Paul Sancya/Associated Press
Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin said “it’s that time of year” in response to speculation linking him to the USC Trojans if Clay Helton is fired.
Penn State On BTN provided Franklin’s full comments on the situation on Tuesday after several college football reporters, including Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel and Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples, recently named him as a potential target for USC:
Penn State On BTN @PennStateOnBTN
James Franklin was asked about rumors connecting him to another head coaching job.
He addressed the speculation Tuesday: https://t.co/82Mi80chhP
Helton has landed firmly on the hot seat with the Trojans falling to 5-6 this season with four losses in their past five games. The team’s offense ranks 94th in the country yards per game.
Whether Franklin, who’s successfully turned the Penn State program around after a similar reclamation project with the Vanderbilt Commodores, would even consider leaving the Nittany Lions for USC is a major question mark, though.
Along with the difference in current performance—Penn State is 8-3 in 2018—the team is also on pace to land a better recruiting class for 2019. The Nittany Lions rank 14th based on current commitments compared to 29th for the Trojans, who don’t have a 5-star prospect in next year’s group yet, per 247Sports.
It’s also unclear whether USC could provide a significant financial boost in its offer. Penn State is paying Franklin $4.8 million for the 2018 campaign, while Helton’s base salary is $2.6 million, according to USA Today.
Even if the Trojans did decide to make Franklin a lucrative offer, Penn State would likely be willing to rework his deal to keep him in State College if money was the deciding factor.
So, while the Franklin-to-USC rumors have started to take on a life of their own in recent days, there’s very little concrete information suggesting it’s a realistic endgame at this point.
Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions will look to close out the regular season with a win Saturday when they take on the Maryland Terrapins.