Penn State Football Gets It Right with James Franklin

Andrew Coppens@@andycoppensContributor IJanuary 11, 2014

USA Today/Don McPeak

As Bill O'Brien ran off to the NFL faster than Allen Robinson could burn a cornerback, it became painfully obvious that Penn State needed its next hire to be someone that wanted to be there and embrace the position. 

On Saturday, Vanderbilt head coach and native Pennsylvanian James Franklin returned to the state where he also went to college and began his coaching career. He has been named the 16th head coach in Penn State history, according to a release from the athletic department

After rumors of Al Golden's return to Happy Valley were proven to be untrue and former Penn State offensive lineman Mike Munchak's name was associated with the opening, the Nittany Lions went out and got the best head coach available in college football. 

Franklin has the pedigree and proven track record as a winner, and as the icing on the cake, he's also a young head coach that could have a long future with the school ahead of him. 

That's what the outgoing administration needed to get in this hire—a man that wouldn't see Penn State as a stepping stone to the next offer, but would be willing to build a life there. It had to leave a school still in flux with someone that could be a leader until others were in place on a more long-term basis—both in the athletic department and the school as a whole. 

If there's one thing that hasn't changed at Penn State with all it's gone through, it's that football is still revered and its head coach seen as the figurehead of everything Nittany Lions. 

Some have lamented Franklin's hire, though, citing five former players charged in the rape of a 21-year-old Vanderbilt student and his apparent attempt to cover up the incident. 

According to people like Christine Brennan of USA Today, James Franklin is just as guilty as those who committed the act. The fact that the horrible event took place while he was head coach disqualifies him from consideration at Penn State.

Sorry, but how about we blame those who are responsible for the crime? Those like Brennan act as if Franklin sat back and watched as a defenseless and apparently unconscious 21-year-old was raped by his players.

That's simply not the case. If anything, how he dealt with the situation is a prime example of why he's exactly the right hire for the Nittany Lions.  

Franklin took swift, decisive action and kicked those players involved in the case off the team. No caveats, no ifs, ands or buts about it: just a response of you're gone as soon as charges were filed.

He didn't bring it to the attention of his bosses and leave it on their desks to deal with. He did what any good leader does and took swift action. 

Short of locking all 125 players in their rooms unless for class and football, what else was Franklin supposed to do? He's not paid to babysit young men, and ultimately, we're all responsible for our own actions. 

If we're going to hold Franklin to this standard, then why aren't we also holding any boss who has ever hired someone who commits a murder, rape or violent crime equally responsible for those actions? No one ever suggests those actions are a reflection on the CEO, so why is it different with Franklin? 

At some point, personal responsibility needs to enter the equation.

Nov 24, 2012; Winston Salem, NC, USA Vanderbilt Commodores head coach James Franklin stands on the field prior to the start of the game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at BB&T Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

If the Penn State administration, which dotted every i and crossed every t in this hire, didn't look into Franklin's background then it's got bigger issues than just hiring a new head coach. 

Given the scrutiny of Penn State following the Sandusky scandal and its recommendations, you better believe the university has done this hiring process the right way internally.

With an administration on its way out shortly, it needed a man who could be comfortable doing all that the job at a place like PSU requires. 

Franklin has had no problem being the face of the Vandy program, actually making Commodores games must-see events in Nashville over the last few years and being very accessible to media and fans alike.

Most importantly, Franklin sees Penn State as the pinnacle of college coaching. 

That's not to say Franklin is, or will be, a Penn State lifer. The days of Joe Paterno and 40-plus years at one school are long gone, and thinking anyone could live up to that historic level is a bit much. 

But Franklin wouldn't be taking this job if it were just another notch on his coaching belt, if you will. 

He's passed over interest from other universities in the past few years, choosing to continue to build a remarkable resume at Vanderbilt. He finished his time there with a 24-15 record and led the Commodores to three bowl games in a row for the first time in school history. 

Not only that, but think of this: Vanderbilt's 16-4 record over the last 20 games is second in the SEC, behind only Alabama. 

Again, all of that at Vanderbilt

To put it further in to perspective, Franklin is the first Vandy coach to leave for another job since Gerry DiNardo left for LSU in 1995. He also is the first SEC coach to leave for a job outside of the conference since Lane Kiffin jumped to USC in 2010. 

Of course, those two names prove that nothing is a guarantee in today's world of coaching. DiNardo lasted five years with the Bayou Bengals and produced a 32-24-1 record there, while Kiffin went just 28-15 in just under four years at the helm of Southern Cal. 

But with the hire of James Franklin, Penn State got someone who will be committed to the cause and not looking to jump ship at the first great offer to come his way. 

Franklin will also likely be a huge hit on the recruiting trail with the power of Penn State's name behind him.  That may be the most overlooked aspect of this hire. The school gotten a great X's and O's head coach, but also one of the best recruiters in the country. 

Vanderbilt had the No. 56 class (according to 247sports) coming into Franklin's first year in 2011. The past two classes ended up at No. 47 (2012) and No. 26 (2013), and he was at work on what is currently the No. 33 class for 2014.

Add in Penn State's built-in advantages, and Franklin could do some real damage in battles up and down the East Coast and in the Rust Belt.

There simply aren't many holes in Franklin's resume, and this could be a very fruitful marriage for all parties.

Franklin's success on the field is yet to be determined, but in the here and now, Penn State got the right coach at the right time to lead this program to the light at the end of the NCAA sanctions tunnel. 

*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.


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