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Penn State Football: The Dollars & Success of James Franklin

by on December 05, 2019 9:20 PM

Let’s say James Franklin’s third contract in a little less than six years is approved on Friday by the Penn State Board of Trustees.

It will mark his Day No. 2,156 as a Penn State employee.

And, according to his two contracts that Penn State has made public, Franklin has made a bit over $30 million in salary and bonuses since he arrived on campus.

At the same time, Penn State football has grossed over a half-billion dollars.

It’s been a profitable run for all concerned. Along the way, Franklin has restored continued sustained success to the Nittany Lions, recruited at a high level, created positive national publicity and filled Beaver Stadium.

Now seems like a good time to look back at the dollars and success of his 78-game tenure as the 16th head football coach at The Pennsylvania State University.

So I dug out the Penn State athletic department’s annual financial filings to the NCAA (they are online here), reviewed Franklin’s first two contracts released by Penn State and pulled out my old PSU football media guides. Plus, I researched Penn State’s annual recruiting rankings, according to Rivals.com (which is affiliated with Blue White Illustrated). 

The complete year-by-year numbers are delineated below, beginning with Bill O’Brien’s final season, in 2013, as a comparative. I don’t have the financials — beyond Franklin’s salary — for 2018 and 2019, because Penn State has not yet publicly released the 2018 figures and the 2019-20 fiscal year is still in progress.

(For estimating purposes of Penn State’s overall football revenues since 2014, I figured an annual revenue increase of 10% in each of the past two years — likely conservative, since PSU’s revenues from the Big Ten have jumped by $15 million in the last year alone.)

BY CATEGORY

Still, overall, the numbers provide a good overview of Franklin’s impact at Penn State. Here we go:

RECORDS: Overall record: 55-23. Big Ten record: 34-18. Bowl record: 2-3. Record vs. ranked teams: 8-14 (8-9 since 2016). A Big Ten championship in 2016. And lest we forget, during his first two seasons Franklin and the Nittany Lions were playing under a heavy shadow and reduced numbers caused by the NCAA sanctions.

RECRUITING (including the Class of 2020), according to Rivals.com: Annual class rankings of 15, 21, 12, 5, 11, 14. Four-stars: 56. Five-stars: 3.

FRANKLIN PAY: According to the published contracts between Franklin and Penn State, beginning January 11, 2014 through anticipated payments on December 31, 2019, the Penn State head coach will have earned $30.4 million in salary and bonuses — plus $100,000 more if they go to a New Year’s Six Bowl.

TICKETS: Attendance in Beaver Stadium is up, from an average attendance of 101,623 in 2014 to 105,678 in 2019. Ticket sales revenue and donations (seat licenses) are equally important benchmarks. In Franklin’s first four years, ticket revenue only jumped $500,000, from $33.5 million to $34 million, according to Penn State’s own numbers. Donations jumped from $7.5 million to $11.3 million over the same time; much of this money is given by fans paying for the right to buy tickets. 

FOOTBALL REVENUE: Since Franklin arrived in 2014, overall football-related revenues have been approximately $550 million. The annual number topped $100 million for the last year Penn State reported financial (2017 football season), but a third of that was a big jump in media rights fees, courtesy of the Big Ten Conference.

THE NUMBERS

Here’s a complete year-by-year rundown of the key numbers of the Franklin Era at Penn State:

----------- 2013 (Bill O’Brien) -----------

Record: 7-5, 4-4 Big Ten (3rd)

Returning starts: 164

Preseason coaching changes: DC Roof out, DB Midget in; Butler promoted to DC

Bowl: none - sanctions

High-water mark: 4OT win vs. Michigan

Wins vs. ranked teams (2): No. 18 Michigan, No. 14 Wisconsin

Losses vs. ranked teams (1): No. 4 Ohio State

Final rank: unranked

Class of 2013 recruits: 43rd, 3.06 ave. stars; one 5-star, three 4-stars

O’Brien’s total salary/bonus: $4.21 million (includes mid-year lump sum payment of $953,000) 

Ave. home attendance: 96,587

Overall FB revenue (millions): $68 

    Beaver Stadium ticket sales: $34.4 

    Media: n/a 

    Donations: $7.6 

Overall FB expenses (millions): $30.3

    HC/asst. coaches comp: $10.6

    Recruiting: $1.4 

    FB admin staff comp: $2.9 

FB “Profit” (millions): $37.7 

 

----------- 2014 -----------

Record: 7-6, 2-5 Big Ten (5th)

Returning starts: 216

Preseason coaching changes: new staff

Bowl: W (OT), Boston College, Pinstripe

High-water marks: 4-0 start; Pinstripe Bowl

Wins vs. ranked teams (0)

Losses vs. ranked teams (2): No. 13 Ohio State (OT), No. 10 Michigan State

Final rank: unranked

Class of 2014 recruits: 24th, 3.21 ave. stars; six 4-stars

Franklin’s total salary/bonus: $4.5 million 

Ave. home attendance: 101,623

Overall FB revenue (millions): $69.4 

    Beaver Stadium ticket sales: $33.5 

    Media: $16.6 

    Donations: $7.5 

Overall FB expenses (millions): $33.5 

    HC/asst. coaches comp: $11.2

    Recruiting: $870,000 

    FB admin staff comp: $4.1 

FB “Profit” (millions): $38.9 

 

----------- 2015 -----------

Record: 7-6, 4-4 Big Ten (4th)

Returning starts: 245

Preseason coaching changes: none
Bowl: L, Georgia, TaxSlayer

High-water mark: 5-1 start

Wins vs. ranked teams (0)

Losses vs. ranked teams (3): No. 1 Ohio State, No. 13 Michigan, No. 6 Michigan State

Final rank: unranked

Class of 2015 recruits: 15th, 3.44 ave. stars; 11 4-stars

Franklin’s total salary/bonus: $4.6 million 

Ave. home attendance: 99,799

Overall FB revenue (millions): $75.5 

    Beaver Stadium ticket sales: $31.4 

    Media: $16.5 

    Donations: $8.6   

Overall FB expenses (millions): $35.6 

    HC/asst. coaches comp: $11.3

    Recruiting: $915,000 

    FB admin staff comp: $3.7 

FB “Profit” (millions): $39.9 

 

----------- 2016 -----------

Record: 11-3, 6-1 Big Ten (champion)
Bowl: L, USC, Rose Bowl

High-water mark: Big Ten title, No. 5 entering Rose Bowl

Wins vs. ranked teams (2): No. 2 Ohio State, No. 6 Wisconsin

Losses vs. ranked teams (2): No. 4 Michigan, No. 9 USC

Final rank: CF 5th, AP 7th

Returning starts: 276

Preseason coaching changes: DC Shoop, OL Hand, OC Donovan out; OC Moorhead, S Banks, OL Limegrover in; Pry promoted to DC

Class of recruits: 21st, 3.25 ave. stars; six 4-stars

Franklin’s total salary/bonus: $5.25 million 

Ave. home attendance: 100,257

Overall FB revenue (millions): $81.2 

    Beaver Stadium ticket sales: $31.6 

    Media: $17.3 

    Donations: $9.4    

Overall FB expenses (millions): $39.8 

    HC/asst. coaches comp: $11.4

    Recruiting: $1.3 

    FB admin staff comp: $4.6 

FB “Profit” (millions): $41.4 

 

----------- 2017 -----------

Record: 11-2, 7-2 Big Ten (2nd)
Returning starts: 359

Preseason coaching changes: none

Bowl: W, Washington, Fiesta

High-water mark: No. 2 after 42-13 Whiteout win vs. Michigan

Wins vs. ranked teams (2): No. 19 Michigan, No. 12 Washington

Losses vs. ranked teams (2): No. 6 Ohio State, No. 24 Michigan State

Final rank: 9th CFP, 8th AP

Class of 2017 recruits: 12th, 3.57 ave. stars; one 5-star, 10 4-stars

Franklin’s total salary/bonus: $4.9 million 

Ave. home attendance: 106,707

Overall FB revenue (millions): $100.2 

    Beaver Stadium ticket sales: $34 

    Media: $32.6 

    Donations: $11.3    

Overall FB expenses (millions): $45.2 

    HC/asst. coaches comp: $13.6

    Recruiting: $1.4 million 

    FB admin staff comp: $2.9 

FB “Profit” (millions): $55 

 

----------- 2018 -----------

Record: 9-4, 6-3 Big Ten (3rd)
Returning starts: 202

Preseason coaching changes: OC Moorhead, RB Huff, WR Gattis out; WR Corley, RB Seider, TE Bowen, ST Galiano in; Rahne promoted to OC

Bowl: L, Kentucky, Citrus

High-water mark: No. 9 before Ohio State

Wins vs. ranked teams (1): No. 18 Iowa

Losses vs. ranked teams (3): No. 4 Ohio State, No. 5 Michigan, No. 16 Kentucky

Final rank: 12th CFP, 17th AP

Class of 2018 recruits: 5th, 4.19 ave. stars; two 5-stars, 16 4-stars

Franklin’s total salary/bonus: $5.3 million 

Ave. home attendance: 105,485

Revenues and expenses: tba

 

----------- 2019 -----------

Record: 10-2, 7-2 Big Ten (2nd)
Returning starts: 188

Preseason coaching changes: WR Corley, ST Galiano out; WR Parker, ST Lorig in

Bowl: tba

High-water mark: No. 4 before Minnesota

Wins vs. ranked teams (3): No. 17 Iowa, No. 16 Michigan, No. 24 Indiana

Losses vs. ranked teams (): No. 13 Minnesota, No. 2 Ohio State

Current rank: 10th CFP, 12th AP

Class of 2019 recruits: 11th, 3.52 ave. stars; 13 4-stars

Class of 2020 recruits: 14th, 3.43 ave., 12 4-stars

Franklin’s total salary: $5.85 million (if NY6 bowl, $5.95 million)

Ave. home attendance: 105,678

Revenues and expenses: tba



Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for StateCollege.com since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PSUPoorman. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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