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Jerry Fisher: Passion for Penn State Stems From Father, Fran Fisher

by on January 17, 2012 6:00 AM

Some of you out there in the blogosphere may not know or realize the background of my affinity for Penn State sports and particularly the Nittany Lion football program, but it stems from the man that I consider my true hero and the man responsible for me getting into the radio industry.

That, of course, is my father, Fran, who was the voice of the Penn State football program, providing the play-by-play for Joe Paterno’s team over four decades. He also did many years of Penn State Nittany Lion basketball on the radio, as well as doing things for WPSX-TV (now WPSU), including wrestling, gymnastics and other sporting events.

He was instrumental in the implementation of the Nittany Lion Club, Penn State licensing of its sports properties and many other things that pertain to the Penn State Department of Intercollegiate Athletics — the fancy name for Penn State sports.

I remember my brother and father going to the stadium with a tape measure and the crazy idea of measuring the size of parking spaces. Then they transferred that information into parking spaces at the stadium that people paid for so they would have a place to park for every game.

Some crazy idea, huh? We all know how that turned out. It led to the introduction of honorary coaches' parking spaces, which have now become common place at Beaver Stadium and have led to many happy tailgaters for all the Penn State football games.

Fran Fisher was the original Mr. Penn State, a man that led pep rallies like none other. It could be with some odd form of hat on top of his noggin with a cigar in the corner of his mouth, getting the crowd all riled up for the arrival of the Nittany Lion at Rec Hall prior to a game in the '70s or '80s, or speaking to a gathering of Nittany Lion faithful in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Berwick or Altoona and giving them a lesson in Penn State 101 and why they should get behind Penn State and support all of the athletic programs.

Fran was indeed a crowd pleaser with his uncanny way of knowing just how to get the Nittany Lion faithful all fired up, whether on campus or at a remote site for a bowl game.

Fran, former athletic director Jim Tarman and Paterno would jump in a car and head to outlying areas and visit radio stations with the hope of convincing them to carry the Penn State football games on those stations, offering anything they could — legally, of course — to entice them to be members of the Penn State football radio network. Once again, we know where that has gone, with stations carrying the games to every corner of the state.

When growing up, I had the good fortune of traveling to many bowl games with our family and seeing wonderful places such as Tempe, Ariz., New Orleans, Miami, Jacksonville, Fla., and more. During those bowl trips, the families all became familiar with each other, including the kids on the trips. It was during these trips I got to know the Tarman boys, the Paterno clan, former Dean of the College of Physical Education Robert Scannell and his boys. Penn State’s athletic program was under the College of P-E umbrella for years before becoming independent, and Dr. Scannell was in charge back then.

There are so many more stories to be told and more memories to share, but I would not have had the good fortune of experiencing any of these if it weren’t for who I consider the original Mr. Penn State: Fran Fisher.

These are just some examples of why I find it hard to be a true journalist at times during these tough times the football program and university are going through.

On a final note, I have had some of my critics say I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my father being behind me. My response is I am proud of my father, and if he had anything to do with my success, I am proud to say he did.

And by the way, there is no harsher critic of how I do my job than Mr. Penn State himself.



Jerry Fisher hosts "Centre County This Morning," appearing weekdays from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. on 970 WBLF. He is now a regular columnist for StateCollege.com, as well.
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