Penn State hires Franklin as football coach

University Park, PA ( - Penn State has named James Franklin its new head football coach.

The Pennsylvania native takes over the Nittany Lions after a three-year coaching stint at Vanderbilt.

"Coach Franklin's record of success is extraordinary, but even more impressive is his passion for not only the game of football, but also creating an atmosphere in which student-athletes can succeed. His character, work ethic, values and knowledge of the game make him an outstanding fit for our program and to lead our student-athletes," Penn State president Rodney Erickson said in a statement Saturday.

ESPN reported that Franklin received a multi-year contract worth as much as $4.5 million annually.

Franklin becomes Penn State's 16th head football coach and succeeds Bill O'Brien, who accepted the head-coaching job with the NFL's Houston Texans earlier this month after two seasons. O'Brien guided the program through unprecedented sanctions levied by the NCAA in response to the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal, compiling records of 8-4 and 7-5.

The 41-year-old Franklin is thrilled to "come home" and continue to rebuild this storied program.

"I grew up watching Penn State football and now to be at the helm of such a storied program is a tremendous honor," he said in a statement. "It's important to me to be a part of a University that strives for excellence in everything they do. When football student-athletes come to Penn State, they have a unique opportunity to receive a premium education while playing at the highest level of competition.

"I'm incredibly excited to get to know the students, alumni, and fans who have demonstrated such loyalty to the University as a whole and to the football program in particular. I've worked my way through every division of football and no other school boasts a fan base like we do. We Are...Penn State!!"

Franklin emerged as one of the most sought-after commodities in the coaching community after restoring a long-suffering Vanderbilt program to respectability. The Commodores put together a second straight 9-4 season in 2013 and capped the campaign with a 41-24 win over Houston in last week's BBVA Compass Bowl.

Vanderbilt posted a 9-7 record in the challenging SEC over the past two seasons despite Franklin having to navigate through higher academic guidelines than the majority of his conference peers.

Prior to his arrival, the Commodores had just one winning season from 1983-2010 and were coming off consecutive 2-10 campaigns. He led the team to a four-win improvement and a berth in the Liberty Bowl in his first season.