College Football America’s 2014 Coaching Carousel: Franklin now head coach at Penn State

James Franklin

Vanderbilt coach James Franklin.

Well, now it’s official. James Franklin is the head coach at Penn State.

The Nittany Lions released a short statement Saturday morning and called a Saturday afternoon news conference to announce Bill O’Brien’s replacement.

The Langhorne, Penn., native is a tremendous hire for Penn State, in my opinion. Franklin went 24-15 at Vanderbilt in three seasons and took the Commodores to three straight bowl games. The Commodores had been to four bowl games TOTAL before Franklin arrived. His reputation is built around recruiting and player development, and that should be a great fit for Penn State. The Nittany Lions have two more years of NCAA sanctions that will keep them out of bowl games and reduce the number of scholarships they can offer. Franklin spent three years recruiting to the hardest job in the SEC. He should be perfect for building up the Nittany Lions for their passage out of sanctions in 2016.

And, somewhere, Terp Nation sighs heavily. Remember the days when he was the head-coach-in-waiting in Maryland? They’ll be seeing each other in the Big Ten soon.

Franklin wasn’t the only great hire in the last couple of days.

Georgia Southern, which is transitioning from FCS to FBS in 2014, but won’t be eligible for postseason play, hired Willie Fritz away from Sam Houston State, which has reached FCS postseason play for the past three seasons under Fritz, including a pair of FCS title game appearances in 2011-12. As an alum of Stephen F. Austin, one of Sam Houston’s top Southland Conference rivals, I can tell you he’s done amazing work in Huntsville. He’s won at the junior college, Division II and FCS level and has a career mark of 176-67-1. He also won two NJCAA national titles at Blinn College.  Fritz getting an FBS job was only a matter of time.

UMass, which has been searching for a new coach to replace Charley Molnar, is apparently turning to a blast from the past in Mark Whipple. It’s been widely reported that Whipple will be the next coach, though the school has not made an official announcement. Whipple, who has mostly been an NFL assistant since he left UMass after the 2003 season, carries back with him an overall mark of 121-59 as a collegiate head coach at New Haven (D-II), Brown and UMass. He led the Minutemen to the 1998 FCS National Championship. He’s had two losing seasons in 16 years as a head coach.

Finally, Western Kentucky wasted no time elevating Jeff Brohm to head coach. Brohm served as Bobby Petrino’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2013. But during Petrino’s first stint in Louisville (2003-06), Brohm was his quarterbacks coach. Brohm is a Louisville alum, but the fact that he didn’t follow his mentor to Louisville means that he’s ready to take his shot as a head coach. At least there will be continuity in Bowling Green.

So now we have 20 FBS openings this offseason, but just two open jobs.

UAB: What do you mean Garrick McGee was fired? No, he wasn’t. He’s resigning to become the offensive coordinator at Louisville under Bobby Petrino. You never see sitting head coaches leave for coordinator jobs. But, then again, UAB isn’t exactly a plum FBS job. The Blazers are 5-19 in two seasons under McGee. The search is on but no candidates have emerged. It will likely be an FBS assistant or a FCS head coach.

Vanderbilt: It’s too soon to speculate, but the Commodores are coming off the most success they ever have. So they could lure a head coach away from another FBS team. I’m putting my money on Louisiana-Lafayette’s Mark Hudspeth, who has led the Ragin’ Cajuns to three straight bowl games. He has SEC experience and he may have reached his ceiling at UL.


Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) Garrick McGee TBA
Arkansas State Bryan Harsin Bruce Anderson
Army Rich Ellerson Jeff Monken
Boise State Chris Petersen Bryan Harsin
Bowling Green Dave Clawson Dino Babers
Connecticut Paul Pasqualoni Bob Diaco
Eastern Michigan Ron English Chris Creighton
Florida Atlantic Carl Pelini Charlie Partridge
Georgia Southern Jeff Monken Willie Fritz
Louisville Charlie Strong Bobby Petrino
Massachusetts Charley Molnar Mark Whipple
Miami (OH) Don Treadwell Chuck Martin
Penn State Bill O’Brien James Franklin
Texas Mack Brown Charlie Strong
USC Lane Kiffin Steve Sarkisian
Vanderbilt James Franklin TBA
Wake Forest Jim Grobe Dave Clawson
Washington Steve Sarkisian Chris Petersen
Western Kentucky Bobby Petrino Jeff Brohm
Wyoming Dave Christensen Craig Bohl

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