Prior to the Friday night showdown between Maryland football and No. 12 Penn State, head coaches Mike Locksley and James Franklin met in the center of Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium as their teams warmed up.
Locksley, wearing a black hoodie donning the Maryland logo and black pants that correlated with his team’s jerseys and the blackout theme, came face to face Franklin, sporting a blue Penn State pullover and khaki pants. The duo, who coached in College Park together from 2000-02, embraced into a short hug and handshake.
The two may be at different points in their career — Franklin maintaining a Big Ten powerhouse and Locksley attempting to get the Terps back into contention talks — but their careers came full-circle in that moment.
“We both are guys that grew up in this program and both [have] coached under coach [Ralph] Friedgen,” Locksley said. “We’ve maintained a relationship over the years.”
With Locksley and Franklin on the sidelines in Maryland’s Big Ten opener, it was only fitting that Friedgen, the former Maryland head coach that Locksley and Franklin worked for, was in attendance.
Friedgen was honored after the first quarter of the game, the first time that the two-time ACC Coach of the Year has been back in College Park since his questionable firing after a nine-win season in 2010.
Franklin arrived to Maryland in 2000, when he was hired as a recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach — the same position he coached at Idaho State the year prior. Locksley had been on staff since 1997, working as Maryland’s running backs coach, and eventually took on an additional recruiting role for the Terps two years prior to Franklin’s arrival.
Johnny Holliday, who has been the voice of Maryland men’s basketball and football since 1979, said that he knew when the two coaches shared the sideline back in those days that they both were going to be successful.
“I could certainly tell with both of them,” Holliday said. “I think it was obvious to everybody that [Locksley and Franklin] had head coaching capabilities and potential.”
The two continued to work together until Locksley left Maryland for Florida, tasked with the same role for the Gators.
Locksley would be in Gainesville, Florida, for a year under former Florida head coach and now Maryland senior analyst Ron Zook before spending three years at Illinois and two years at New Mexico for his first head coaching stint. Franklin would leave College Park for two years before returning as an assistant head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterback coach.
In 2009, Franklin was the coach-in-waiting after the Friedgen-era ended, but then-athletic director Kevin Anderson decided to go into a different direction with Randy Edsall, leading Franklin to take his first head coaching gig at Vanderbilt, and eventually Penn State in 2014.
The two matched up for the first time in 2015 at M&T Bank Stadium, when Locksley was the interim head coach for the Terps after the firing of Edsall, while Franklin was in his second year with Penn State.
“[I] go back a long time with coach Locksley. We have a lot of respect for what they have been able to do so far there in that program,” Franklin said. “[I] always felt like that program had a lot of talent, and I think Mike is doing a good job taking advantage of it.”
Franklin has often gotten in the way of securing a lot of that talent though. With Maryland in such a prominent location for football and Penn State as one of the premier college football programs in the nation, Locksley and Franklin compete for a lot of the same players.
One of the players that both programs wanted was four-star safety Nick Cross, who made his first career interception on Friday night. Eleven days prior to Cross signing his letter of intent to Maryland, the DeMatha product took an official visit to Penn State.
Cross is just one of the many players that the Terps and Nittany Lions battle for.
“I think that’s where football is in some ways maybe different than other sports is how competitive it is year-round. [You’re] trying to protect you state. You’re trying to protect your footprint,” Franklin said. “You’re battling these guys year-round. It’s not just Saturday afternoon and it’s not just the week of the game.
“It’s in recruiting. It’s in the region. It’s in the footprint. It’s in the state. It’s all of it. They come to Pennsylvania. We try to go to the DMV.”
Although Locksley said that he isn’t ready to anoint Maryland-Penn State into a rivalry, especially after the 59-0 loss, he agreed that there is some competition for local recruits.
On Friday, the duo’s journeys brought them back to one of their coaching starting points. The former Towson safety and East Stroudsburg quarterback had gone their separate ways and taken other positions at various locations throughout the country.
Since the two head coaches began their relationship in the late 1990s, Locksley says the two have maintained a “cordial relationship.” From here on out, they’ll be seeing a lot more of one another.
“They will meet many more times in the future,” Holliday said. “And Penn State got the best of it Friday night, but I’m going to put my money on Locksley in the long run. He’s going to get his win over Penn State too in due time.”