The Penn State compensation committee approved the contract of Vanderbilt's James Franklin on Saturday and the school has named him its 16th football coach.
"I can't tell you how excited I am to come home," Franklin said in the statement. "I grew up watching Penn State football and now to be at the helm of such a storied program is a tremendous honor. It's important to me to be a part of a University that strives for excellence in everything they do. When football student-athletes come to Penn State, they have a unique opportunity to receive a premium education while playing at the highest level of competition.
"I'm incredibly excited to get to know the students, alumni, and fans who have demonstrated such loyalty to the University as a whole and to the football program in particular," Franklin added. "I've worked my way through every division of football and no other school boasts a fan base like we do. We Are...Penn State!!"
Members of Penn State's trustee committee on compensation met with Athletic Director Dave Joyner and others Saturday morning to discuss the contract, which the group called "excellent" for both Franklin and the Nittany Lions.
"Dr. Joyner and I have stressed that our No. 1 priority in hiring a new coach was to hire an outstanding leader for our football program, one who will continue our long tradition of student-athlete success on the field and in the classroom," Penn State President Rodney Erickson said. "We have achieved that goal. On behalf of the University and the entire Nittany Lion nation, I am proud to welcome James Franklin as Penn State's 16th head football coach."
Franklin, 41, was hired for his first head coaching job in Decemeber 2010 and led the Commodores to a 24-15 record and three consecutive bowl games. No other Vanderbilt coach had guided the program to more than one bowl.
Franklin's roots are in Pennsylvania, where he quarterbacked East Stroudsburg in the early 1990s and later served as an assistant coach there. Before taking the Vanderbilt job, he was an offensive coordinator at Kansas State and Maryland and was named the head-coach-in-waiting at Maryland under Ralph Friedgen.
Vanderbilt beat Georgia, Florida and Tennessee in the same season for the first time in the program's history this season.
Franklin was 2-1 against the rival Vols and 11-13 in SEC play. His teams saved their best football for November, going 10-2 in that month.
The last Vanderbilt coach to leave for a better job was Gerry DiNardo, who accepted the LSU job after coaching on West End from 1991-94 while compiling a 19-25 record. Prior to that, Steve Sloan left of his own accord after just two seasons (1973-74) to become the head coach at Ole Miss.
Franklin is likely to take a number of his Vanderbilt assistant coaches with him. His entire staff from 2012 stayed intact for 2013 - the only SEC staff to do so. Vanderbilt currently has 20 commitments in its 2014 recruiting class. National signing day is Feb. 5.
Vanderbilt is looking for its fourth head coach since the summer of 2010, when Bobby Johnson retired after eight seasons. Offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell filled in as head coach for the 2010 season but was let go at the end of the team's second consecutive 2-10 campaign.
Meanwhile 1,000 fans gathered outside of McGugin Center in Nashville in anticipation of Vanderbilt football team meeting.
Franklin arrived and went straight inside McGugin Center without speaking to the media.
When the meeting ended, players raised the shades from windows of the coaches offices, acknowledging fans as they cheered.
Quarterback Patton Robinette tweeted: "thank you, Coach.#AnchorDown"
Penn State has a news conference scheduled for 4:15 p.m. ET today.
Former Montgomery Bell Academy standout Brad Bars, who is a Penn State football player tweeted: "I've know Coach Franklin for many years and he's going to bring the best to Penn State! #winner"
Jeff Lockridge writes for The Tennessean.
Contributing: The Associated Press