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Penn State Football: Franklin Talks USC Rumors But Does Little To Squash Them

by on November 20, 2018 3:00 PM

USC football has not yet fired current head coach Clay Helton, but that hasn't stopped the rumor mill from churning out James Franklin as a potential candidate if Helton, whose buyout is reportedly $14 million, is not retained.

The Trojans are 5-6 and close out the regular season against Notre Dame this weekend. According to a Tuesday afternoon tweet by Peter Ghersen of Trojan Insider, Helton will return to coach USC in 2019. Also of note, USC reportedly passed on Franklin previously due to the then ongoing football player rape case at Vanderbilt.

Nevertheless, Franklin, asked about the rumor on Tuesday during his weekly press conference, had this to say about his interest in the potential opening.

“First of all, it’s that time of year, where all this stuff happens,” Franklin said. "It’s that time of year. It’s the crazy, mad time of year. We’re focused on Maryland completely, 100 percent. I don’t even think it’s fair or right to be talking about that job from everything I understand about it. We’re completely focused on Maryland.”

The response will do little for Penn State fans hopeful for assurances of a sixth season under Franklin, who signed a six-year, $34.7 million deal on August 18, 2017. The current deal expires on the December 31, 2022, with a buyout of $1 million for each year between now and the end of said contract. Franklin is represented by agent Trace Armstrong.

While Franklin has largely avoided the rumor mill during his tenure at Penn State, he was linked to job searches at Texas A&M, Miami and Notre Dame.

"To be honest with you, I wasn't going to respond at all, but our fans wore me out on Twitter," Franklin said of the A&M rumors in 2017. "I think our players were perfectly fine. Our coaches were perfectly fine. I just wanted everybody to stop talking about it and start talking about Michigan. Michigan, Michigan, Michigan. ... As we all know there's a lot of different reasons for these things coming up and the biggest thing is distractions."

And in 2015 when linked to Miami:

"It causes a distraction for our team, for Penn State and I have no idea where it’s coming from whatsoever," Franklin said. "My family has sacrificed, I’ve worked my ass off to get to Penn State, to get here and this is where I want to be. This is where I want to be. We’ve got a lot of work to do on the field, we’ve got a lot of work to do off the field.”

While Franklin's non-denial on Tuesday might be seen as leverage for his own personal gain, or potentially a genuine interest in the job itself, he has long pushed an ongoing talking point surrounding assistant coach salaries and facilities upgrades. Penn State replaced a handful of assistants this offseason including receivers coach Josh Gattis, who left for Alabama, while running backs coach Charles Huff and offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead made their way to Mississippi State.

“I don't want this to come off the wrong way,” Franklin said on the Coaches Caravan this July. “I am unbelievably appreciative of what we've been able to get done in a short period of time. But I also recognize that we have momentum right now, and we have to capitalize on this momentum. Because I don't want to be a program that, every three or four years, we have a really good run."

“It just means we’ve got to catch up,” Penn State director of Athletics Sandy Barbour said about facilities spending at the time. “We’ve been doing it over the course of the last 4-5 years and we probably need to accelerate that. We’ve known it. It wasn’t any surprise. It just means we’ve got a lot of work to do."

What Franklin is angling for, if he is at all, remains to be seen, but for a coach that has somewhat emphatically shot down potential rumors in the past, he didn't on a cold and gloomy Tuesday afternoon in State College.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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