James Franklin: Speculation on future with Penn State Nittany Lions not a distraction to team

Illinois stuns Penn State in 9th OT (0:41)

Casey Washington hauls in the game-winning two-point conversion to seal Illinois' upset over No. 7 Penn State. (0:41)

Penn State football coach James Franklin is aware of potential distractions about his future with the program but hasn't seen them affect his team despite recent on-field struggles.

Franklin's name has been connected with the USC coaching vacancy since it opened in September. He also has been mentioned as a potential candidate at LSU, which announced earlier this month that coach Ed Orgeron will not return in 2022.

Franklin, in his eighth season at Penn State, said Tuesday that speculation about his future has not come up in discussions with staff members or players on the team's leadership council.

"We've kept it very direct," Franklin said. "There's things that we have discussions in great detail in our building with our family and the players and the staff. We try to do that the best we possibly can. We've done a pretty good job of that over my eight years here, and we'll continue to try to do that. There's things that we can control and there's things that we can't from the outside. But this has been a story that's happened on numerous occasions, and we try to keep it as focused as we possibly can."

Franklin is 65-30 at Penn State with a Big Ten championship in 2016 and three AP top-10 finishes from 2016 to 2019. In February 2020, Franklin received a new contract through 2025 that pays him $5.5 million this year. Penn State went 4-5 last season, but started 5-0 this fall, rising to No. 4 nationally before back-to-back losses to then-No. 3 Iowa and unranked Illinois.

The 20th-ranked Nittany Lions visit No. 5 Ohio State on Saturday night.

Asked Tuesday about his commitment to Penn State, Franklin said, "I've been asked this question multiple times. ... I think I've shown over my eight years my commitment to this university and this community."

Franklin on Tuesday also addressed him changing agencies from Athletes First (Trace Armstrong) to Jimmy Sexton (Creative Artists Agency), which he said occurred over the summer but was reported this week. The coach also was asked about university president Eric Barron, who is set to retire in June, and athletic director Sandy Barbour, whose contract expires in 2023.

"There's been a lot of unusual situations, the timing of when I came to Penn State, I took the job here not knowing who the president or AD was going to be," Franklin said. "They were both interim at the time. ... Eric's done an unbelievable job. You know, we all came in at a challenging time and Penn State's history and have worked very well together.

"Obviously, you want to have an idea of what's going to hold, and I got tremendous faith in our board chairman Matt Schuyler. I've got tremendous faith in our leadership."