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Analysis | What does James Franklin’s 10-year contract extension actually mean?

Penn State Football vs. Maryland

Head Coach James Franklin points during Penn State football's game against Maryland at Maryland Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021 in College Park, Md. The Nittany Lions beat the Terrapins 31-14.

James Franklin sent Penn State to three New Year’s Six Bowl Games in four years before going 11-9 in the two seasons afterward.

Despite his shortcomings over this season and in 2020, Franklin locked up a 10-year contract extension to remain with the Nittany Lions on Wednesday.

If one thing’s clear, Franklin likely didn’t sign this extension with only his pockets in mind.

While it’s unclear what specific changes will be made, Franklin’s signing is likely just the beginning of a major construction project within Penn State's program.

Here’s a look at the specific details that outline Franklin’s 10-year deal.

Contract details, salary

Franklin is set to make a guaranteed $7 million per year from 2022 through 2031, making his base contract 10-years for $70 million.

However, other annual guarantees such as a $500,000 retention bonus and a $1 million life insurance loan add $1.5 million onto his yearly salary, drawing Franklin’s potential total value out to $85 million.

Contrary to the six-year extension he signed in 2019, Franklin’s new contract provides no salary escalation. His guaranteed compensation will be $7 million annually.

There are, however, incentives that could add a fruitful amount to Franklin’s bank account, such as $250,000 for appearing in or $350,000 for winning the Big Ten championship, $200,000 for appearing in any bowl game and $100,000 for winning Big Ten Coach of the Year.

A national championship win would grant Franklin an increase of $800,000 on top of his supplemental pay.

If he were to voluntarily leave the program for another college job or an NFL gig from 2026 through 2030, Franklin’s buyout would total $1 million from Penn State.

If he leaves in 2022 before April, he’ll have a $12 million buyout. If it’s before Dec. 31, the buyout sits at $8 million.

The buyout decreases to $6 million in 2023 and $2 million in 2024 and 2025 before hitting the $1 million annual mark in 2026.

If the university removes Franklin without cause, it’ll have to pay up the base salary, supplemental salary and loan ($8 million) of the current contract year and all others remaining on the agreement.

What does the future hold?

As explained earlier, there were likely a plethora of conversations surrounding certain investments and improvements within the Penn State program itself.

"Nine weeks ago, the administration approached me about making a long-term investment in our football program,” Franklin said in a statement. “This prompted numerous conversations outlining the resources needed to be competitive at a level that matches the expectations and history of Penn State.”

While Penn State has already begun improvements to the Nittany Lions’ Lasch Football Building and training facilities, Franklin’s new contract should bring much more in the near future, as stated by Sandy Barbour, Penn State’s vice president for intercollegiate athletics.

“We have made, and will need to continue to make, significant investment in our football program because we believe we have a very bright future under James,” Barbour said. “With this contract, we are signaling our sustained commitment to being one of the premiere programs in the history of college football.

“Our goals and aspirations relating to football have never wavered and our investments today and in the future of our program will allow us to compete at the highest level… I know there will be much success ahead for our football program with Coach Franklin at the helm.”

How it stacks up in college football

With his new $7 million annual contract, Franklin boosts his way past Ryan Day for the spot of highest paid coach in the Big Ten, according to USA Today.

A rumored 10-year/$95 million deal for Mel Tucker to remain head coach at Michigan State could shake up that ranking quite soon, however.

In comparison to the highest paid coaches in the country, Franklin’s contract comes in at No. 9 nationally, trailing Georgia’s Kirby Smart’s by just $133,000.

Alabama’s Nick Saban holds the top spot at $9.753 million annually.


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