Ganter’s retirement removes last major link to Paterno era

Posted by on February 27, 2013

Penn State Associate Athletic Director Fran Ganter retires Feb. 28, and with him goes the last major link to the Paterno era.

Ganter played under Paterno from 1967 to 1970, and and served as an assistant coach from 1971 to 2004, rising to become the only assistant head coach ever under Paterno.  Ganter was offensive coordinator for many years, and as such, bore much of the criticism for Penn State’s often staid offenses.

However, many Nittany Lion fans believed, as do I, that the buttoned down offense was mostly Paterno’s doing.  Ganter was unleashed during the 1994 season, when even JoePa couldn’t order his offense to be slowed down.  That 12-0 Rose Bowl champion squad was just unstoppable, with Kerry Collins, Ki-Jana Carter, Bobby Engram, Kyle Brady, Freddie Scott, and the list goes on.  That, to me, showed what Fran Ganter could do.

The Ganter retirement story says it was he who delivered the letter to Paterno’s house, containing the number Joe was to call, the night the Trustees fired Paterno over the phone.  Was that decision made because someone thought having the letter delivered by one of Joe’s trusted former assistants would soften the blow?  Or, maybe the Trustees thought the Paternos wouldn’t open the door for someone they didn’t know.

Ganter was often discussed as an heir to Paterno.  But Ganter’s wife died suddenly of a heart attack in her early 50′s, and Ganter soon moved into administration, perhaps needing more time to finish raising their four sons. 

One of those sons, Chris, quarterbacked the State College High football team in a playoff game against Central several years ago.  Fran Ganter attended, and agreed to a halftime interview on my live broadcast of that game.  He was very gracious, as we talked for about five minutes about that 1994 team, and the current Nittany Lion squad, which faced a big game the next day.

Also in attendance that night was Jerry Sandusky, visiting a York area family whose son was on the Central squad.  We called Sandusky to the booth, and surprised him with Ganter’s presence.  Paterno’s two long-time coordinators, both then several years off the staff, seemed genuinely happy to see one another, and it appeared they hadn’t been together for a while, as they chatted catching up with each other.

Fran Ganter was at times overshadowed as his offense was perceived as playing not to lose the games, while Sandusky’s defenses took center stage.  I think Ganter did much more than that, though, and should get credit for much of the Nittany Lion’s football success in the 80s and 90s.

Thanks for the memories, Fran.  Enjoy your retirement.  It is well earned.

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