Former Penn State player and assistant Fran Ganter retires

Penn State coach Joe Paterno, right, talks with his assistant Fran Ganter near the end of the game against Nebraska, Saturday, July 14, 2002, in State College, Pa. Penn State won 40-7. (AP Photo/Pat Little)

Fran Ganter, who served on Joe Paterno’s coaching staff at Penn State for 33 years before taking over as the university’s associate athletic director for football administration in 2004, has announced his retirement, effective Thursday.

Ganter, a running back for the Nittany Lions from 1967 through 1970, spent 20 of his years on Paterno’s staff as offensive coordinator. Paterno added the title of assistant head coach to his duties in 2000.

“I am very proud and thankful to have been a member of the Penn State football family for the past 46 years,” Ganter said in a statement. “I will always owe a debt of gratitude to coach Bob Phillips for recruiting me to play at Penn State, and to coach Paterno for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime when he hired me on to his staff.”

Ganter worked with coach Bill O’Brien during the past year. He said he felt “extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity” to work with him and “would like to thank him for his great leadership.”

O’Brien called Ganter “a valuable member of the Penn State football family for 46 years.

“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 on the staff that led the Nittany Lions to the 1982 and 1986 national championships. He coached a number of All-American running backs such as Curt Warner, D.J. Dozier, Blair Thomas, Ki-Jana Carter, Curtis Enis and Larry Johnson, all of whom were first-round draft picks.

Perhaps the best offense coached by Ganter came along in 1994 when the Nittany Lions led the nation in total offense (520.2 yards per game) and scoring (47.8 points per game) and broke a total of 14 team records. The Lions finished 12-0 and No. 2 in the polls.

--Joe Juliano