Franklin signs contract extension worth $34.7 million

Penn State head coach James Franklin directs his team during NCAA college football practice on the outdoor fields at Lasch in State College, Pa., Monday, July 31, 2017. (Joe Hermitt/PennLive.com via AP)

James Franklin is now the fourth-highest paid coach in college football after agreeing to a new six-year contract with Penn State that will guarantee him $34.7 million.

A contract extension seemed to be a given after Franklin led the Nittany Lions to a Big Ten title, 11-3 record and top 10 finish last season. The contract negotiations took longer than most expected, but both sides reached an agreement, and terms of the deal were announced Friday.

Franklin will earn an average of $5.8 million per year over the life of the contract, figuring in base salary and all additional income. He will be the highest-paid African-American coach in college football and the second-highest paid at any level of football, behind only Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers ($7 million).

Oddly enough, though, Franklin is still just the third-highest paid coach in the Big Ten East Division, behind Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer (see fact box).

“My family and I are very thankful to be a part of the Penn State community,” Franklin said in a university release. “I am pleased with the progress our program has made in the community, in the classroom and on the field.

“I look forward to diligently working with President (Eric) Barron and Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour on implementing a plan that puts our university and our student-athletes in the best position to compete on the field and in life.”

Franklin’s annual salary breakdown:

• 2017: $4,300,000

• 2018: $4,500,000

• 2019: $5,350,000

• 2020: $5,650,000

• 2021: $5,950,000

• 2022: $6,250,000

He also will be due an additional retention bonus at the end of each calendar year. That will pay him $300,000 each of the first four years, then $500,000 in 2021 and $1 million in 2022.

There also are significant bonuses, ranging from $200,000 just for getting to a bowl game, to $800,000 for winning a national title.

The contract buyout for Franklin, should he leave PSU, is relatively small by current standards. It’s $2 million this year, but only $1 million over the final five years of the contract.

Franklin came to Penn State from Vanderbilt in 2014 and, despite dealing with heavy NCAA sanctions, went 7-6 each of his first two seasons. The Lions entered last season with some higher hopes, but got off to a 2-2 start that included losses at rival Pitt and a 49-10 blowout at Michigan.

Penn State got on a roll after the Michigan loss, winning its final eight regular-season games, including a stunning 24-21 victory over No. 2 Ohio State at Beaver Stadium. The Lions rallied to beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game to earn a berth in the Rose Bowl, where they lost a thriller to USC, 52-49.

Penn State finished last season ranked No. 7, and it is ranked in the top 10 in most major polls this preseason.

On top of the success on the field, Franklin and his staff have done an exceptional job in recruiting. The Lions currently have the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation, according to Rivals.com.

Add it all up, and it was obvious Franklin soon would be getting a new contract. His initial deal with Penn State was for six years and would have run out in 2019.

“James and his staff have done an exceptional job with our football student-athletes and in all aspects of the football program,” Barbour said in the university statement. “His values are Penn State’s values and they resonate throughout every member of the organization and team he has built.

“James is a tremendous leader of young men, motivating them to extend their reach and impact far beyond what they might have thought possible on the field, in the classroom and community. We are excited about continuing to work together to strive to make a lifetime of impact, win championships and celebrate many successes on and off the field along the way.”

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