Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Breaking Down James Franklin's New Contract Extension with Penn State

By Nick Polak on February 26, 2020 at 11:30 am
Oct 13, 2018; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin reacts to a play against the Michigan State Spartans during the second quarter at Beaver Stadium.
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The long-known contract extension between Penn State and head football coach James Franklin finally has completed financial terms. The contract will run through the 2025 season and be worth a guaranteed total of $35.4 million, with additional incentives and retention bonuses possible.

Franklin's previous extension had him set to be under contract through the 2022 season and was worth $34.7 million in total. That previous deal will be replaced by this new one, which will earn Franklin an average of $5.9 million per season. This new contract also notably bumps Franklin's buyout to $5 million if he leaves Penn State for another job in 2020, and is reduced by $1 million per year over the life of the contract. This is up from the $1 million buyout he had under his previous extension.

Big Ten Projected 2020 Salaries
Rank Coach 2020 Salary
1 Jim Harbaugh, Michigan $7.5 million
2 Jeff Brohm, Purdue $6.6 million
3 James Franklin, Penn State* $5.9 million
4 Mel Tucker, Michigan State* $5.5 million
5 Ryan Day, Ohio State* $5.375 million
6 Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern $5.1 million
7 Scott Frost, Nebraska $5 million
8 Kirk Ferentz, Iowa $4.8 million
9 PJ Fleck, Minnesota* $4.6 million
10 Paul Chryst, Wisconsin $4.2 million
T-11 Lovie Smith, Illinois $4 million
T-11 Greg Schiano, Rutgers* $4 million
13 Tom Allen, Indiana* $3.9 million
14 Mike Locksley, Maryland $2.5 million
* denotes new contract/extension for 2020

With the new contract, Franklin remains the third-highest paid coach in the conference, behind Jim Harbaugh and Jeff Brohm. There likely won't be many more changes in coaching salaries around the rest of the Big Ten, as an extension for Ryan Day at Ohio State was just finalized this week.

Franklin's new yearly salary keeps him 11th in the country among his fellow college football coaches, ahead of Michigan State's new coach Mel Tucker and just behind Dan Mullen of Florida at $6.070 million per year.

To say James Franklin has been a massive success at Penn State would be putting it lightly. Since taking over a still sanction-impacted roster in 2014, he has revolutionized the school's recruiting efforts, achieved numerous facility upgrades, continued a long-standing tradition of high graduation rates among his student-athletes, and importantly for most fans, won football games.

During his time in Happy Valley, Franklin has led the Nittany Lions to a 56-23 record which includes a Big Ten Championship (2016), four-consecutive seasons of nine wins or more (2016-2019), three New Year's Six appearances, and the team's highest AP Poll ranking (No. 2 in 2017) since 1999. Perhaps most impressively, his teams have never missed a bowl game during his time as a head coach, dating back to his first season at Vanderbilt in 2011. He also led Penn State to the school's first appearance in the top-4 of the College Football Playoff rankings in week 10 of the 2019 season.

Franklin has earned (at least approximately, it's tough to find the exact numbers) $28.6 million since taking over in State College, meaning he has earned approximately $510,714 per win to this point.

Additional salary and bonus items include (capped at $1 million annually):

  • Annual retention bonus paid on the last day of the year ($300,000 for 2020, $500,000 for 2021-2025)
  • Tie for division but do not go to Big Ten Championship ($150,000)
  • Appear in Big Ten Championship ($250,000)
  • Win Big Ten Championship ($350,000)
  • Appear in a bowl ($200,000)
  • Appear in a New Year's Six, non-playoff game ($300,000)
  • Appear in the College Football Playoff ($400,000)
  • Appear in the College Football Playoff Championship game ($500,000)
  • Win the College Football Playoff ($800,000)
  • Win Big Ten Coach of the Year ($100,000)
  • Win National Coach of the Year ($150,000)
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