The legendary football coach was at home. It was a Friday but he wasn’t expecting anything from the norm. No major plans. He didn’t even question a small FedEx package that showed up at the door. Coach simply opened it to find a bubble wrapped football that read, “Congratulations. You have been selected to the College Football Hall of Fame.” Then the phone rang. And it hasn’t stopped since.
Frank Girardi did everything the right way. He established himself as one of the nation’s very best during his 36 year tenure as Lycoming College’s head football coach. Girardi finished his career with an impressive 257-97-5 record (72.3 win percentage) from 1972-2007. He currently ranks sixth in NCAA Division III history in wins and Girardi is one of just 17 coaches to reach 250 wins at one school at any NCAA level. The legendary football coach was recently notified that he was part of a select group that will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame on December 6, 2016. The 16 members of the 2016 class will also be honored at the National Hall of Fame Salute at the Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl on December 31, 2016. Quite an achievement for this long-time city resident.
“Yes. This was quite the surprise and it has been a very hectic but great week,” Coach Girardi said. “I am truly honored, humbled and touched from all the love and congratulations I have received. You wouldn’t believe the number of emails, notes and phone calls. People I haven’t heard from in years. I have had so many great conversations with former players, coaches and friends the past few days. I am doing my best to reply and respond to everyone.”
Girardi led Lycoming to 11 Division III playoff appearances, 13 playoff victories and two trips to the Division III national championship game in 1990 and 1997. He was named MAC Coach of the Year 12 times and led Lycoming to 13 MAC titles. Girardi became the Maxwell Football Club’s first recipient of the Tri-State Coach of the Year Award in 1999. During his amazing career, Girardi coached 10 First Team All-Americans, two First Team Academic All-Americans and 217 first team all-conference selections. Girardi has been inducted into five halls of fame, including the Lycoming Athletics Hall of Fame, West Branch Valley Sports Hall of Fame, the State of Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, the West Chester University’s Football Hall of Fame and the Mid Atlantic Conference Hall of Fame. Girardi received the NFF Central Pennsylvania Chapter’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the first ever Williamsport Area School District Distinguished Alumni Award, the WLYC Great Humanitarian and the Boys Scouts of America Brotherhood Award. A fancy bronze bust proudly stands in front of Lycoming’s stadium and now all of Coach Girardi’s records will be on display at the College Football Hall of Fame.
“I’ve enjoyed looking back at those great memories with my coaches and players,” Girardi continued. “The semifinal vs Hofstra back in 1990 is one in particular. We were major dogs and they were making the jump to Division 1 AA. Hofstra was loaded and played on a turf field. Back then no one had turf and it required a special shoe. We didn’t have any. I called up Joe (Paterno) at Penn State and he literally sent us boxes and boxes of shoes. It was like Christmas. Lycoming went on to win that game to advance to our very first Stagg Bowl. The caption ‘LYCOMING UPSETS HOFSTRA WITH PENN STATE SHOES’ made national headlines. That game helped put our program on the map. But there were so many special moments. We did our thing for 36 years. So how do you pick one?”
“I have never met someone who made everyone feel so special like Coach did,” current Lycoming College Director of Athletics and Head Football Coach Mike Clark added. “His players believed in him. It didn’t matter if you were the starting quarterback or on the practice squad. Coach G treated you the same. His interpersonal skills are second to none. He built our program from the very bottom and turned it into one of the best in the country. We had 29 consecutive winning seasons under him. Coach G totally deserves this recognition. He is one of the greatest.”
Coach Girardi experienced 257 victories on the gridiron but it was the impact on his players and those around him that made Frank Girardi so great. He wasn’t just a successful football coach. Frank Girardi is a phenomenal person. You can’t miss that dynamic personality. My man coined the phrase “cat” and has been using “kid” and “cray” since the 70s. He was a player’s coach and always knew what buttons to push. Coach “dared his players to be great” and taught them about teamwork, pride, character and discipline for over 36 successful seasons. He continues to be a positive influence to many. Girardi treated everyone with love and respect. Whether you were a member of his squad or simply worked part-time in the mailroom- Coach G brought out the best in all of us. His players and coaches adore him, but the students and fans did too. Everyone loves Coach Girardi. He was the face of Lycoming College for 36 years. We are so proud that he is heading to the College Football Hall of Fame. Congratulations Coach. This is well deserved.
“I can’t begin to tell you how humbled I am,” Girardi tried to explain. “The College Football Hall of Fame? You ask the question Spence. But come on man. There are no words to describe how I feel. So many people made this possible. So many to thank. My wife Lynn and kids have been with me since the beginning. I can’t say enough about my staff and players throughout the years. Nothing gets done without all of them. What an honor. Thanks to everyone.”