Dan Patrick: James Franklin, USC Have Mutual Interest in Trojans' Head Coaching Job

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 15, 2021

MADISON, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 04: Head coach James Franklin of the Penn State Nittany Lions watches action during a game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium on September 04, 2021 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

USC football and Penn State head coach James Franklin reportedly have "mutual interest" regarding the Trojans' head coaching vacancy after Clay Helton was fired Monday.

Dan Patrick reported the news Wednesday on his show:

Dan Patrick Show @dpshow

A source tells Dan that there's mutual interest between <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/USC?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#USC</a> and James Franklin for their Football Head Coaching job <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Trojans?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Trojans</a> <a href="https://t.co/gSYAmUTi3B">pic.twitter.com/gSYAmUTi3B</a>

The Trojans entered the 2021 season ranked 14th in the Associated Press poll and with hopes of competing for the Pac-12 conference title, but their chances of meeting that goal took an early hit with a 42-28 home loss to Stanford on Saturday.

By Monday, USC athletic director Mike Bohn announced he'd decided the lack of progress despite the additional resources given to help the program compete for championships meant "those expectations would not be met without a change in leadership."

Bohn added the athletic department would immediately begin a nationwide search for Helton's replacement while elevating assistant Donte Williams to handle the role on an interim basis.

"We will actively and patiently pursue a coach who will deliver on the championship aspirations and expectations we all share for our football program," Bohn said. "With our storied history, our talented roster, and the major investments we've made in the infrastructure of our football organization, I'm optimistic that we are better positioned right now than we have been at any other time in the past decade to recruit the best and right leader for USC."

Helton, who joined the Trojans staff in 2010 as a quarterbacks coach and held several different roles before being named head coach in 2015, finished his tenure with a 46-24 record and a 2-3 mark in bowl games.

Meanwhile, Franklin has led the Penn State program since 2014. Rumors have swirled about potential exits in the past, both for other college jobs and a possible NFL jump, but none have come to fruition as he's guided PSU to a 62-28 mark across seven-plus seasons.

His $6.7 million base salary from the Nittany Lions in 2020 ranked eighth among college football coaches, but his full contract details aren't known, per USA Today.

Franklin, a 49-year-old Pennsylvania native, shrugged off speculation about USC on Tuesday.

"As you know, I can't stand any form of distraction," he told reporters. "I'll discuss this today with our leadership council so that we can make sure all of our energy is on our preparation for Auburn."

The 10th-ranked Nittany Lions are set to host the 22nd-ranked Tigers at Beaver Stadium on Saturday in one of the marquee matchups of Week 3.

Penn State's status as a potential College Football Playoff contender could complicate USC's pursuit of Franklin if it's looking for a new head coach to take over midseason.

J. Brady McCollough of the Los Angeles Times listed seven other active head coaches—Boston College's Jeff Hafley, Iowa State's Matt Campbell, Minnesota's P.J. Fleck, Cincinnati's Luke Fickell, Rutgers' Greg Schiano, Kentucky's Mark Stoops and Utah's Kyle Whittingham—as among the "first calls" for USC following Helton's departure.

The Trojans haven't provided a timetable for their coaching search to conclude.