Penn State hires Vanderbilt's James Franklin as next head coach

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP)

Penn State has hired James Franklin as its next head coach.

Franklin, 41, who led Vanderbilt to bowls in all three of his seasons there, replaces Bill O'Brien, who left the Nittany Lions after two years to coach the NFL's Houston Texans. Penn State made the announcement Saturday, after the school's compensation committee met to finalize the contract.

That committee approved the hiring by a 6-0 vote Saturday morning, and Franklin was introduced later in the day.

"Our program requires a very special kind of leader," Penn State President Rodney Erickson said, calling Franklin a "special talent." "We ran a careful and deliberate search process and I believe we've found the right person to lead our program."

Franklin won 24 games with the Commodores and is a Pennsylvania native with strong ties in-state. Penn State officials met with him this week in Florida. He will be asked to build off a foundation that O'Brien set amid scandal. Despite a lack of scholarships, a bowl ban and player defections from the late Joe Paterno's roster, O'Brien led the Nittany Lions to two winning seasons (8-4, 7-5) while restoring some tempered enthusiasm in Happy Valley.

"I'm a Pennsylvania boy," Franklin said during his opening statement, "with a Penn State heart."


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