Nineteenth-century French journalist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Kerr is credited with saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Apparently, Lycoming College has bought in.
The school has announced plans to recognize 1974 graduate and longtime football coach Steve Wiser for reaching the career milestone of 50 years coaching Warrior football by naming the football locker room in his honor. The first of three special events in this commemoration will take place Thursday evening at the college. Similar events will be held on February 15 in Doylestown and February 22 in West Chester.
During his five decades in blue & gold, the Warriors defensive coordinator serving under Frank Girardi and Mike Clark has amassed impressive credentials that have included 68 shutouts, 2x NCAA total defense leader, 3x NCAA rushing defense leader, NCAA scoring defense leader, 15 MAC titles and 13 NCAA championship appearances.
“Lycoming has provided me with great experiences filled with so many memories. God has been good to me, and I’ve been blessed. You don’t get anywhere in life without a lot of help, and I’ve had plenty. I do a lot of different things besides coaching, and I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of great people,” a grateful Wiser acknowledged.
The recognition for Wiser is part of improvements planned for the athletic complex, which includes the construction of a new apparel/concession building, expansion of the plaza between the Keiper and Girardi Stadiums, and a complete renovation of the football locker room.
Growing up in Port Matilda, Wiser had never been to Williamsport until he arrived on the Lycoming College campus.
“I liked the campus and the smallness of it. I grew up in a small town, 900 people at the time. It was a friendly town; everybody knew one another. When it was time to go to college, there was pressure from family and coaches to go to Penn State for wrestling. But I didn’t want to do it and changed my mind to come to Lycoming.
“Now, with the high school seniors I recruit, I can relate to what they are going through. I have no regrets choosing Lycoming. I’ve had a great experience here playing football, wrestling, and coaching, so things worked out for the best. The education and the friendliness are what attracted me here, and it has been a great run.
“When I graduated from Lycoming in 1974, Coach Girardi (like my second Dad, I love the guy) hired me to coach. It was probably the second decision that made my parents upset. They wanted me to come back home to teach, but Coach helped me get a teaching job at Williamsport High School, where I taught for 32 years. So here it is: 50 years have gone by, and I’ve been blessed to be a member of the Lycoming College and Williamsport community.
“When Frank retired after his tremendous career, Mike Clark took over and allowed me to continue to coach and do what I love to do. I tell people all the time, don’t get a job. Get a career. Do something you have a passion to do. I look forward to getting up in the morning, going out, and doing something I love to do. I still feel good and still can relate to the kids, which I think is very important.”
Following Girardi’s 2007 retirement as Lycoming football coach, Wiser faced a crossroads in his life that may have ended his coaching career.
“That was a scary time for me, very scary. For a week, my friend Rennie Rodarmel hired me at his insurance agency. One morning, I was getting ready to go to Rennie’s, and I was slamming the doors and everything, and Pam [Steve’s wife] asked what was wrong. I told her I’m getting out of bed ready to go do something I don’t enjoy doing.
“I love working with young people. I love coaching. I like all the challenges that go with it. Seeing kids improve, get better, and reach their goals excites me. So, after a week, I knew it wasn’t for me. Mike was great and hired me to be a part of the staff he was building.”
Looking back on his 50-year career, Wiser was asked how he’d like people to remember him.
“Oh wow. That I cared. I was loyal. The players and people around me were important. Seeing other people succeed. I can best explain it by saying that at Christmastime, I’d rather give than receive. That’s been my philosophy with coaching. I like to see the players succeed and become confident. What Frank started building in the 70s is something I’ve tried to help build upon and stay connected. I’d want people to say I’m a caring person, a people person, and one that tried to help others succeed.”
Getting out of bed each morning, Wiser’s assignment is to stay current.
“The biggest thing that has changed over my coaching career has been technology. As I’ve grown older, my biggest concern has been maintaining the ability to connect with young people. I have tried to stay young at heart all these years, and the players can really help you do that.
“I don’t believe kids have changed. One thing I’ve noticed that’s a bit different is sometimes the young people are not as confident. Even though a kid may be a good football player, getting them to buy in and believe in themselves can be a challenge. I try to get them to understand we, our coaching staff, care about them. Kids’ development can be enhanced if they know they are in a program where people care about them, not just as a football player, but as a person, a student, and a graduate.
“I have always told the kids I recruit there are two things that are important towards their success. One is discipline; the other is learning how to communicate. W’s will take care of themselves on Saturdays. To me, the big wins are kids graduating, doing well, and being successful.”