Nittany Lions coach James Franklin said he really struggled with his decision to leave Vanderbilt, but thought he’d have a better chance at competing for national titles in Happy Valley.

“I think this is a special place,” Franklin told The Jim Rome Show. “I think you have a chance to offer unbelievable academics, but you also have the opportunity to play for national championships and I’m competitive in every aspect, academically and on the football field.”

As for any concerns he had about Penn State and what former coach Bill O’Brien referred to as “Paterno people,” Franklin said he got advice from O’Brien himself.

“Me and Billy are good friends. We worked together at the University of Maryland, so I talked to Billy throughout this entire process,” said Franklin. “Billy’s a blue-collar, hardnosed, straight-forward Northeast guy and he’s going to tell you exactly the way it is and that’s our relationship. He was great. Like everything, there are strengths and positives and there are challenges and the most important thing is that you know what those challenges and issues are coming in.”

As he hits the recruiting trail, Franklin is aware some Vanderbilt fans think he’s pouching Commodore recruits.

“I understand people’s concern and people’s frustration and I can understand,” said the coach. “But recruiting is about relationships, it always has been and always will be. Kids commit to schools, and school is a huge part, but [there’s also] the relationship aspect myself and all these coaches have been in these kids’ homes. We’ve broken bread with their families. We’ve built relationships with the high school coaches, the parents, and there’s a trust factor there and when you’re comparing a lot of really good schools. Penn State is a really great school and now you can still have that same relationship and you can still have that trust – that’s going happen from time to time.”

As for whether a recruit chooses the coach or the school, Franklin says it leans toward the coach.

“I’d say it’s either 50/50 or even 60/40 in a lot of cases with the coach,” said Franklin. “I think a lot of kids it may be about the school, but if they don’t have a connection with the coach they’re not going to go there. For some kids, it’s about the relationship. For some families, it’s about the man that’s going to lead their son and build on the foundation they’ve built for the last 18 years, so it really depends.”


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