He explained his philosophies and answered any questions the
players had. It was how he let those players know it was OK to
come to him with anything.
“It went well beyond the football field. I always remember
that first meeting we had when he became head coach and
how he stressed loyalty,” said Hon. Thomas I. Vanaskie, a 1975
Lycoming graduate who is now a Circuit Court Judge for the
United States Court of Appeals. “That was a great message that
meant a lot to me.”
Girardi didn’t just preach loyalty, he lived it. All his coaches
did. It’s why some of his most trusted coaches were with him
for the duration of his coaching tenure, which ended following
the 2007 season. Robb Curry ’69 coached with Girardi for all
36 years. Wiser joined Girardi’s staff after graduating in 1974
and was promoted to defensive coordinator in 1977 and still
holds the position today under Director of Athletics and Head
Football Coach Mike Clark ’93.
That loyalty created the kind of family atmosphere Girardi
always wanted. His players were devoted to him, and to this
day still are. They speak of him in reverent terms and when
they see him, his players always greet him with a hug. Girardi
never forgets a name. The faces of those players have changed,
and occasionally Girardi will need some help pairing the name
with the face of one of his former players. But hearing that
name triggers a flood of memories like water crashing through
a broken dam. Girardi will immediately begin to spout off play
after play that made the player indelible in the 76-year-old’s
“He had a way of making everybody feel important, not
just the great ones,” said Clark. “I think he had a really unique
ability to interact with people and to make everybody feel
special, which is really hard to do.”
“Frank made it fun. I loved playing for the guy and I loved
practicing for the guy. He had a way of motivating you to go the
extra mile because you wanted to succeed for him,” Wiser said.
“I was very fortunate that Frank hired me and took me into the
family. He’s like my second dad. I learned a lot about the game
of football from Frank over the years, but I learned a lot more
about life and how to treat people.”
It’s why people just enjoy being around the jovial Girardi,
who always carries a smile on his face. Find him at any number
of Lycoming sporting events, including football games, and at
some point there will be a crowd around him as he holds court.
Just wait for it, at some point Girardi will induce a good belly
laugh of the men around him, whether they’re in their 30s, 40s,
50s or 60s.
Girardi traverses around Lycoming’s athletic events like
a politician, shaking every hand, listening to the stories the
people have to share with him and sharing stories of his own.
He’s more than just the former football coach at Lycoming.
He’s an institution. Maybe no coach or player in the Middle
Atlantic Conference is as recognizable with a program as
Girardi is with Lycoming. So much so that a bust of the
former coach stands at the entrance to David Person Field at
the Shangraw Athletic Complex.
And when that statue was dedicated and unveiled prior to
a 2012 game, former players moved heaven and earth just to
be there to see Girardi and his family remove the sheath that
had covered the bust since it had been installed earlier that
week. Girardi never worried about the legacy he was leaving
as a coach during his 36 years leading Lycoming. His focus
never wavered from the plan that he instilled in his first year;
there was no time to ponder a legacy. But since retiring as a
coach, he’s wondered at times how he got to this point. He
could spend hours rattling off the names of the people who
helped him reach this point, and given the chance, he just
might try. He knows it was never a one-man journey. It was
the journey of a family.
AND IT ALL STARTED WITH A HANDSHAKE.
LYCOMING COLLEGE 2016 SPRING MAGAZINE
AT H L E T I C F E AT U R E