As the funhouse ride that is Penn State’s coaching search takes another turn, the man in charge of it assures that it will soon be coming to a stop.
Just as buzz was gathering around Vanderbilt coach James Franklin on Tuesday, Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner said the Nittany Lions would likely have their coach before the week is out.
“The search for the new leader of the Penn State football program is progressing very well,” Joyner said in a statement. “We are on schedule and I anticipate having the new head coach in place in a matter of days.
“The search is robust as we anticipated it would be and we have an excellent pool of candidates. I have heard from many coaches, or their representatives, who have expressed their interest in the position.”
One of those candidates, Franklin, had been something of a mystery through the first few days of the search.
Amusingly, the internet at large began to crack the cypher Tuesday morning. Message board sleuths on the 247sports and Scout networks noticed that Franklin’s top assistants at Vanderbilt — offensive coordinator John Donovan and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop — had suddenly begun following Penn State recruits on Twitter.
In and of itself, that doesn’t say much. Both coaches, for example, began to follow recruits from Louisville, which is also without a head coach at the moment.
More interesting was a report by respected national college football writer Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports that Franklin had emerged as “the clear frontrunner” for the Penn State job.
Of course, Franklin has been linked to numerous jobs in both the college and NFL ranks. And he has one of the sport’s most infamous and influential agents in Jimmy Sexton, who also represents Alabama’s Nick Saban and both Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, who faced off in Monday’s national title game.
In other words, it’s no surprise Franklin’s name is making the rounds, regardless of what his intentions for 2014 are.
Regardless, one can expect Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams to make his best offer to try and keep Franklin, who has transformed the lowly Commodores into a competitive SEC outfit.
“I expect James to be our football coach. I’m planning on it,” Williams told CBS. “We’re looking at facilities. We’re working on some stuff. I have all thoughts that he’s going to be our football coach. I’ll do everything I can to make sure that he is.”
Franklin himself has been very visible the past few days. Since leading Vanderbilt to a bowl victory on Saturday — it was the first time in program history the Commodores had won bowl games in consecutive seasons — Franklin stayed in the spotlight Monday.
Franklin appeared in studio during the day for ESPN preview shows for the title game and also was part of a simulcast during the game, providing commentary along with players, coaches and pundits.
When he was introduced for his appearance Monday night as Vanderbilt’s coach, 2012 Heisman winner Johnny Manziel cracked, “For now.”
“Settle down,” the coach said with a grin.
For Penn State fans, that means waiting just a little bit longer.