UNIVERSITY PARK — The search for Penn State’s next football coach is nearing an end, as his contract likely will be approved during a special meeting Saturday, a university source said.
The source would not confirm whether the prospective coach is James Franklin, although sources have said the Vanderbilt coach is at the top of the search committee’s list.
The contract will be considered during a conference call of the compensation committee of the university board of trustees. The call starts at 9 a.m. The compensation committee, which will meet for an executive session at 8:30 a.m., consists of trustees Paul Silvis, Karen Peetz, Mark Dambly, Linda Strumpf and Kathleen Casey.
Franklin, Miami Hurricanes coach Al Golden and former Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak had been in media reports as candidates for the coaching position that was vacated when Bill O’Brien left for the NFL’s Houston Texans.
Longtime defensive line coach Larry Johnson is currently serving as interim head coach. Johnson’s son Tony authored a cryptic message on Facebook that some have interpreted to mean that Johnson intends to leave Penn State.
“It’s been a great 18 year run at PSU ... Thank you to everybody for all the support, text, emails and phone calls...” the post read.
Johnson did not return phone calls seeking comment, and a team spokesman said he is unaware of Johnson’s plans or any impending resignation.
Speculation swirled into Thursday morning on Franklin’s future after Penn State administrators, including search committee members David Joyner and Tom Poole, were seen at the University Park Airport on Wednesday night getting off a flight from Destin, Fla. Franklin has a home in the area but was not aboard the flight.
Franklin’s agent, Trace Armstrong, has not returned calls seeking comment.
Vanderbilt Athletic Director David Williams told The Associated Press on Thursday afternoon that he had spoken to Franklin and the 41-year-old coach told him that reports he had accepted an offer from Penn State were not accurate.
“He called to let me know the reports that he had accepted another job were inaccurate,” Williams said. “And I didn’t ask anything more than that, nor did he volunteer anything more than that.”
The Times-Tribune (Scranton) reported late Wednesday night that Franklin had been offered the job and was expected to accept.
The CDT reported that no offer had been made, however. ESPN reporter Joe Schad backed that report up on Thursday morning while CBSSports.com reported that there were “many details to be sorted out on both sides” on Thursday.
Meanwhile, The (Nashville) Tennessean reported Thursday evening that Williams and Franklin have texted back and forth and Williams told the paper that Franklin is “still trying to make a decision” on his future.
Born in the Philadelphia suburb of Langhorne and a former East Stroudsburg University quarterback, Franklin has led Vanderbilt to its most successful three-year span in school history.The Commodores have gone 24-15 and played in three bowl games. His coaching prowess has made him a coveted candidate for multiple openings; various NFL teams, including the Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins, were reported to have interest in the 41-year-old Franklin.
Franklin coached at Maryland for two stints. In his first go-round with the Terrapins, he was on the staff with Bill O’Brien. During his second tenure with Maryland, he was tabbed coach-in-waiting behind Ralph Friedgen. But Franklin took the Vanderbilt job before he could take over the Terps.
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