Media Touting Franklin To USC?

1. What to make of the “James Franklin to USC” speculation?

Mark Wogenrich  —   (The Morning Call)  —  The national media already are scouting potential replacements for USC coach Clay Helton, whose team fell to 5-6 after a 34-27 loss to UCLA. And they seem to be pointing toward Penn State’s James Franklin.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports and The Athletic proposed the idea of Franklin to USC on Ryen Russillio’s “Dual Threat” podcast. Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports wrote that a “top USC target would be James Franklin, as the Penn State coach would offer the magnetic personality that [USC athletic director Lynn] Swann wants in charge.”

And on ESPN’s Campus Conversation podcast, college football writer Adam Rittenberg said, “I could certainly see that happening if it’s not Clay Helton.”

Where did this specific speculation get birthed? Franklin has friends in the national media, and perhaps his agent, Trace Armstrong, is floating the possibility.

One reason would be to accelerate the coach’s long-standing push for more resources for facilities upgrades and assistants’ salaries. Franklin has not been shy in requesting both.

Last spring, Franklin said that Penn State trailed most other Big Ten teams in capital spending. And recently Franklin said that the program has to be a more-competitive spender in assistant-coaching salaries.

“This is a special place,” Franklin said, “but that’s a factor.”

Franklin is in the second year of a six-year contract he signed in 2017. His buyout this year for taking another college or NFL job is only $1 million, no factor to any interested program.

But for now, the discussion has a hot-stove quality. Franklin spent one-year coaching on the west coast (as a graduate assistant at Washington State in 1998), and his recruiting well runs deep in Pennsylvania.

Further, though coaches never say never, here’s what Franklin said about Penn State during a speech in Bethlehem late last spring.

“I never thought a kid from East Stroudsburg [University] would ever become the head coach at Penn State,” Franklin said. “I thought it was going to stay in the family. So now it feels like home, because we’re invested. My family is invested, because they have great friends. My wife is comfortable. The community is great for raising kids.”

Nevertheless, if the speculation can shake loose some program cash, why not nudge it?