Penn State professor starts petition against coach prospect James Franklin

A Penn State professor has started an online petition asking university leaders to think again before they hire Vanderbilt’s James Franklin as head football coach.

At least 497 people, some of them university employees, had signed the petition by 11 p.m. Friday as reports continue to swirl that Franklin will be the next head coach at Penn State.

The search is drawing national attention, and several columnists have been critical of the fit for Penn State because they say Franklin is shadowed by a June 2013 case in which several Vanderbilt players are accused of raping an unconscious 21-year-old woman on the Nashville, Tenn., campus.

Michelle Rodino-Colocino, who started the petition, cited that case in asking members of the search committee and the board of trustees compensation committee to rethink the hire.

“Our university needs to stand up for human rights,” Rodino-Colocino, an associate professor of communications, wrote in the petition.

Others who had signed the petition Friday expressed concern about negative attention for Penn State as the university continues to rebuild its reputation after the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

“Just think we don’t need this type of associative (at least) distraction in trying to get our team back in place,” one man wrote.

Sources say the Vanderbilt coach is the top choice of the university’s football search committee.

A contract for a new head coach will be considered Saturday morning during a conference call of the trustees’ compensation committee.

The call starts at 9 a.m. The 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.