It has been two months since the Penn State Board of Trustees’ committee on compensation approved a new six-year contract for James Franklin, but the Nittany Lions’ head football coach has yet to sign the agreement.
Franklin insisted Wednesday that there were “no hold-ups or concerns or issues [by] either party,” and that the new deal will be signed soon.
“These contracts aren’t like three pages of notes,” Franklin said at a Beaver Stadium news conference. “It’s about language and making sure what Penn State is comfortable with and what we’re comfortable with, and that takes time. It takes lawyers that get involved and make sure everything is ironed out and both parties are protected, and then it’s signed.”
“What I don’t want to say is when it’s going to be signed, and then you [reporters] are wondering why it hasn’t been released right away because I think there’s some things that have to happen procedurally, whether it’s state laws or university policies.”
Counting salaries and bonuses, Franklin earned $5.96 million in 2019.
Franklin is beginning his seventh season at Penn State. With the retirement Tuesday of Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio, he now ranks third among the longest-tenured Big Ten head coaches behind Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz (entering his 22nd season) and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald (15th season).
Franklin declined to comment on two lawsuits filed by former players in the past month, saying that the university had released statements on them.
One suit, filed Jan. 14 by former defensive back Isaiah Humphries in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg, alleged hazing and harassment, some of it sexual, by certain teammates, and that Franklin did nothing to stop the actions.
In a civil suit filed in Centre County Court in Bellefonte, former defensive end Ellison Jordan alleged that the medical staff of the football team was negligent in providing care after he underwent the first of multiple knee surgeries in 2016.
Franklin said no new players were added to the list of 27 scholarship players who signed their letters of intent on Dec. 18, although the program announced on Twitter the names of two incoming preferred walk-ons: defensive end Jake Wilson of Nazareth, Pa., and punter Levi Forrest of Richlands, Va.
Wednesday was the last day for high school players to sign their national letters of intent, but Franklin said the program “will always approach the first signing period as the signing period.”
“For the most part, we don’t have a whole lot of drama on signing day,” he said. “The guys that are supposed to sign, sign. They’re all usually in by 8 a.m. We don’t release them to [the media] because we just want to spread it out throughout the day for content.”
Franklin said the program is “close” to being at the NCAA-mandated maximum of 85 scholarships and that the NCAA transfer portal makes it a challenge “in trying to guesstimate what your roster is going to be.”
“It used to be in the old days it was guys leaving early for the NFL, and then it was attrition for whatever reason that attrition was,” he said. “What we would do is study 10 years at Penn State, what is the average attrition in a year, what is the average attrition come December, and then be able to take that number and be able to project what your number is going to be based on graduating seniors as well as attrition.