Fran Ganter, the longtime Penn State coach and administrator, is set to retire from his position of Associate Athletic Director for Football Administration today.
Including his playing career, Ganter was a part of the program for a total of 46 years and became a well-respected member of the Penn State football family. Some, like former Nittany Lion Ron Coder, even expected the longtime assistant to have a chance at becoming Joe Paterno’s predecessor for quite some time.
Ganter coached for a total of 33 years starting in 1971 and was the only assistant head coach to ever work under Paterno.
“I am very proud and thankful to have been a member of the Penn State Football family for the past 46 years,” Ganter stated in a press release.
“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.”
Perhaps Ganter’s most memorable season in Happy Valley came in 1994 when the offensive coordinator orchestrated one of the most prolific offenses in college football history, scoring a record 48.1 points per game in Big Ten play. The 12-0 season, which culminated with a Rose Bowl victory, helped Ganter win Athlon’s Assistant-Coach-of-the-Year award.
Coder played under Ganter in the beginning of his coaching career, but the former offensive lineman said he could tell even then that the coach was going to have a successful tenure with the Lions.
“Fran had a great way of helping us become the best we could be,” Coder said. “He wasn’t a yeller or a screamer, unless you were being an idiot and not getting what he was trying to teach you. He just really spent time with you and say, ‘Hey, this is what we’re doing.’ ”
It was this instrumental ability to instruct young players that led Coder to say he “wouldn’t have been surprised at all” if Ganter eventually became head coach.
And despite Paterno remaining head coach for more than four decades, Ganter remained committed to the program as opposed to looking elsewhere.
“I’m sure that part of the reason that he stayed was to hopefully be the next head coach after Joe,” Coder said. “But, he had so much respect and love for the program that he wanted to remain as part of that program until he retired. It shows a lot about his commitment and his ability to help sustain a program.”
Ganter, who was a part of the 1982 and 1986 National Championship coaching staffs, said in the release that he was extremely grateful for the way Paterno respected him and his family.
Paterno made such an impact on Ganter’s life that his longtime assistant referred to him as one of the most influential people he had ever met.
“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,” Ganter said. “He was tough as my coach and demanding as my boss, but was always thoughtful and understanding when it came to my family.”
Ganter worked on the sidelines alongside Paterno until 2004, when the assistant coach moved to the administrative ranks, where he remained until now.
Former players said they will view Ganter’s legacy in different ways, but Coder said the admiration the coach had for the game still strikes those who had played under him.
“The response that he’s gotten is when guys come back to campus for the Lettermen’s Club golf outing, or whatever it is…he’s one of the favorites,” Coder said. “Guys loved being around Franny. That speaks volumes for a coach.”
Meanwhile, Kerry Collins, quarterback of the 1994 team, said in the release that his offensive coordinator has had a huge impact on the program through the years.
“He had a great influence on me as a player and a friend,” Collins said. “It would be hard to find someone else who bleeds blue and white like Fran does.”
Meanwhile, Ganter went out with parting words for the most recent coaching staff as well, saying he felt “extremely fortunate” to have had the chance to work with coach Bill O’Brien in his first season at the helm.
O’Brien’s sentiments toward Ganter were similar, saying the administrator lent a helping hand to the new regime upon its arrival.
“We respect his decision to step away from his duties so that he can enjoy some time for himself and his four wonderful sons,” O’Brien said. “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.”
Sebastianelli out as team physician
Ganter’s retirement wasn’t the only change announced within the football program Wednesday, as the team released a statement saying Dr. Wayne Sebastianelli would no longer serve as team physician and orthopedic surgeon for Penn State.
Sebastianelli, who had manned this position since 1992, will remain on staff as director of athletic medicine for Penn State and continue providing care for student-athletes.
Dr. Peter Seidenberg, an associate professor of orthopedics and primary care sports medicine physician for Penn State Hershey’s orthopedic practice, will take over for Sebastianelli as team physician. Meanwhile, Dr. Scott Lynch will serve as football program’s orthopedic consultant.
The change in medical staff stems from an effort to realign the program’s staff under O’Brien, according to the release.
“The change in physicians was made after a review of procedures and personnel by coach Bill O’Brien and is part of an on-going re-organization of the football staff,” the release said.