COACHWATCH: James Franklin, Penn State and the art of plane tracking

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

With Texas and Louisville wrapped, Penn State is probably the last big domino to fall this year.

Welcome to COACHWATCH, the weekly review of the coaching carousel.

Penn State

With Texas hiring Charlie Strong and Louisville quickly going back to the future with Bobby Petrino, Penn State stands as the only BCS-conference program still looking for a head coach.

In a coaching carousel plagued by the typical rumors and shaky reports, the PSU search has been particularly complicated. In the week since Bill O'Brien jumped ship for Houston, there have been four reported frontrunners for the job and three coaches reported to be deep in negotiations.

First, it was former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, who was set to get the job before O'Brien had even left town.

The Schiano boomlet quickly fizzled right around the time he was fired by the Bucs. By January 2, Schiano was out. The search then turned to Miami's Al Golden, a Penn State alum who turned around nearby Temple before going to South Florida. Golden was so certain to get the job that at least one source said he'd been hired.

That, of course, was premature. Just a few minutes later, BWI modified the tweet to say that Golden had been offered the job.

Two days later, Golden announced he was remaining at Miami and would not take the Penn State job.

By the weekend, the speculation moved to recently fired Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak and Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin, both of whom reportedly interviewed with Penn State administrators over the weekend. By Tuesday, Franklin was the third frontrunner for the job.

By Wednesday night, Penn State fans had resorted to that greatest of coaching search pastimes: Watching random private jets.

Franklin, obviously knowing that his name had been connected with a flight to University Park, took to Twitter with one of those proof-of-life tweets that only need a picture of Franklin holding a copy of The Tennessean to confirm the date.

Intrepid bloggers camped out at the State College airport, looking for a sign of Franklin. He didn't step off the plane, but athletic director Dave Joyner and university president Rodney Erickson did.

Donnie Collins of the Scranton Times-Tribune reported late Wednesday that Penn State offered Franklin the job, but that a decision has not been made.

As of Wednesday night, the speculation remains centered on Franklin. In the event that Franklin turns down Penn State, Munchak and San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman remain in play.

But for fans already feeling scorned by a coach who left after two seasons and a former player who preferred Miami, Franklin represents the chance to salvage something from another coaching search that would otherwise focus on NFL coaches. His decision is crucial to the program's psyche.

Western Kentucky

The Hilltoppers had to know this was coming. After losing their head coach to South Florida last year, they hired serial job hopper Petrino, and it took Petrino just 13 months to jump to a bigger job.

Western Kentucky reportedly interviewed offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm Tuesday, before Petrino had even left, because Petrino was always going to leave. Brohm, who previously spent six seasons as an assistant coach and offensive coordinator at Louisville under Petrino and Steve Kragthorpe, is the only coach widely linked to the job so far, and looks like a solid favorite to land it.


Penn State has been a more public mess, but has there been a more discombobulated firing and search than the one at UMass?

Athletic director John McCutcheon waited almost a month after the team's season ended before pulling the plug on Charley Molnar. Since then, he has spent two weeks being turned down by every coach with a pulse. On Wednesday night, the Manchester Union Leader reported that New Hampshire head coach Sean McDonnell has turned down an opportunity to interview for the job.

The reported leader at the moment: Former Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple, who previously spent six seasons coaching UMass in then-Division I-AA.

More from SB Nation college football:

To die at the Rose Bowl: Spencer Hall on the last BCS Championship

Plot twists and the ends: Bill Connelly on the Championship’s numbers

Florida State: The SEC’s worst nightmare

How FSU and Auburn were built: Why recruiting matters so much

College football news | Bobby Petrino returning to Louisville

Long CFB reads | The death of a college football player

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