The coaching carousel kept spinning on Tuesday night, when Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien left the school after two years to take the same job with the NFL's Houston Texans according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, via HoustonTexans.com.
O'Brien's two seasons in Happy Valley have been nothing short of phenomenal. He took over a program in turmoil and provided as much stability as possible, posting a 15-9 record and a 10-6 record within the Big Ten.
Who will take control and continue steering the ship in the right direction?
If Penn State is smart, its first call will be to Vanderbilt James Franklin. In fact, its first, second and third call should be to the third-year Commodore head coach.
He has emerged as a top contender for the job according to David Jones of PennLive.com. But he isn't the only contender.
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano could also be a target for Penn State, according to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport.
Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 29, 2013
If it's between Franklin and Schiano, Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner should probably just keep calling Franklin and lose Schiano's number altogether.
What Franklin has done with Vanderbilt is nothing short of remarkable. He's led the program to three straight bowl games for the first time in program history and has also guided the Commodores to back-to-back eight-win regular seasons.
This, at Vanderbilt, in the midst of the SEC's most prosperous time.
Plus, he knows what it takes to compete at a high level coming without the advantages of his competitors.
Vanderbilt's academic prowess combined with its reputation as an SEC doormat makes it difficult to recruit top-tier talent to the program. Franklin changed that.
The program finished outside of the national top 50 in the 247Sports.com recruiting rankings prior to Franklin's arrival. Since his arrival, the Commodores have been inside the to 50 twice, finishing 26th last year. The program is dancing around the top 30 in 2014.
He wouldn't face the exact situation at Penn State, but NCAA sanctions stemming from the Jerry Sandusky scandal would create a similar personnel battle for the Nittany Lions.
Should James Franklin be Penn State's top target?
Initial scholarship restrictions were eased from 70 to 75 for the 2014-15 school year and will increase by five until the full 85 are restored for the 2016-17 year according to CBSSports.com. But those restrictions will still have an impact and will likely become more pronounced as the program navigates through probation.
James Franklin is exactly who Penn State needs. The only remaining question is whether he wants the job or will hold out for something even bigger.
Penn State shouldn't allow that to be an option.