Former Penn State team doctor’s lawsuit will only be a problem for James Franklin if the school wants it to

Former Penn State football team doctor, Dr. Scott Lynch was awarded $5.25 million in a lawsuit that alleged that Franklin interfered with medical decisions, but Franklin will only face punishment if he doesn't win enough games.
Head coach James Franklin
Head coach James Franklin / Dan Rainville / USA TODAY NETWORK

There’s a reason that cliches become cliches, it’s mostly because they’re true. Winning cures all is an age-old adage in sports and it became that for one reason, it’s true. 

On Wednesday, former Penn State football team doctor Dr. Scott Lynch was awarded $5.25 million in a wrongful termination lawsuit that dates back to 2019. The suit alleged that James Franklin’s repeated interference with medical proceedings and return-to-play decisions ultimately led to Lynch’s dismissal. However, Franklin and Penn State University were both removed as defendants back in 2020 due to the statute of limitations. Franklin was not called to testify in the case. 

Lynch used the platform of his victory to call for an NCAA investigation into the program, but It’s still unclear at this point what if any punishment will come down on Penn State’s head coach of 10 years. However, the most likely reality is that the on-field performance of Franklin’s team in 2024 will determine just how big of a story this becomes. 

All do respect to Dick Weiss, but there isn’t much speculation at all that Franklin will face discipline, despite the obvious severity of the claims levied in the case, and to suggest that his job could be on the line because of this lawsuit is frankly absurd. Like with almost any college football head coach, Franklin’s job will only be on the line if he continues to lose big games to his school’s biggest rivals. 

Franklin hasn’t beaten Michigan since 2020 and has lost seven straight to Ohio State, his last victory over the Buckeyes coming in 2016 courtesy of a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown. No school is more likely to benefit from the expanded 12-team College Football Playoff than Penn State, a program that never competed for the title in the four-team era, but has finished in the top 12 of the CFP rankings in six of the last eight seasons. However, that reality only adds to the pressure on him in 2024. 

A school and its head coach are in a constant battle for leverage. In 2021 Franklin had enough to land a 10-year contract extension from then-athletic director Sandy Barbour. This lawsuit tips the scale in favor of current AD Pat Kraft. 

If Penn State falls to Ohio State for an eighth straight season and fails to qualify for the CFP, then Franklin’s job could “be on the line” and this lawsuit could give Penn State the opportunity to fire him “with cause” avoiding a massive buyout. 

But, If Penn State wins a Big Ten title and hosts a home College Football Playoff game this winter, the Penn State Health Milton Hershey Medical Center will happily pay the $5.25 million to make this story go away. Even when doctors are involved, in college football, winning cures all.

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