Penn State Nittany Lions HC James Franklin becomes latest CFB coach to sound off on NIL, transfer portal

Penn State Nittany Lions coach James Franklin
Credit: Dan Rainville / USA TODAY NETWORK

James Franklin has been around college football since the early 1990s, first as a player for East Stroudsburg and then in a lengthy coaching career spanning from 1995 to today. As the Penn State Nittany Lions coach looks around the sport today, he’s seen a dramatic and unwelcome change from what he loved.

Franklin, 52, has never been afraid of being vocal either with his officials or with his thoughts on the college football industry. While he remains one of the best coaches in the sport right now, he is seeing the changes that have left some of his peers to leave head-coaching jobs for lesser roles in the NFL.

  • James Franklin record: 112-54 overall, 88-39 with Penn State Nittany Lions

Related: Maryland coach reveals absurd NIL demands third-string player made

In the wake of the NIL era with far more players using the transfer portal than ever before, college football has changed dramatically. During a recent press conference, the Nittany Lions coach didn’t run away from the fact that the college athletics he knew for decades is never coming back.

“The reality is that the college football we’ve all known, the college athletics we’ve all known, that’s not coming back. You’re going to have to embrace the current model that we’re in. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t make it better.”

Penn State coach James Franklin on the current state of college football

Penn State, like every other college football program across the country, is dealing with its share of problems. College athletes now frequently look to the transfer portal as an option to pursue a better situation or to receive more NIL compensation.

While Franklin doesn’t necessarily take issue with college athletes being compensated for their hard work and contributions to the university’s athletic program, he does see a much bigger problem with the transfer portal.

“You can’t tell me that it’s good for the student-athletes to transfer three, four times. Every time you transfer the likelihood of graduating goes down. I don’t think that’s in anybody’s best interest.”

James Franklin on the transfer portal era, effect on college football players

Related: NLRB ruling delivers potential long-term blow to NCAA

  • James Franklin salary: $8.5 million

In the NCAA’s defense, it has tried to put restrictions on how often college athletes can transfer. However, in December 2023, U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey ruled against the NCAA’s enforcement of a transfer rule barring players from being eligible to play immediately after transferring for a second time.

College athletes would also argue they are doing the same thing that Franklin and other coaches have. From 1995 to 2000, Franklin bounced around assistant coaching jobs with seven different teams. He then spent just two years with Kansas State, a few seasons at Maryland (2008-’10) and then left Vanderbilt after three seasons to take over at Penn State.

With the federal and U.S. Supreme Court striking down more NCAA rules that restricted the freedom to transfer and financial compensation for college athletes, there’s no reason to think change is imminent. While Franklin is still committed to Penn State, the vast number of head coaches leaving for coordinator positions at other programs or taking assistant jobs in the NFL suggests this exodus will be a long-term issue for college football.

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