Penn State football: Former player, assistant coach Fran Ganter to retire

Fran Ganter, who served Penn State as a football player, coach and administrator and was the messenger who carried the letter that would lead to Joe Paterno’s firing, will retire Thursday, according to a Penn State Athletics news release.

It wasn’t immediately clear why Ganter was retiring, but Coach Bill O’Brien said in a statement that he “respected” his decision to leave the team.

“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.”

Ganter was most recently the associate athletic director for the football administration at Penn State, starting that role in 2004. He was a team coach for 33 years before that, starting in 1971. As a Nittany Lions running back from 1967-70, Ganter was part of Orange Bowl wins that followed undefeated seasons in 1968 and 1969.

Ganter said he was grateful for the opportunity to be a part of Penn State athletics.

“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 the news release.

On the night November 8, 2011, it was Ganter who delivered an envelope to Paterno’s house from the university’s board of trustees. Inside, a phone number for Paterno to call to be notified of his firing.

Despite being the messenger, Ganter stated that Paterno had been “influential” in his career and life.

“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 in the statement. “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.”

Ganter, a Bethel Park native, was the only assistant head coach in Paterno’s time at Penn State. He helped the Nittany Lions to 28 bowl berths as a coach, three more as a player, five undefeated seasons and the 1982 and 1986 national championships. He was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.