Penn State hire to come soon; Franklin at top of list

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Days after Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner said his search committee would name a new football coach in days, not weeks, he repeated that message Tuesday, saying the school’s coaching situation would be resolved “in a matter of days.”

“The search for the new leader of the Penn State football program is progressing very well,” Joyner said in a statement. “We are on schedule and I anticipate having the new head coach in place in a matter of days. The search is robust as we anticipated it would be and we have an excellent pool of candidates. I have heard from many coaches, or their representatives, who have expressed their interest in the position.”

It came after a report from Bruce Feldman of CBS saying James Franklin was now considered Penn State’s top choice for the vacant coaching position.

Franklin is a Pennsylvania native who has coached Vanderbilt the past three seasons. There, he has taken a Southeastern Conference doormat to three consecutive bowl games, two consecutive nine-win seasons and a victory this year against then-No. 15 Georgia.

He’s also a known, hot commodity. Franklin was reportedly a candidate for the University of Texas job that was filled by Charlie Strong, and The Washington Post reported that Franklin was set to interview for the Washington Redskins’ coaching position later this week. ESPN reported Franklin interviewed with the Houston Texans before they hired Bill O’Brien and that the Cleveland Browns requested permission to interview him.

On Tuesday, Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams told CBS he thought Franklin would stay at Vanderbilt.

“I expect James to be our football coach,” Williams said. “I’m planning on it. We’re looking at facilities. We’re working on some stuff. I have all thoughts that he’s going to be our football coach. I’ll do everything I can to make sure that he is.”

If that sounds like wishful thinking considering the possible opportunities for Franklin, it’s worth remembering that Miami athletic director Blake James said a similar line when speculation centered on his coach, Al Golden, over the weekend. Golden on Sunday said he was not a candidate for any other positions and reiterated that stance Monday.

On the surface, Vanderbilt might seem like a place anybody would leapfrog from if another opportunity arose, but the Commodores have done plenty to cater to Franklin since he became the team’s coach before the 2011 season, starting with his salary. It has been reported that Franklin makes $3 million per year. Vanderbilt also opened an indoor practice facility this fall that was part of a $31 million renovation project.

Franklin grew up in Eastern Pennsylvania, attending Neshaminy High School in Bucks County and East Stroudsburg for college, where he set school records as a quarterback.

Mark Dent:, 412-439-3791 and Twitter @mdent05.

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