Fran Ganter to retire after 46 years with Penn State football program

February 27, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (Feb. 27, 2013) – After nearly five decades as a Penn State Football student-athlete, coach and administrator, Fran Ganter has announced his retirement, effective Feb. 28, 2013.

A running back for the Nittany Lions from 1967-70, Ganter helped Penn State compile a 29-3 record, including undefeated seasons capped by Orange Bowl wins in 1968 and ’69, as a player. Winner of the squad’s Red Worrell Award in 1970, Ganter graduated in 1971 and assumed duties as the freshman coach the next fall, beginning a tenure on the coaching staff that would last 33 years. Ganter was named offensive coordinator in 1984 and Assistant Head Coach in 2000, leaving the sidelines in 2004 to serve as Associate Athletic Director for Football Administration.

“I am very proud and thankful to have been a member of the Penn State Football family for the past 46 years,” Ganter stated.

“I will always owe a debt of gratitude to Coach Bob Phillips for recruiting me to play at Penn State, and to Coach (Joe) Paterno for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime when he hired me onto his staff,” Ganter said. “Outside of my Dad (Fran), who passed away when I was a young man and prior to being a father myself, Coach Paterno was the most influential and constant figure in my life.  He was tough as my coach and demanding as my boss, but was always thoughtful and understanding when it came to my family.  Life for a football coach’s family can be difficult, but my late wife Karen and our four boys loved being a part of Penn State Football because Coach Paterno genuinely cared for them and always tried to make them feel that they were an important part of the program — and for that I am eternally grateful.
“I am also thankful for the lifelong friendships I forged with my fellow coaches, as well as the other members of the support staff, through the wins and the losses, the up seasons and the down.  And I am lucky to have played and coached in front of the best and most loyal fans in college football.

“I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Coach (Bill) O’Brien over the past year, and would like to thank him for his great leadership and to congratulate him and his staff on a terrific season.

"Finally, and most importantly, I am sincerely grateful to all the players over all of the years who made it a joy for me to come to work every day — it was truly a privilege and an honor to be a part of their lives.”
“Fran Ganter has been a valuable member of the Penn State Football Family for 46 years,” said O’Brien. “We respect his decision to step away from his duties so that he can enjoy some time for himself and his four wonderful sons. He has been a tremendous help in the transition of our football staff and I will always be grateful to him for fulfilling that role.”

Former Nittany Lion Elijah Robinson will provide administrative oversight of the Penn State Football Letterman’s Club. Robinson serves as Penn State Football’s Director of Community Relations and is the program’s liaison with National Football League personnel.

A native of Bethel Park, Pa., Ganter was the only Assistant Head Coach in Joe Paterno’s tenure.  He helped Penn State to 28 bowl berths as a coach, three more as a player, five undefeated seasons and the 1982 and 1986 national championships.

During his highly successful tenure, Ganter coached six running backs and two kickers that earned first-team All-America honors. During his 20 years overseeing the offense, he was instrumental in the development of 12 offensive players that were first-team All-Americans and many others that played in the National Football League.

Ganter coached a number of Penn State greats, including running backs Curt Warner, D.J. Dozier, Blair Thomas, Ki-Jana Carter, Curtis Enis and Larry Johnson, all of whom were first-team All-Americans and first-round NFL Draft picks, as well as All-America kickers Chris and Matt Bahr.

Among the other standouts he coached are running backs Sam Gash, Richie Anderson, Matt Suhey, Steve Smith, Gary Brown, Leroy Thompson, Jon Witman and Brian Milne and placekickers Robbie Gould and Brett Conway, all of whom played in the NFL.

Among the many prolific offenses that Ganter directed, the 1994 Nittany Lions rank among the best in college football history. Penn State led the nation in total offense (520.2 ypg) and scoring with its 47.8 ppg average, ranking as the fourth-highest scoring average in NCAA history. The unit broke 14 team school records, led the Big Ten in every offensive category and shattered the record for scoring in Big Ten games with a 48.1 ppg average, a mark that still stands.

Ganter was named Assistant Coach-of-the-Year by Athlon in 1994, as the Nittany Lions won the Big Ten Championship and beat Oregon in the Rose Bowl, becoming the first team in Big Ten history to earn a 12-0 record, finishing No. 2 in the polls.

Ganter was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.

After 37 years as a Penn State football player and coach, Ganter left the sidelines in 2004 when he was named associate athletic director for football administration.  In that role, he oversaw a variety of administrative aspects of the program, assisting in all facets of the program. 

In addition to his duties as the associate athletic director, Ganter also served as the director of the Penn State Football Letterman’s Club (FLC).  Since assuming that role in 2003, the FLC membership increased to more than 1,100 dues paying members.  Under Ganter’s direction, the FLC Scholarship program — which includes the Coach Bob Phillips Memorial Scholarship, the Joe and Sue Paterno Post Graduate Scholarship and the Penn State Football Letterman’s Club Scholarship — has grown from less than $30,000 to nearly $400,000

Former Penn State Football student-athletes comment on Fran Ganter’s impact:

“He said Penn State would give me an opportunity. If it wasn’t for Fran I wouldn’t be where I am. He has bridged the gap for so many of us. It’s the end of an era; he is a treasure.”
- Trey Bauer - Penn State Linebacker, 1984-87. Recruited by Fran Ganter

“Fran has been a huge part of Penn State football and the University through the years. He had a great influence on me as a player and a friend. It would be hard to find someone else who bleeds blue and white like Fran does.”
- Kerry Collins - Penn State Quarterback, 1991-94; NFL, 1995-2011.
1994 first-team All-American and Davey O’Brien Award winner

“Fran helped give my life direction. He was a no-nonsense coach who helped his players on and off the field. I will always appreciate about Fran the fact that he was a true believer in the Penn State family.”
- Sam Gash - Penn State Running Back, 1988-91; NFL, 1992-2003.

“Fran was a great teammate, coach and administrator. He had opportunities to leave but was loyal to Penn State and his family. I am so grateful he invited me to speak at last year’s Senior Banquet. That was a very special night. He has had a wonderful career and will be very much missed.”
- Jack Ham - Penn State Linebacker, 1967-70; Pittsburgh Steelers, 1971-82
National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee

“Fran Ganter is known by generations of Penn State players as a teammate and a coach.  Those same players have all known him collectively as the administrator for the Football Letterman's Club.  His work with the FLC has enabled it to grow and prosper. As he moves on from his role of administrator, it's great to know he will still be a member of our organization and help it continue to grow.”
- Justin Kurpeikis - Penn State Defensive End, 1997-2000; President, Penn State Football Letterman’s Club

“Fran was first class in every way. It was a pleasure to play for him. He treated the players with respect and he had the players’ respect. The guys he coached responded to him because of the way he interacted with us on and off the field and the way he coached. Fran prepared us to play well and we wanted to play well for him and Penn State.”
- Matt Suhey - Penn State Running Back, 1976-79; Chicago Bears, 1980-89

“When I arrived at Penn State, I had never played in the I-formation. Fran taught me so much about the fundamentals of the game. I made the rosters of NFL teams because I could pick up the blitz and block, run precise pass routes out of the backfield and learn offenses quickly. I contribute most of my ability to compete at the highest level to Fran Ganter's coaching me when I was a youngster. When I often look back at my collegiate experience, Fran along with Coach Paterno are the people that I appreciate and think about most often.”
- LeRoy Thompson – Penn State Running Back, 1987-90; NFL, 1991-95

“I can’t say enough about Fran and his impact on me and the players he coached. He had great knowledge of the X’s and O’s and was an excellent coach. He was a great communicator who knew how to motivate people and get their best effort. Fran has been a tremendous liaison as all the former players get to know Coach O’Brien and his staff.  I have the utmost respect for him and what he has accomplished during his career at Penn State.”
- Curt Warner - Penn State Running Back, 1979-82; Seattle Seahawks, 1983-89;
Los Angeles Rams, 1990. National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame inductee

  • Fran Ganter sidelines

    Fran Ganter sidelines

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated January 10, 2015