Vanderbilt's athletic director believes Penn State target James Franklin will still be the Commodores' coach next season.
By Mark Dent and Bill Schackner / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Will he or won't he, and when? The as yet to be official conclusion of the Penn State coaching search entered new territory Thursday, albeit still non-definitive territory, surrounding Vanderbilt coach James Franklin, who appears to be the university's top candidate.
University spokeswoman Lisa Powers confirmed the recently created compensation committee of Penn State's board is scheduled to meet in a closed session at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, though she would not identify whose contract would be examined.
"The person whose contract is being reviewed has not been publicly identified at this time," she said in an email. "A brief public session will follow at 9 a.m."
The panel does not hire, but its duties include setting pay for top university officials. Powers identified the panel's newly appointed members as chair Linda B. Strumpf, Kathleen L. Casey, Mark H. Dambly, Karen B. Peetz and Paul H. Silvis.
ESPN and CBS reported Thursday that Franklin was expected to accept an offer to become Penn State's head coach. The situation remained cloudy throughout the day.
Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams spoke to The Associated Press and on two radio shows in Nashville, Tenn. On the 3HL show on Nashville's 104.5, Williams said Franklin contacted him around noon Thursday and told him the reports about him having accepted the Penn State job were untrue. Williams said he took Franklin at his word.
"When we open up against Temple, I expect him to be on the sidelines of the game," said Williams, referring to Vanderbilt's season opener this fall.
Penn State defensive end Brad Bars told The Tennessean the players had received a text message saying nothing was official regarding the hiring of a new coach.
In a phone interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Thursday, Penn State defensive line recruit Noah Beh said he had not been informed about any coaching decision -- through Franklin or anyone at Penn State. He said the most recent time the recruits had been contacted was earlier this week by interim coach Larry Johnson, who said the coaching search would end soon.
Thursday's events were preceded by one of the wildest nights yet of the Penn State coaching search.
It started with a reported sighting Wednesday of Franklin at the Nashville airport. Then Williams told The Tennessean that Franklin was on vacation and had a vacation home in Destin, Fla.
The website Flightaware.com, which tracks flights, showed a flight for a Cessna plane from State College to the Fort Walton-Destin airport Wednesday afternoon and a return flight in the night. When the flight landed at almost 11 p.m., Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner and university president Rodney Erickson got off the plane, among others, but there was no sign of Franklin. Several reporters and fans were at the airport waiting in case he was there.
Joyner spoke on a phone as he walked to his car and did not address reporters. He also did not respond to an inquiry Thursday.
Mark Dent: email@example.com, 412-439-3791 and Twitter @mdent05. Bill Schackner: firstname.lastname@example.org and 412-263-1977.
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