In December, Penn State head coach James Franklin agreed to a new contract that will take him through the 2025 with the Nittany Lions, and most figured it would place Franklin firmly back among the highest paid coaches in college football. But, nobody knew that for sure, because the university hadn’t released the numbers to which both sides agreed as the program prepared for its third New Year’s Six bowl in four years.
Wednesday morning, though, Penn State released the terms of the contract. And you might be surprised at how much more money he’s getting.
The new contract will guarantee the 48-year-old $35.4 million over the life of the deal. He’ll make $500,000 in base pay over the next six seasons, along with “supplemental pay” that will rise from the $4.9 million he’ll make in 2020 to $6 million in ’25.
There are also a slew of potential bonuses he can achieve that would add significantly to his annual income. For example, Franklin will net a $200,000 bonus if Penn State appears in a bowl game, and that number rises to $300,000 if it’s a New Year’s Six game, to $400,000 if the Nittany Lions make the College Football Playoff and $500,000 if they play for the championship. If they win the national title, Franklin nets a cool $800,000 bonus.
He’ll get $350,000 if Penn State wins the Big Ten Championship Game, $250,000 if it appears in the game and loses, and $150,000 if they tie for a division championship but is held out of the title game because of tiebreakers.
If he’s National Coach of the Year, it’s a $150,000 bonus; for Big Ten Coach of the Year, it’s $100,000. His retention bonus will be $300,000 after the 2020 season, and $500,000 each Dec. 31 after it, which will make New Year’s Eve at the Franklins a happy day. He also gets a $1 million annual loan for life insurance.
And, since everyone is interested in this: Yes, Franklin gets his 50 hours of private aircraft use per year.
Of course, Penn State also has some contract buyouts written in if Franklin were to leave for another college or pro job. If he leaves after 2020, it’s a $5 million buyout, and that goes down $1 million per year each year of the contract, through 2024, when it’s a $1 million buyout.
If you want Penn State to fire Franklin without cause, they’ll owe him big time: His base salary, supplemental pay and annual life insurance loan multiplied by the number of years he has left on his contract. So, for example, if he’s fired after the 2022 season because Penn State only went to the Outback Bowl and someone on the board wants to go after Bill Belichick or something crazy, Penn State would have to cut Franklin a $20.85 million check.
The contract expires on New Year’s Even, 2025.
Where does the new deal rank Franklin among highest-paid coaches in the nation? That’s difficult to say. He’s actually making a few hundred grand less this season than he did last year, before bonuses. So, while he’ll likely still be around the top 10 nationally, he’s not yet pushing Dabo Swinney and Jim Harbaugh and Nick Saban aside at the pay window. He’s still the third-highest paid coach in the Big Ten, behind Harbaugh and Purdue’s Jeff Brohm. But, he has the life insurance thing now, and his bonuses seem lucrative and attainable. Plus, terminating Franklin will be much more costly for Penn State than leaving for another job would be for Franklin. A $5 million buyout for leaving at the end of 2020 isn’t exactly going to scare off USC or any of the big-time programs that might be interested in luring Franklin away from Happy Valley. And, that number is never going to be higher than it is after this season.
It will be interesting to see how much higher assistant coach salaries go next year, because that has always been a sticking point for Franklin. Considering this doesn’t seem to be a humongous salary bump for Franklin, one would expect that number will go up.
Donnie Collins has been a member of The Times-Tribune sports staff for nearly 20 years and has been the Penn State football beat writer for Times-Shamrock Newspapers since 2004. The Penn State Football Blog covers Nittany Lions, Big Ten and big-time college football news from Beaver Stadium to the practice field, the bowl game to National Letter of Intent Signing Day. Contact: email@example.com; 570-348-9100 x5368; @DonnieCollinsTT