s James Franklin, who, despite the rumors, has yet to publicly and definitively state that he would not take the job.

MORE: Why did USC fire Clay Helton?

“I can’t stand a distraction,” Franklin told reporters on Monday. “I’m going to discuss this with the (team) leadership council today so we can make sure that all of our energy is put into preparing for Auburn. This is how we will deal with it.”

Quarterback Sean Clifford, part of that council, said Franklin spoke with the council about the rumors Tuesday. He did not provide details of the discussion, but said he did not believe the rumors “are something to be concerned about”.

“Coach Franklin spoke to us yesterday, bringing the matter up,” said Clifford during the media availability on Wednesday. “I don’t think we need to worry about that. It’s something that is kind of out of our hands. We’re just going to focus on Auburn and then move on. We’re really excited about what’s on the table this week so we’re not going to let external sources change our thinking process. “

MORE: USC’s top 10 coaching candidates will replace Clay Helton next season

Prior to Penn State’s media availability on Wednesday, Dan Parick reported – citing a source – on his show that there was “mutual interest” between USC and Franklin, although he did not offer any details other than speculation.

Later on Wednesday, a reporter asked Franklin why he wasn’t simply refuting the rumors.

“I have, I have,” said Franklin. “But I have also noticed and followed over time that no matter what you say, people are not satisfied with it. So I decided to take care of it internally. I’ve talked to our team every year. I’m not worried about media distractions and I’m worried about my team with the fans. “

MORE: College Football Week 2 Takeaways: Oregon Wrecks Ohio State; Texas is falling flat

Franklin, 49, would certainly be an attractive target for USC, whom Mike Bohn, director of sport at Trojans, has said would like to compete for national championships. The eighth-year head coach is 86-43 years old and has trained for over 10 seasons, including two seasons with nine wins at Vanderbilt in 2012 and ’13. He also has three seasons of 11 wins at University Park, Pennsylvania, and won the Big Ten championship in 2016.

Additionally, Penn State enjoyed four straight seasons, finishing in the top 25 teams in college football from 2016 to 2019, three times in the top 10. It also has three 6-bowl berths on New Years Day and went 2 in those games: 1. He has occupied eight top 25 recruitment classes in a row, no worse than 24th nationwide and climbed to sixth place in this range. His class 2022 currently ranks first among all schools nationwide. It doesn’t claim recruits from the state of California, though it would certainly be able to take advantage of Southern California’s talented recruiting grounds.

USC had no problems recruiting, but wasn’t nearly as successful on the field (although Helton’s team defeated Franklin and Co. in the 2017 Rose Bowl Game). Helton turned 40-20 at USC since taking the full-time position in 2016, compared to Franklin’s record of 48-16 in the same amount of time.

Franklin would have an easier time doing well at USC than Penn State; he would not have to face Ohio State, Michigan or Michigan State every year, and Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa would also be eliminated from the Big Ten West Division. In the Pac-12, Franklin’s toughest competition would come from rival Notre Dame, the Pac-12 South Team Utah, and occasional meetings with Oregon, either in a cross-sectoral meeting in the regular season or in the Pac-12 championship.

It remains to be seen whether that will be enough to lure Franklin from his “dream job”. But until USC fills his position, his name will be inexorably linked to the opening.


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