Planes now part of PSU football coaching search

Talk about drama, a fascinating sequence of events played out late Wednesday night.

A small airplane landed at the University Park Airport shortly before 11 p.m., and there was great anticipation that James Franklin would be one of the passengers debarking.

If so, it probably would have meant that he is Penn State’s next football coach. But alas, Franklin was not on the plane.

What that means for his candidacy is anyone’s guess at this point. Right now, he’s still the head coach at Vanderbilt.

Some background:

n One popular way for fans and media to try and figure out the Penn State coaching search has been to track flights and speculate which candidate the search committee is going to meet.

Wednesday, plane records indicated a round-trip flight from University Park heading to Destin, Fla., where Franklin has a home and is said to be staying. With a hire expected any day now, many fans were hoping Franklin would be on the return flight ready to take over the Nittany Lions.

n Earlier in the day, ESPN NFL insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter reported that the PSU job is Franklin’s if he wants it, and if not he would be expected to remain at Vanderbilt rather than pursue an NFL job.

n The whole flight saga took a rather comical turn at 9:43 p.m. when Franklin tweeted, “Just got done my most important job, putting our girls 2 bed & making sure they know how much their dad loves them! Family first!”

That tweet seemed to indicate Franklin was still in Florida while the plane was already in the air. However, it was also possible he could have sent it while en route to Pennsylvania.

The flight was scheduled to land around 10:45 p.m., and a number of reporters and fans showed up to see if they could get a first glimpse of a new coach. Franklin was not on the plane, but PSU President Rodney Erickson and athletic director Dave Joyner were, indicating that they had indeed gone to Florida to speak with Franklin.

n Erickson and Joyner did not talk to reporters at the airport, so it’s unclear if they came to any resolution with regards to Franklin. He still could be a candidate, there could be more negotiations or he perhaps has been removed from consideration.

The flight frenzy finished off a day in which Franklin seemed to emerge as the odds-on favorite to become Penn State’s next coach.

n Mortensen told a Nashville radio station about Franklin that “if he does not become the PSU coach, I believe he’ll be the Vanderbilt coach.” It had been reported that Franklin would interview with the Washington Redskins, but that was rebuffed Wednesday.

“He’s not going to pursue an NFL job,” Mortensen told the Nashville radio station.

On that same station, Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams went so far as to agree to shave his head if he could get Franklin to remain with the Commodores. Williams also called Franklin “the best college football coach in America,” and while that might be an overstatement, he certainly is one of the most sought after coaches.

n The only other coaching search news Wednesday was that San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman interviewed for the job Monday, according to Schefter. Roman also was a candidate two years ago before PSU hired Bill O’Brien.