We’re counting down the days until kickoff. So, every day, we’ll try to make that time tick by just a little faster by also counting down the top 30 moments of James Franklin’s tenure so far. Up next — with 15 days left — is the No. 15 moment since Franklin took the head-coaching job.
No. 15 moment: James Franklin’s first press conference
On Jan. 11, 2014, James Franklin sat at the Beaver Stadium media room dais and laid out his vision for Penn State football.
On that day, the former Vanderbilt coach became the face of the Nittany Lions. Introduced by former Penn State president Rodney Erickson and athletic director Dave Joyner, the longtime journeyman officially became Penn State’s 16th head coach.
“I’m excited to come home,” the Langhorne, Pa., native said. “That is probably the thing that I take the most pride in is coming home. I’m a Pennsylvania boy with a Penn State heart. ... I think I’m the right guy to come back and unite this state — unite this state and bring this program back to where I think it can be.”
With the program still steeped in NCAA sanctions, that statement was important. Franklin believed that even with two more years of a postseason ban and scholarship limitations, he and his staff could continue the work done by Bill O’Brien and elevate the program.
Franklin continued with perhaps his most well-known comment that day.
“Our recruiting philosophy, we are going to dominate the state,” Franklin said. “We are going to dominate the state. We are going to dominate the region.”
In the three years prior to Franklin’s arrival, Penn State had signed only three four-star Pennsylvania products. Meanwhile, the top prospect in Pennsylvania in 2011, 2012 and 2013 signed with Notre Dame, Ohio State and Pitt, respectively.
Not only did Franklin’s “Dominate the State” comment sell quite a few T-shirts, but it was also a firm statement of intent. Franklin — a known recruiter before joining Penn State — had a plan in place to get the region’s best talent to Happy Valley.
After his opening statement came to a close, Franklin took questions from the room. The first was about his intentions with the job. After Joe Paterno patrolled the sidelines for four decades and O’Brien left after two seasons, which way did Franklin lean?
“We’re coming here with the mindset that we’re going to build this program,” Franklin said. “We’re going to build it the right way, and we’re going to build it for the long haul.”
To his credit, the program has grown since Jan. 11, 2014.
No one knew what was ahead at the time. No one knew Franklin would win a Big Ten title within his first three years at Penn State.
But the vision was clear from Day 1.