WE ARE: Going to dive deep into the James Franklin contract with the Nittany Lions.
The day after the calendar flips to 2023, the Penn State Nittany Lions will play in the Rose Bowl — The Granddaddy of Them All — for the second time in the past seven seasons. Penn State went 10-2 this year, winning double-digit games for the fourth time in head coach James Franklin’s tenure.
Penn State is a proud program with a storied history but has yet to make the College Football Playoff since the new system came into place in 2014. Franklin, however, is under contract through 2031, with the Penn State brass extending him in November of last year. He’s the guy that the athletic department thinks can bring glory back to State College, so let’s take a look at what they’re paying him to do it.
Here’s everything you need to know about the James Franklin contract at Penn State.
James Franklin Contract and Salary Breakdown at Penn State
Term: Through 2031 season
Base Salary: $500,000
- Supplemental Pay: $6,500,000
- Annual Retention Bonus: $500,000
Franklin’s base salary, supplemental pay, and retention bonus are all static for the duration of his deal. That puts the total value of his contract, signed in late 2021, at $82,500,000, as long as he stays in town. This does not include performance incentives, which we will detail below, or a $1,000,000 annual loan that he will receive for life insurance.
For added context, here’s how his 2023 pay compares to other college football coaches whose contracts Boardroom has analyzed so far this season:
- Nick Saban: $10,700,000
- Kirby Smart: $10,250,000
- Brian Kelly: $9,500,000
- Mel Tucker: $9,500,000
- Ryan Day: $9,500,000
- Jimbo Fisher: $9,000,000
- Mike Gundy: $7,500,000
- James Franklin: $7,500,000
- Jim Harbaugh: $7,050,000
- Kirk Ferentz: $7,000,000
- Chip Kelly: $5,600,000
- Bryan Harsin*: $5,100,000
- Mack Brown: $5,000,000
- Karl Dorrell*: $3,600,000
- Scott Satterfield: $3,500,000
- Mike Norvell: $3,250,000
*coach has since been fired
James Franklin Buyout Details
As a head coach who has proven successful at Penn State, Franklin is protected if the university decides to move on from him before his contract expires. If Penn State fires him without cause, the university will owe him every penny he is owed for the remainder of his deal in base salary, supplemental pay, and life insurance loan. With nine years left on his contract, that means Franklin is guaranteed a total of $76,500,000 if he is fired today. For each year moving forward, just subtract $8,500,000 per season to figure out his buyout.
The reverse is also possible; Franklin could leave for another job. The odds are slim that it’ll happen before midnight tonight, so it’s safe to say his $8,000,000 buyout for leaving in 2022 will not apply. If, however, he takes another job at the end of next season, he will owe Penn State $6,000,000. For the next three seasons after that, it’s $2,000,000, then $1,000,000 for the next five years.
Franklin’s contract has three bonus categories to compensate him if the team performs well in conference and on a national level. In total, he can earn $1,400,000 in bonuses in a single season, plus earn a raise in his supplemental pay.
Here’s every bonus Franklin can receive:
Big Ten Bonuses (highest applies)
- Division title but does not reach Big Ten title game due to tiebreakers: $150,000
- Big Ten championship game appearance: $250,000
- Big Ten championship win: $350,000
Bowl Games (highest applies)
- Appearance in non-New Year’s 6 or College Football Playoff bowl game: $200,000
- Appearance in New Year’s 6 bowl (non-CFP): $300,000
- College Football Playoff appearance: $400,000
- National runner-up (championship game loss): $500,000
- National champion: $800,000
In addition, if Penn State wins a national championship, his supplemental pay will bump from $6,500,000 per year to $7,300,000 per year for every year remaining on his contract.
Coach of the Year (cumulative)
- Big Ten Coach of the Year: $100,000
- National Coach of the Year: $150,000
This year, Franklin fell short on the coach of the year and Big Ten championship fronts, but because Michigan and Ohio State are both in the College Football Playoff, the Nittany Lions will play in the Rose Bowl, giving him a $300,000 bump in pay for 2022.
Penn State does not make public all of the additional perks Franklin will receive, but we do know two things: 1) He gets a $10,000 annual vehicle allowance, and 2) he can use a private aircraft for 55 hours per year for personal use.
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