Fran Fisher, the longtime voice of Penn State football, dies at 91


Fran Fisher, a former Greensburg resident who served as the voice of Penn State University football for 19 years, died Thursday in State College. He was 91.

Mr. Fisher's son, Jerry, announced his father's passing on his Twitter account.

Mr. Fisher's first game as a member of the Penn State Radio Network was Sept. 17, 1966, a 15-7 victory over Maryland that also happened to be the first game of Joe Paterno's head coaching career. Mr. Fisher and Mr. Paterno would become lifelong friends and later worked together when Mr. Fisher took a job as an assistant athletic director and executive of the Nittany Lion Club in the 1980s.

"They were joined at the hip," said Jack Ham, the former Penn State linebacker and the longtime color commentator on PSU radio broadcasts. "You talk about people who were devoted to Penn State -- Joe Paterno was No. 1 and Fran Fisher was right there along with him.

"Fran was an iconic figure at Penn State. The thing I remember most about Fran is I'd be up there for a fall practice or a spring practice, and I could always count on Fran being there," Mr. Ham added. "And his recall was amazing. He'd always talk about the days when I played there and talk about guys like Mike Reid and Steve Smear. Even in retirement, Penn State football meant a lot to him."

Mr. Fisher's broadcasting career began in 1952 at WHJB in Greensburg when the station manager asked him to call a high school basketball game. He later became sports director and commercial manager at the station.

After working at WHJB, he became station manager at WKVA in Lewisburg from 1962-66. In '66, Mr. Fisher landed the job as color commentator for the Penn State Radio Network.

Four years later, he took over as the play-by-play voice and held that position until 1982, when he retired from broadcasting after the Nittany Lions won their first national championship with a victory against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.

Mr. Fisher was named an assistant athletic director at Penn State and executive director of the Nittany Club in 1983 and held that position until he retired in 1988. He came out of retirement in 1994 and served as play-by-play man again until 1999.

"He was a legend with Penn State fans as much as Joe Paterno was," said Lou Prato, a Penn State historian and a friend of Mr. Fisher's.

Mr. Prato and his wife had dinner with Mr. Fisher Tuesday night, and he was in good spirits. They ate stuffed peppers, sipped on wine and watched the Pirates game. Mr. Fisher was a devoted fan of the Pirates and covered Game 7 of the 1960 World Series for WHJB.

"He was talking about [Josh] Harrison's slump, [Gregory] Polanco, how well the starting pitching was doing," Mr. Prato said. "He had a love for baseball. How many people can say they met Honus Wagner in the dugout of a Pirates game, saw Babe Ruth hit his last three home runs at Forbes Field and worked the game when Mazeroski won the World Series?"