James Franklin to deliver Penn State Harrisburg spring 2017 commencement address

Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — James Franklin, Penn State head football coach, will deliver the keynote address at Penn State Harrisburg’s spring commencement on Saturday, May 6. Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the campus will confer nearly 700 undergraduate and graduate degrees during the 9:30 a.m. ceremony at the Hershey Giant Center in Hershey.

Franklin was named the 16th head football coach in Penn State history in January 2014. He joined Penn State after having led the football program at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.  

Franklin enters his seventh year as a collegiate head coach, leading his first six squads to bowl games, with victories in three. He has 22 years of coaching experience at the collegiate and NFL levels with a 49-30 career record and five consecutive winning seasons.

In 2016, under the leadership of Franklin, the Nittany Lions won nine consecutive games en route to the Big Ten Championship, a Rose Bowl berth and an 11-3 overall record. That same year, Franklin was honored as the Sporting News National Coach of the Year and the Woody Hayes National Coach of the Year, as well as the Dave McLain Big Ten Coach of the Year and Associated Press Big Ten Coach of the Year. He also was a finalist for the Paul “Bear” Bryant, Eddie Robinson and Associated Press National Coach of the Year awards.

Under his leadership, the Nittany Lions continued their success in the classroom in the fall of 2016, with 51 squad members posting at least a 3.0 grade-point average. Additionally, 19 Nittany Lions earned Academic All-Big Ten recognition in 2016. In the last two years, the Nittany Lions have completed more than 4,000 hours of community service.

Franklin began his coaching career in 1995 as the wide receivers coach at Kutztown University, and was a graduate assistant coach at his alma mater, East Stroudsburg University, in 1996. He then served as wide receivers coach at James Madison University in 1997, a graduate assistant at Washington State University in 1998, and the wide receivers coach at Idaho State University in 1999. Franklin was named the wide receivers coach at the University of Maryland in 2000 under head coach Ron Vanderlinden, who would go on to coach the Penn State linebackers from 2001 to 2013.

After five successful years at Maryland, Franklin was named wide receivers coach for the Green Bay Packers in 2005. He served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Kansas State University in 2006-07, and returned to Maryland in 2008 as the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator.

Franklin began his participation in the NFL’s Minority Coaching Fellowship Program, starting with a stint with the Miami Dolphins and working with Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino.  He also worked with Donovan McNabb of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1999, and the Minnesota Vikings in 2008 in the NFL program.

A four-year letterman at quarterback and a two-time All-PSAC selection at East Stroudsburg University, Franklin set seven school records as a senior to earn team MVP honors and was a Harlon Hill Trophy nominee as the NCAA Division II Player of the Year. He was inducted into the East Stroudsburg Athletics Hall of Fame in 2016.

Franklin graduated from East Stroudsburg in 1995 with a degree in psychology and earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from Washington State University. He and his wife, Fumi, have two daughters, Shola and Addison.

For more information about Penn State Harrisburg’s spring 2017 commencement, visit

Last Updated April 21, 2017