After a season full of speculation about whether he would take another high-profile college football coaching job, Penn State’s James Franklin has agreed to the terms of a 10-year contract worth a minimum of $75 million to remain as head coach of the Nittany Lions through 2031.
The terms of the contract, which also includes a maximum of $1 million in incentives annually, were approved Tuesday by the Penn State’s Board of Trustees’ Subcommittee on Compensation.
The announcement also came about three hours after Franklin ended his weekly Zoom news conference at which he deflected two direct yes-or-no questions asking whether he’d be back as the coach of the Nittany Lions in 2022.
The contract calls for a base salary of $500,000 per year, supplemental pay of $6.5 million annually, and a $500,000 retention bonus at the end of each year, for total guaranteed compensation of $7.5 million. Franklin’s incentives include $800,000 for winning the national championship, $500,000 for finishing second, and $350,000 for winning the Big Ten title.
Franklin’s buyout starts at $12 million for the first three months of 2022, then decreases to $8 million for the rest of the year, $6 million in 2023, $2 million in 2024 and 2025, and $1 million for the last five years of the deal.
In recent weeks, Franklin has discussed on numerous occasions the need to “compete 365 days a year with what everybody’s doing,” meaning the race throughout major college football to improve and enhance practice and training facilities. Some of his comments sounded as if he were dissatisfied with the commitment being made by the university.
However, in a statement Tuesday announcing the contract, Franklin said the university administration began engaging with him nine weeks ago “about making a long-term investment in our football program.
“This prompted numerous conversations outlining the resources needed to be competitive at a level that matches the expectations and history of Penn State,” he said in the statement. “What’s most evident from those conversations is the importance of our student-athletes’ success both on and off the field.”
Franklin said university president Eric J. Barron, vice president of athletics Sandy Barbour, and the board of trustees have “been able to create a road map of the resources needed,” including Name, Image and Likeness (NIL); facility improvements; athlete housing, academic support and community outreach.
“This renewed commitment to our student-athletes, community and fans reinforces all the reasons I’ve been proud to serve as your head football coach for the last eight years and why my commitment to Penn State remains steadfast,” he said. “Throughout this process I’ve kept our leadership council, recruits and staff updated on those conversations, and I’m excited we’ve reached an agreement we can finally share with you.”
Franklin, 49, was hired as Penn State’s coach in January 2014. His career record over eight seasons is 67-32, with his career highlight with the Nittany Lions being the 2016 Big Ten championship. He had led the Lions to three New Year’s Six bowl games over four years (2016-19), but his team is 11-9 over the last two years, including 7-4 in 2021 with one game left in the regular season, Saturday at Michigan State.
This season, he was in the second year of a six-year contract that paid him $5.5 million. Penn State expects to get a bowl invitation after the season ends, which would be its seventh under Franklin.
Franklin last week told the Penn State Quarterbacks Club that he was “not going anywhere.” After Saturday’s 28-0 win over Rutgers, Franklin told reporters he wanted to wait until Tuesday to elaborate, but on Tuesday he said that he had “nothing new to report” and that “there are still some moving parts going on.”
Franklin has been a popular figure nationally when it comes to being a candidate for other coaching jobs. Just this year alone, he was speculated to have interest in vacancies at Southern California and at Louisiana State. He also hired a new agent, Jimmy Sexton, who represents a number of big-time coaches, including Alabama’s Nick Saban.
Barbour said that Franklin and the university would “continue our collective efforts to constantly improve in all aspects of our program.
“We have made, and will need to continue to make, significant investment in our football program because we believe we have a very bright future under James,” she said. “With this contract, we are signaling our sustained commitment to being one of the premier programs in the history of college football.”