|The world changed in 2001 and Lycoming Head Coach Frank Girardi was someone who kept things in perspective and gave much needed support.
|Family is always important to Coach Girardi
|Lycoming Head Coach Mike Clark ('93)
One of only 29 coaches to record 200 or more victories at one school, Girardi did indeed struggle for the first three seasons of his career, as the Warriors compiled a 7-18 record in those years. A developing defense matured in 1975, however, as it led Division III by allowing just 133.1 yards per game and propelled the team to 6-2 record, starting that run of 29 straight winning seasons.
|Retired Head Coach Frank Girardi loved by everyone.
In 1976, the defense led the nation in rushing defense, allowing just 44.3 yards per game, helping the team set a school-record for wins with an 8-1 record, a mark his teams would go on to break four more times before the 1990 and 1997 teams set the current standard with 12-1 marks.
|Retired Head Coach Frank Girardi with valuable
Assistant Coach Robb Curry.
The hallmarks of Girardi’s teams seemed to always be the defense, which led Division III in total defense twice (1975, ’83), rushing defense three times (1976, ’82, ’87) and scoring defense once (1999) during his career. By the mid-’80s, though, his offenses had the firepower to match the defense, leading the MAC in total offense for the first time in 1984 (178.5) and four more times in his career.
|Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator Steve Wiser played for Girardi and coached with him until Coach "G" retired.
With the winning seasons came new goals and by the late ’70s, the Warriors were in contention for MAC titles nearly every year. A 14-0 loss to Albright spoiled the team’s chance at a title during an 8-1 season in 1976, but two years later, Lycoming picked up a share of MAC Northern Division title with a 5-1 conference record and then did so again in 1979, posting a 6-0-1 mark in conference play. Those two championships set off a run where every four-year graduating player at Lycoming for the next 25 years left with at least one MAC Championship.
More incredible seasons followed as Girardi built the Warriors into a regional powerhouse in the ’80s. In 1985, the team, led by All-American quarterback Larry Barretta, recorded its first undefeated regular season in program history, going 10-0 to earn the program’s first bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
“The teams in the late ’70s opened the door for us,” Barretta said. “We swung it open and the guys after us really tore it off the hinges.”
In 1989, the Warriors won their first tournament game, beating Dickinson, 21-0, in the first round, setting up a magical decade that followed. With a defense that pitched four shutouts, the Warriors steamrolled through the regular season in 1990, finishing 9-0 before posting wins over Carnegie Mellon and Washington & Jefferson to reach the national semifinals, where they were decided underdogs at Hofstra, which had recently announced it was moving to Division I.
The Warriors had a more pressing problem early that week, though. They had no shoes to wear on Hofstra’s artificial turf field. In a move that earned national attention, Girardi called Penn State coach Joe Paterno to ask for help and soon after, boxes upon boxes of turf shoes showed up at the gates of Person Field. Days later, the Warriors upset Hofstra, 20-10, to reach the national championship game.
“It was a hectic week,” said Joe Gillespie ’91, the captain of the 1990 squad. “Hofstra was the favorite. They were moving up to Division I the following year. We had never played on turf, so that was new to us. The next thing we knew, we came to practice and there were a couple hundred pair of turf shoes in the middle of the locker room. I just remember it was like Christmas. We only got to use them for a game, but there were hundreds of pairs there. It was exciting. I don’t think we realized at the time how big an upset it was.”
In another historic event, the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl in 1990 was the first national championship at any level to go into overtime, as Lycoming came up just short to Allegheny, 21-14, in Bradenton, Fla.
Still, the season proved that the Warriors were prepared to become a powerhouse, and in the ’90s, they turned into one, winning seven MAC titles in the decade, making four appearances in the NCAA quarterfinals, three in the semifinals and reappearing in the NCAA Division III championship game in 1997, thanks to another tremendous upset, overcoming a 20-0 halftime deficit to defeat Rowan, 28-20.
As the seasons progressed, the wins piled up and despite a 1-4 start to the 2005 season, the team finished the year with five straight wins. That final win, a 17-10 overtime victory against rival Susquehanna, ended with Girardi being carried off the field on the team’s shoulders with 250 career wins.
“That was one of the coolest moments I have had in football,” said Pat Taylor ’09, Lycoming’s offensive line coach. “We were 1-4 and the team found out G needed to win five games to get to 250 and our next game was against a top-10 team in Ithaca. I didn’t think we had much of a chance, but the way we were able to rally around G, we strung together five straight wins. It was really remarkable. Even into the last game, where we went into overtime and had to persevere, there was no one on that team that wasn’t going to do everything they could to get G that win.”
By the time Girardi decided to retire at the end of the 2007 season, Girardi had coached 82 All-Americans, 328 All-MAC selections, five Academic All-Americans (including Academic All-America Hall of Fame Member Vanaskie), 13 Academic All-District picks, 13 Lycoming College Male Athletes of the Year, seven MAC Most Valuable Players/Players of the Year and 58 members of the Lycoming College Athletics Hall of Fame.
Part of the success that helped build the Warriors into a national power came from the fact that Girardi was able to make all of his players and coaches feel comfortable from the day they first visited Lycoming to the day they left.
“There are a lot of fond memories I have because of Coach G and Robb and the team atmosphere they constructed,” All-American offensive lineman and Arena Football League veteran Darrin Kenney ’92 said. “There are people that come along that make an impact and Coach G made an impact on my life. He was always confident no matter where he was, no matter what team we were playing. I came to Lycoming basically to blow off a day of school. No one I knew ever went there, but when I got there, I knew it was where I wanted to be. Whatever it was, karma or destiny, it led to a fantastic four years of my life.”
Another key component was the atmosphere level-headedness with which Girardi conducted his work both as a football coach and as the college’s Director of Athletics from 1984-2007.
“He treated everyone the same,” Girardi’s longtime recruiting coordinator and assistant director of athletics, Robb Curry ’69 said. “If you were a fourth-string guy or Larry Barretta, all the guys on the team were like his own kids. In the locker room, on campus, in the cafeteria, Frank went and took time with anybody that was a member of the team. He was really good at that. The other thing he taught me was to never rush to judgment. Frank never made a tough decision without sleeping on it. He never jumped on a situation until all the emotion was out of it and it was just about the facts.”
After growing up in the shadows of the college, Girardi came to the school in 1969 as an assistant coach under Whitehill, serving as an assistant for three seasons before Dr. Hutson knocked on his door. A star running back at Williamsport Area High School and a letter winner at West Chester University under the legendary Glenn Killinger, Girardi served as head coach of Jersey Shore Area High School before joining the Lycoming staff.
Girardi has been inducted into five other halls of fame, including the Lycoming Athletics Hall of Fame (2010), Middle Atlantic Conference Hall of Fame (2012), West Branch Valley Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame (1990), the Pennsylvania State Sports Hall of Fame (1998), and West Chester University Hall of Fame (2005). In 1999 he became the Robert W. Maxwell Football Club’s first recipient of the Tri-State Coach of the Year Award. The award is presented to an outstanding college or high school coach from Pennsylvania, New Jersey or Delaware. Following the 2007 season, ESPN Radio 1050/104.1 honored Girardi with a lifetime achievement award and announced that the award will carry the title of “The Frank Girardi Lifetime Achievement Award.” He was also given a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Central Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Football Foundation in 2012.
2016 COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME CLASS
· MARLIN BRISCOE – QB, Nebraska Omaha (1964-67)
· DERRICK BROOKS – LB, Florida State (1991-94)
· TOM COUSINEAU – LB, Ohio State (1975-78)
· RANDALL CUNNINGHAM – P/QB, UNLV (1982-84)
· TROY DAVIS – TB, Iowa State (1994-96)
· WILLIAM FULLER – DT, North Carolina (1981-83)
· BERT JONES – QB, LSU (1970-72)
· TIM KRUMRIE – DL, Wisconsin (1979-82)
· PAT McINALLY – TE, Harvard (1972-74)
· HERB ORVIS – DE, Colorado (1969-71)
· BILL ROYCE – LB, Ashland (Ohio) (1990-93)
· MIKE UTLEY – OG, Washington State (1985-88)
· SCOTT WOERNER – DB, Georgia (1977-80)
· ROD WOODSON – DB, Purdue (1983-86)
· BILL BOWES – 175-106-5 (62.1%); New Hampshire (1972-98)
· FRANK GIRARDI – 257-97-5 (72.3%); Lycoming (Pa.) (1972-2007)
Other thoughts on Coach Girardi:
Lycoming College Director of Athletics and Head Football Coach Mike Clark ’93
“His strongest trait were his interpersonal skills. He’d get on you when he needed to, but he did an incredible job in instilling confidence in his players and his teams. While we were talented, I think he convinced us that we can do great things.
Former Lycoming College Assistant Director of Athletics and Recruiting Coordinator Robb Curry ’69
“Coach Girardi made a tremendous impact on Lycoming College. I will never forget what President (James E.) Douthat told us this in 1990 when we were up in the balcony at the hotel after the game. Coach and I both felt bad about losing and it was the president’s first year. One of us said ‘We’re sorry we didn’t win and let the college down.’ He turned to us and said, ‘You didn’t let anyone down. Nobody could afford the publicity that Lycoming football generated for the college this fall.’”
Lycoming College Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator Steve Wiser ’74
“I played against Frank when I was in high school (at Bald Eagle Area). He was the head coach at Jersey Shore Area High School, so that was the first time I really came in contact with him. I came to Lycoming in 1970. Budd Whitehill recruited me and Frank was an assistant at the time. My junior year, Frank took over and you could see the program start to turn.”
Lycoming College Offensive Line Coach Pat Taylor ’09
“With Coach Girardi, you always knew he cared for you. We weren’t the most talented teams, but every time we went out there, we thought we were going to win. He always looked out for you, not only as a player, but also as a person, which is something I think is rare in a lot of people. He had the same energy for the last game of his career that he did the first time I played for him. For him, you could kind of see the end was coming, but he didn’t let you see that and he didn’t let you worry about it.”
Red Land High School Offensive Coordinator/Red Land Little League Manager Tom Peifer ’95
"When I was playing, the big game was always against Susquehanna, but the week before that game, Coach G always told us we had to take care of business so that the game against Susquehanna would mean as much as it should. That experience of taking things one game at a time is something I tried to teach the (Red Land) team from our first day."
Big Ten Official Jerry McGinn ’78
“I get to work with a lot of high level programs and high-level coaches through my career as a referee. What is amazing is that what Coach G taught us back then is still being used today, not just the techniques but also how to treat each other on the team. He didn’t treat anyone as a superstar. I think that’s why he is loved by his former players.”
Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole Supervisor Joe Gillespie ’91
“Coach G – one of the main things I can say is that he was like our father away from home. With the guys recruited that he brought into the program, it was about more than football. It was about molding us to succeed in life.”
Wayne Moving & Storage Account Director and former Arena Football League Player Larry Barretta ’87
“He changed my life. When I got up there, he was the coach and basically the guy you turned to. He taught you about being away from home. He became the new family and the team was. He was a coach a mentor, a friend. It is tough to put into words. He meand so much to me and all the people I played with.”
TD Ameritrade Assistant Vice-President-Chestnut Hill Branch and former Arena Football League player and coach Darrin Kenney ’92
“Coach G, in my mind, epitomizes what coaching is. He teaches you about pride, character and discipline. One of his quotes was ‘Dare to be great.’ That is something that still sticks with me today. In my mind, Coach G was outstanding. He taught us to not be afraid of challenges. He cared about the guys on the team. He held you accountable. He was someone that could be respected on an off the field. His door was always open. A coach a lot of times is like a second father and Coach G was. He developed us as young men and taught us life lessons utilizing football.”