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Tipsheet: Franklin cashes in at Penn State as coaching salaries get sillier

Tipsheet: Franklin cashes in at Penn State as coaching salaries get sillier

Penn State's Franklin agrees to $75M, 10-year extension

Penn State head coach James Franklin yells from the sideline during an NCAA college football game against Michigan in State College, Pa., Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. Michigan defeated Penn State 21-17. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

With Penn State showing signs of slippage, coach James Franklin probably felt his bargaining leverage slide. The Nittany Lions are 7-4 this season and just 11-9 since the start of 2020.

So he cheerfully signed a new 10-year deal with a base pay of $7.5 million plus goodies to stay in Happy Valley and stay off the coaching carousel during this offseason.

That sort of coin goes a long way in Central Pennsylvania. It also reminds us how insane the bidding for good college football coaches has become.

“Penn State's future is bright, and I'm honored to continue to serve as your head football coach,” Franklin said in a statement. “Nine weeks ago, the administration approached me 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.”

Franklin had raised multiple issues with the school, including the need for a football-only indoor facility and the money to add more analysts to his staff.

“I've said it really since I got here, we have to compete the 364 other days a year with everything,” he said Tuesday. “Everything matters. … There will be a time in place here that we'll talk about that in more detail.”

Here are some other contract specifics for Franklin:

  • Franklin will receive an annual loan of $1 million for a life insurance policy through the entirety of the contract. Apparently he doesn't have enough money already banked to protect his family.
  • His incentives include $100,000 for winning Big Ten Coach of the Year, $350,000 for winning the Big Ten championship game, $400,000 for making the College Football Playoff and an $800,000 escalator for winning a national championship.
  • Franklin's buyout will start at $12 million prior to April 1, 2022. Then it shrinks to $8 million through Dec. 31, 2022, $6 million in 2023, $2 million in 2024 and 2025, and $1 million from calendar year 2026 to 2030.

Writing for, Shehan Jeyarajah had this take:

Franklin has been linked to big-name jobs like USC and LSU for years, even before the positions came open this year. However, the extension quickly shuts the door on the most proven candidate in what has become a crowded coaching market. The decision is a huge win for Penn State, especially as Franklin can continue to sell recruits that the nation's elite programs wanted him ... and he chose State College. 

The decision also prevents Penn State from being one of the openings in a competitive cycle. If Franklin left, both Cincinnati's Luke Fickell and Iowa State's Matt Campbell would be strong contenders for the opening, which would have set off another round of the coaching carousel. There's little guarantee that Penn State could have found a candidate as strong as Franklin. Instead, Franklin maintains the stability among the Big Ten's elite.


Questions to ponder while wondering if Steven Matz will fit snugly into the Cardinals starting rotation:

  • After committing $44 million over four years to Matz, how much more payroll flexibility does John Mozeliak have?
  • Was Matz's performance in Toronto last season -- 14-7 with a 3.82 ERA -- an outlier campaign or his new normal?
  • Weren't the Mets supposed to win this bidding?


Here is what folks are writing about the coaching carousel:

Kurt Badenhausen, Sportico: “Welcome to what is expected to be the most tumultuous college football coaching carousel to date. On Sunday, Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin pulled the plug on the Dan Mullen era after four seasons, including three straight in which the Gators finished in the top 12, and a 34-15 overall record. It means three of the highest profile—and richest—college football programs in the country are seeking new coaches, with fellow Power Five programs Washington, TCU, Virginia Tech and Washington State having already fired their head coaches, too . . . Fourteen FBS coaching jobs have opened so far this season, and the recent record of 31 total changes in 2012 is in jeopardy. Look for a flurry of blockbuster contracts over the next few weeks, as coaches land new marquee jobs, or like Franklin, leverage the openings for extensions at their current programs. Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney have set the bar on and off the field in recent years, accounting for five of the past six national championships and earning average annual salaries north of $9 million. Saban got a raise this summer in a deal worth $10.7 million a year. But a handful of coaches are expected to land massive extensions that will put them among the 25 highest-paid coaches in sports, pro or college. Jimbo Fisher beat the rush with a deal inked just ahead of the season that pushed him into Saban/Swinney territory. Texas A&M ripped up the last seven years of his 10-year, $75 million deal and gave Fisher a new pact worth $95 million over a decade. Mel Tucker was hired by Michigan State in 2020 after one year as coach at Colorado. He was rumored to be on LSU’s shortlist, but he’s on the verge of signing a new 10-year, $95 million with MSU.”

Adam Rittenberg, “Keep an eye on these Bills for the two vacant SEC jobs: Bill O'Brien and Billy Napier. LSU athletic director Scott Woodward still wants Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher for the Tigers job, and will continue to make runs at Fisher. ‘He's Scott's white whale,’ an LSU source said recently. But if Fisher remains firm in staying at Texas A&M, expect LSU to pivot toward O'Brien, the Alabama offensive coordinator and former Houston Texans and Penn State coach. O'Brien's next stop likely will be as a major college head coach. Florida, meanwhile, could soon target Napier, the Louisiana coach, for its vacancy. Napier's name has been mentioned for all the SEC openings in recent years, as well as Baylor two years ago and TCU and Virginia Tech this year. But his patience could pay off in landing a true Tier 1 job at Florida. Napier is 31-5 the past three seasons at Louisiana.”

Dennis Dodd, “Florida would just settle for normal right now. Dan Mullen is gone after four seasons, and the lineage of whacko now extends back a few years. Jim McElwain won two SEC East titles until the faux death threats undid him. The Gators were ranked in the top 10 less than two months ago. Mullen's fall from grace is unprecedented. Florida looked like the team that had cracked the code on Alabama. Now, there is a major overhaul to be done. It makes one long for the days of Will Muschamp. There is a list of solid candidates to replace Mullen but no absolute home runs as almost all of them come with questions. Lane Kiffin is hot, but can he stay consistent? Bob Stoops has been out of the game since 2017. Louisiana’s Billy Napier is going to get something from this latest silly season. Florida might be his dream opening.  The three top 20 openings (Florida along with LSU and USC) are the most in FBS since 2017. Mullen also became the 13th coach to be fired during this season. That has to be some sort of record.”

John Brice, Football Scoop: “Though its search included conversations with, among others, Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, Louisiana's Billy Napier and Jackson State coach Deion Sanders, TCU is poised to make Sonny Dykes its next head coach. Multiple sources within the past 10 days strongly indicated to Football Scoop that the Horned Frogs' leadership had zeroed in all efforts on securing Dykes, the SMU coach with 25 wins in his past three seasons who also is a Texas native. The deal could be announced as soon as this weekend, sources said, after SMU concludes its regular season Saturday at home against Tulsa – a contest in which the Mustangs can secure their second season of nine or more wins in the past three years. But Dykes' seemingly imminent departure doesn't just mean a spot filled at a Power 5 school for Big 12 resident TCU.It also, perhaps only briefly, leaves vacant one of the very best Group of 5 jobs. Sources indicate Rhett Lashlee would be a strong candidate for the SMU job.  Miami's offensive coordinator the past two seasons, Lashlee served on Dykes' Mustangs staff in 2018-19 as the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.”


“My father-in-law is a farmer and there’s an old saying you reap what you sow. And I believe that just like everything else, yeah if you sow kindness, you reap kindness. If you sow jackass-ability, you get jackass-ability. I’ve done my fair share of jabbing people and know that it’ll come back to you so I think it’s just part of the game.”

Mizzou coach Ed Drinkwitz, trolling former Florida coach Dan Mullen as heard on 1010XL in Jacksonville.

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Jeff Gordon is an online sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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