STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State has hired James Franklin as its next head coach.
Franklin, 41, who led Vanderbilt to bowls in all three of his seasons there, replaces Bill O'Brien, who left the Nittany Lions after two years to coach the NFL's Houston Texans. Penn State made the announcement Saturday, after the school's compensation committee met to finalize the contract.
That committee approved the hiring by a 6-0 vote Saturday morning.
Franklin won 24 games with the Commodores and is a Pennsylvania native with strong ties in-state. Penn State officials met with him this week in Florida. He will be asked to build off a foundation that O'Brien set amid scandal. Despite a lack of scholarships, a bowl ban and player defections from the late Joe Paterno's roster, O'Brien led the Nittany Lions to two winning seasons (8-4, 7-5) while restoring some tempered enthusiasm in Happy Valley.
That torch has now been passed to Franklin, who played at Division III East Stroudsburg (Pa.). He set seven school records as a senior, and also has coached at Washington State, Idaho State, Kansas State and Maryland. With the Terrapins, he was offensive coordinator and assistant head coach.
Members of Penn State's trustee committee on compensation met with Athletic Director Dave Joyner and others Saturday morning to discuss the contract, which the group called "excellent" for both Franklin and the Nittany Lions.
"Dr. Joyner and I have stressed that our No. 1 priority in hiring a new coach was to hire an outstanding leader for our football program, one who will continue our long tradition of student-athlete success on the field and in the classroom," Penn State President Rodney Erickson said. "We have achieved that goal. On behalf of the University and the entire Nittany Lion nation, I am proud to welcome James Franklin as Penn State's 16th head football coach."
Much of Saturday's meeting, at which specific terms of the contract were laid out for trustees, was done privately. The actual vote was public, lasting roughly a minute, and Penn State made the formal announcement of the hiring moments later. Trustees said Franklin's contract terms would be revealed Saturday afternoon.
"The contract is in line with other recent coaching contracts," committee chairwoman Linda Strumpf said.
Franklin took over a Vanderbilt program that went 2-10 each of the two seasons before he was hired Dec. 17, 2010. He went 24-15 in his first three seasons as a head coach, matching Dan McGugin for the most wins in school history over a coach's first three seasons.
The Commodores are 16-4 over the past 20 games, which is second in the SEC only to Alabama. Vanderbilt won the final seven games of 2012 and the final five of 2013 in a stretch that also includes back-to-back bowl wins.
He also led Vanderbilt to rankings in the final Associated Press poll each of the past two seasons, including No. 24 in the rankings released Tuesday. Vanderbilt hadn't finished in the final AP poll before Franklin arrived since 1948 under Red Sanders.