Penn State AD Says 'A Lot's Going On' When Asked About Extending James Franklin's Contract

By Mike Treb on December 31, 2016 at 12:53 pm
Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour in attendance as the Nittany Lions play the Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field. PITT won 42-39.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Months after having to publicly assert that Penn State head coach Jame Franklin's job was safe, Athletic Director Sandy Barbour was asked the question Saturday that she probably knew was coming.

Barbour convened with media to discuss the Nittany Lions' on-field success, Rose Bowl appearance, Beaver Stadium's master plan, season ticket sales and the man leading the 11-2 football team -- and if a rumored contract extension is headed Franklin's way:

Q: "Sandy, there's been a lot of talk about James possibly getting an extension; is there any news on that front yet?"

A: [pause with a semi-head shake] "A lot's going on." 

PennLive captured video of Barbour's response so you can see for yourself:

So while a contract extension isn't certain based on a non-answer answer at a Rose Bowl press conference, Barbour absolutely has been a stout Franklin supporter since she arrived in State College in August 2014. Just a few months ago, Barbour had to show that support.

Rumbles from within the Penn State community and out began in late September as Penn State sputtered to a 2-2 start. The Lions lost a 42-39 shootout to Pitt on Sept. 10, and then were wasted 49-10 by Michigan in Ann Arbor two weeks later.

Despite the early troubles on the field four weeks in and that "is James Franklin on the hot seat" chatter, Barbour strongly supported Franklin.

"I think I've been really, really clear on I think he's doing a spectacular job as a teacher, as a coach, as a leader of these young men," she said. "That's really, really important to Penn State. He and his staff are absolutely nailing that."

And then they started nailing on-field success. After Barbour's public backing, the Nittany Lions ripped off nine straight wins, won the Big Ten Conference outright over Ohio State and Michigan, just missed out (at No. 5) making the College Football Playoff, and are gearing up to play No. 9 USC in the Rose Bowl on Monday.

PennLive's Greg Pickel reported this week that Franklin hit a retention bonus, bringing his salary for this season to $5.4 million.

Besides Franklin, who was in the running for several national coach of the year awards, Barbour has his assistants to keep an eye on.

Offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, who was floated as a head coaching prospect for jobs at Connecticut, Purdue and Temple, was adamant this week that he will be back with the Nittany Lions in 2017. Same goes for first-year defensive coordinator Brent Pry, who said he enjoys being DC in Happy Valley.

Will Moorhead and Pry -- and other assistants, potentially -- be in line for pay bumps? Success breeds these challenges for college football administrators, and it's not necessarily a bad challenge to solve.

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