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A shocking stat about James Franklin’s tenure at Penn State football

Just look at how far Penn State has come under James Franklin.



James Franklin's tenure
Sep 24, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin shakes hands with the fans prior to the game against the Central Michigan Chippewas at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

*Editor’s note: this piece is not a shot at any former Penn State coach or team, we are merely pointing out how much success Penn State has seen during James Franklin’s tenure in the Blue and White.

Throughout his nine years with the Nittany Lions, head coach James Franklin has seen his fair share of ups and downs. To be fair, James Franklin’s tenure began in the middle of the NCAA sanctions on Penn State’s program, though he managed to lead PSU right back to the top the second the sanctions were lifted.

Now, as we reflect on Franklin’s time in State College, we noticed a shocking statistic that reflects how far his program has come.

A shocking stat about James Franklin’s tenure

Throughout the past six full seasons of James Franklin’s tenure, his Penn State football teams have finished ranked five times, won 11 games four times, won one Big Ten title, and have brought home three New Year’s Six victories: the 2017 Fiesta Bowl, 2019 Cotton Bowl, and 2023 Rose Bowl. Still, what stands out to me is his top-10 finishes — he has four of these since the sanctions were lifted in 2016.

Why is this important?

At first, this stat may appear to be impressive but not all that shocking; however, the deeper you dive into it, the more astounding it becomes that people hate Franklin in the first place. In the 20 years that led up to the 2016 season, Penn State football saw three head coaches (Joe Paterno, Bill O’Brian, and James Franklin’s sanctioned years) and the same number of top-10 finishes.

From 1996-2015, the Penn State Nittany Lions finished in the top-10 four times: 1996, 2005, 2008, and 2009. Aside from those years, Penn State’s best ranking was a 10-3 season in 1999, which was good enough to earn Penn State the No. 11 spot all said and done.

More surprising stats from James Franklin’s tenure

If we dive even further down this rabbit hole, Franklin’s four 11-win seasons in six full seasons is more 11+ win seasons than Penn State saw from 1997-2015. Franklin also boasts three New Year’s Six wins in the past six full seasons — Penn State’s previous three NY6 wins came in 1991, 1994, and 2005 — that means Franklin has more NY6 success in the past six full seasons as the program had seen over the previous 24 years.

James Franklin also has the same number of Rose Bowl wins (1) as any coach in program history — Joe Paterno also has one (1995).

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Chris Mangum is currently a Penn State student and serves as a writer and editor covering Big Ten athletics. He has served as a beat writer, online reporter, print reporter, and more over the past few years of his career. He currently serves as the managing editor for Basic Blues Nation and others.


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