STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Penn State’s James Franklin is a high-profile head coach whose name usually gets mentioned for high-profile head coaching jobs. But published reports during Auburn week have come hot and heavy about his being on the list of candidates for the position at Southern California.
The firing Monday of Clay Helton as the Trojans’ head coach came only two games into the 2021 season. It seems as if new candidates for the job have been added every day on radio and television sports talk shows. Franklin, meanwhile, has tried to keep his head down and prepare for No. 22 Auburn at Saturday night’s Beaver Stadium White Out.
At his media availability Wednesday night, Franklin was asked three questions about the job opening, saying after the third: “I’d love to talk about Auburn.
“I think there’s a lot of misinformation,” he said. “The problem, in my opinion, with today’s media and social media — I don’t mean this as an attack on anybody here — is everybody wants to be the first to say things so they can get credit.”
During his media session, Franklin was asked why he doesn’t say, “I’m not interested, I’m staying here.”
The coach replied, “I have. I have. But I’ve also found in tracking this over time, that really no matter what you say, people aren’t happy with it, so I’ve decided that I’m going to handle this internally, talk to our team. It happens every single year. I’m not worried about distractions in the media and with the fans, I’m worried about my team.
“So I’ve talked to my staff about it. I’ve talked to the players about it, the Leadership Council in detail, but I think that’s the best approach.”
The Leadership Council is made up of several players from each class.
Franklin also said he would address the recruits who were scheduled to attend Saturday night’s game. He had said at least 300 guests were expected.
“So my conversations with the recruits and my conversations with my team we’ll have,” he said. “But having conversations with the media and having conversations with anybody else, I’m concerned about my team and my future team. When I say my future team, I’m talking about the recruits.”
Defensive tackle PJ Mustipher, one of the team captains, said Franklin told his players “we’ve got to move on.”
“We see it,” Mustipher said. “I’m not going to act like we don’t see it. We definitely saw it. But he said, ‘Hey, we’ve got a job to do, we’ve got to move on.’ It’s as simple as that. Let them talk, we’ve got to go to work.”
Franklin, who led his team to the 2016 Big Ten championship, is in his eighth season as Penn State’s head coach. He signed a six-year contract last season worth at least $38.2 million guaranteed. The deal includes a $4 million buyout in 2021.