Will James Franklin be making any coaching moves in the upcoming weeks?
If his eight-year history as a head coach is any indication, the answer is “maybe.”
His pattern of changes on his assistant coach hires and fires has gone like this:
On one hand, Franklin is a man who thrives on consistency — 1-0, four core values, Akron, Akron, Akron — above almost all else.
Three times in his head coaching career, he made zero changes in his core assistant coaching staff — at Vanderbilt in 2012, after going 9-4, and at Penn State in 2014 (7-6) and in 2016 (11-3).
However, after four other seasons, Franklin at least made a couple of changes.
That includes when he moved from Vanderbilt to Penn State in 2014 and brought along seven of his nine Vandy assistant coaches and hired an eighth (Charles Huff) who had also worked at his previous institution. Terry Smith, a former Penn State captain who was hired as the cornerbacks coach, was the only outlier. Actually, this movement en masse reinforces Franklin’s craving for stability.
He also made two coaching changes after his first season at Vandy, after going 6-7.
But Franklin’s biggest offseason moves came at Penn State after the 2015 and 2017 seasons.
In 2015, after back-to-back 7-6 seasons, he fired offensive coordinator John Donovan (24 hours after the final regular season’s game) and saw defensive coordinator Bob Shoop leave under a shroud of acrimony and veteran offensive line coach Herb Hand depart as well. All three had been with Franklin for at least five seasons — two at Vanderbilt and three at PSU — and Donovan even more.
In 2017, after a second straight 11-win season, Joe Moorhead and Charles Huff left for Mississippi State, and Josh Gattis went to Alabama. In all, Franklin had to hire four new full-time coaches since the NCAA permitted the addition of a 10th full-time assistant last January.
If you’re keeping score, Franklin’s off-season additions follow a pattern:
2 then 0 then 2 then 0 then 3 then 0 then 4.
Which brings us to the 2018 season. Which, if Franklin holds true to form, means 0 changes.
It’s safe to say that in 2018 wide receivers coach David Corley and special teams coordinator Phil Galiano had somewhat uneven performances as first-year full-time assistants on Franklin’s Penn State staff. (Galiano was a defensive consultant for PSU in 2017.)
Franklin, somewhat cryptically and in coach-speak, agreed.
“The reality is every time you lose someone and you have to replace them with someone new, there’s a transition process,” Franklin said a few weeks ago. “There’s growing pains.”
Franklin later added you can’t judge the true value of an assistant coaching hire until Year Two.
Still, Franklin is often loathe to make changes. In the spring, he noted many times that he didn’t like to see assistants leave for lateral positions — a bit of a misnomer, at least from my point of view.
Moorhead left for a head coaching position and gave Huff the title of assistant head coach, while Gattis got the title of co-offensive coordinator with Alabama and a two-year contract that pays him $525,000 with the nation’s perennial No. 1 team, working for inarguably the best head coach in college football. I don’t see a lot of lateral there.
And, as an exchange of lawsuits proved, the departure of Shoop was not on the best of terms — even though Shoop did move laterally at the time be the D-coordinator at Tennessee. In 2018, working for Moorhead, Shoop is one of five finalists for top assistant in all of college football.
Money, Franklin has noted many times, has something to do with the shifts as well.
“We’ve got to make sure that we’re doing everything we possibly can in terms of creating a really good situation,” Franklin said a few weeks ago. “Then also that financially we’re paying the same salaries that everybody else is in terms of our peer groups. That’s got to happen, because to sit here and say that that (money) is not a factor. It is a factor. This is a special place. But that’s a factor.”
It’s almost always about the money.
WHAT THEY’RE PAID
Penn State does not release what its athletic coaches are paid — head or otherwise — except for Franklin. So, we can’t know for sure if the Nittany Lions are competitive financially in the college football landscape — and especially in the uber-competitive Big Ten East.
What we do know is this:
According to records submitted by Penn State to the NCAA over the past four years, the amount of money the PSU athletic program has designated for football salaries, bonuses, benefits and all other forms of compensation has gone up about 7.5% from $10.6 million 2014 to $11.4 million in 2017. And that’s not adjusted for inflation either.
Meantime, however, the budget for football administrative staff and support has gone up 58%, from $2.9 million in 2014 to $4.6 million in 2017. (In 2013, it was $683,000; so yeah, a jump of almost $4 million in five years.)
You can’t get at what Penn State pays its assistant football coaches by subtracting Franklin’s 2017 take of $4.8 million from the $11.4 million, because Franklin’s number doesn’t include benefits and the like while the larger one does.
But what we can do is look at what college football’s top program, Alabama, is paying its assistants in 2018 and also what a few other Big Ten schools are doing so as well. Ohio State and Michigan are Penn State’s two biggest rivals, in many ways, while Iowa is a consistently winning program under a long-time head coach. Nebraska is a good benchmark, since its entire staff was hired in 2018 as a group from UCF, at a big increase in pay.
Each year, USA Today posts an annual audit of assistant coaches salaries. Its report for 2018 is not yet out. For the most part, the following numbers do not rely on that report, the latest of which is based on 2017 salaries.
The numbers below are from 2018 — with a few exceptions for Michigan — and are the result of schools like Ohio State, Alabama and Nebraska freely releasing their 2018 salaries (a novel idea) — and from open record requests, which yielded the 2018 numbers for Iowa and Michigan.
(A quick aside: The 2017 USA Today annual audit of assistant coaches salaries showed that last year current Penn State assistant coaches Ju’Juan Seider made $346,500 as the running backs coach at Florida and Tyler Bowen made $245,000 as the offensive line coach at Maryland.)
What does this mean for any firing and hiring for Frankin? I’m not totally sure since we don’t know what his budget is for his 10 full-time assistant coaches.
But it does tell you the neighborhood that he would like to be in. Ohio State leads the pack, at $7.6 million, while ’Bama is close is $6 million. Throw in some expected raises, and Michigan is at about $5.5 million — a drop from 2017, but this year they are getting former Florida head coach Jim McElwain as a wide receivers coach on the cheap, at $300,000.
2018 assistant coaches budget — $5.95 million. Source: University of Alabama Board of Trustees’ compensation committee, per 247sports.com. See it here.
Mike Locksley, off. coordinator — $1.2 million
Tosh Lupoi, def. coordinator — $1.1 million
Craig Kuligowski, defensive line — $750,000
Pete Golding, inside linebackers — $650,000
Josh Gattis, wide receivers — $525,000
Brent Key, offensive line — $490,000
Joe Pannunzio, running backs — $425,000
Karl Scott, defensive backs — $350,000
Jeff Banks, tight ends/special teams — $267,552
Dan Enos, quarterbacks — $200,000
2018 assistant coaches budget — $7.6 million. Source: Official Ohio State University press release, Feb. 14, 2018. See it here.
Greg Schiano, def. coordinator/associate head coach — $1,500,000
Ryan Day, off. coordinator/quarterbacks — $1,000,000
Kevin Wilson, off. coordinator/tight ends — $800,000
Alex Grinch, co-def. coordinator/safeties – $800,000
Larry Johnson, asst. head coach/def. line – $750,000
Tony Alford, asst. head coach/running backs – $525,000
Bill Davis, linebackers – $500,000
Greg Studrawa, offensive line – $500,000
Taver Johnson, cornerbacks/special teams – $345,000
Zach Smith, wide receivers (fired) — $340,000
2018 assistant coaches budget (est.) — $5.395 million, likely higher since five salaries are based on 2017 numbers. Sources: USA Today report for 2017 salaries: see it here; numerous outlets that utilized open records requests for 2018 salaries.
Don Brown, def. coordinator (2017) — $1.3 million
Pep Hamilton, passing game coord./quarterbacks (2017) — $1.15 million
Ed Warinner, offensive line (2018) — $525,000
Greg Mattison, defensive line (2017) — $525,000
Chris Partridge, safeties/special teams (2018) — $500,000
Al Washington, linebackers (2018) — $350,000
Jim McElwain, wide receivers (2018) — $300,000
Mike Zordich, cornerbacks (2017) — $295,000
Jay Harbaugh, running backs (2017) — $225,000
Sherrone Moore, tight ends (2018) —$225,000
2018 assistant coaches budget — $5.105 million. Source: Des Moines Register/USA Today open records request. See it here.
Phil Parker, def. coordinator — $725,000
Brian Ferentz, off coordinator — $685,000
Ken O’Keefe, quarterbacks — $575,000
Reese Morgan, defensive line — $500,000
Seth Wallace, linebackers/asst. def. coord. — $435,000
Tim Polasek, offensive line — $355,000
LeVar Woods, special teams — $350,000
Kelvin Bell, recruiting coord./asst. def. line — $300,000
Kevin Copeland, wide receivers — $255,000
Derrick Foster, running backs — $200,000
2018 assistant coaches budget — $4.5 million. Source: University of Nebraska release, per the Lincoln Journal Star. See it here.
Erik Chinander, def. coordinator — $800,000
Troy Walters, off. coordinator — $700,000
Greg Austin, offensive line — $475,000
Jovan Dewitt, outside linebackers/special teams — $475,000
Mike Dawson, defensive line — $475,000
Sean Beckton, tight ends — $400,000
Mario Verduzco, quarterbacks — $375,000
Travis Fisher, defensive backs — $300,000
Ryan Held, running backs — $300,000
Barrett Rudd, inside linebackers — $200,000