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Making Sense of the Palko Hire

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

Penn State lands legendary PA coach in new administrative role.

Penn State Head Coach James Franklin added to his recruiting arsenal this week when

legendary Pennsylvania high-school coach Bob Palko accepted a position to become Director

of High School Relations.

Palko’s resume as Head Coach of West Allegheny (Imperial, PA) and Mount Lebanon (Mount

Lebanon, PA) high schools includes a 217-73 record, 9 WPIAL

championships, and the NFL’s 2021 Don Shula High School Coach of the Year

award for his 15-0 season with Mount Lebanon.

Palko spoke with Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s Mike White about his excitement starting this new


"I don't know. It's just the environment here. It's like I'm in a position to bring some value again. All I wanted to do was bring value every day to people, whether it's in football, or just by saying hi to the custodians or hi to the cafeteria ladies. I just like bringing people together."

According to the job description, Palko will be responsible for the following:

● Assist in getting teams to the Penn State Football’s Lion Strong 7-on-7 and Big Man Challenge Camps.

● Assist in Penn State Football’s annual clinic for high school coaches from throughout the region.

● Reach out to 5 High School/Junior College Head Coaches a day.

● Assist with all Unofficial Visits & Official Visits.

● Assist with recruiting on gamedays.

● Serve as staff’s liaison to the Pennsylvania State Football Coaches Association (PSFCA) and assist the group with their annual coaching clinic held locally.

● Assist the recruiting staff’s efforts with respect to writing, texting and direct messaging high school football coaches to establish a relationship and keep them informed of all events and changes in the football program.

● Mentor all student athletes by having a presence at all workout, practices, and in the training room; meet with student athletes.

When Franklin took over the Penn State head coaching position in 2014, he coined the phrase

“Dominate the State.” His goal was to build a wall around the Commonwealth and keep the best

players home.

One of the major holes Penn State had in recruiting when Franklin started was in Western Pennsylvania where Penn State was hardly competitive in recruiting some of the top

talent in that part of the state. Since then, Penn State has made some major in-roads in the western part of the state where Franklin has gotten major wins for top talent in Miles Sanders (Woodland Hills), Lamont Wade (Clairton), and Joey Porter Jr. (North Allegheny) over the years. Last recruiting cycle, Franklin secured the top Pittsburgh City League recruit in four-star EDGE rusher Ta’Mere Robinson (Brashear), and this season landed the top Pennsylvania and WPIAL recruit in five-star athlete Quinton Martin (Belle Vernon).

While Palko will want to continue the positive momentum built in the western part of the state, he will look to stop the hemorrhaging of elite talent in the eastern part of the state, particularly in the Philadelphia/Lehigh Valley part of the state.

During Franklin’s tenure at Penn State, he has landed the top prospect from the Philadelphia/Lehigh Valley area twice with Saquon Barkley (2015) and Nick Dawkins (2020).

In between, Penn State has seen notable exits from the region that include Kyle Pitts (Florida), Jeremiah Trotter (Clemson), Marvin Harrison Jr. (Ohio State), and De’Andre Swift (Georgia).

Most recruiting analysts are lauding the Palko hire due to his hall of fame coaching resume and his ability to create and build relationships.

Following the collapse to Ohio State in 2018, Franklin had his now infamous “Good to Great to Elite” rant, part of the process of becoming elite is finding elite personnel to execute on the vision of the program. Palko fits the description, now the question is will Palko be able to execute and realize Franklin’s “Dominate the State” vision?



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