April 28, 2009
SMU assistant coach and coaching legend Frank Gansz passed away on April 27, 2009. He was 70. Gansz is survived by his wife, Barbara, and two children, Frank Jr., an assistant coach at UCLA, and Jennifer. Gansz Sr. also coached under Terry Donahue in 1976 and 1977.
"I am deeply saddened by the loss of my good friend," said SMU Head Coach June Jones. "Frank has been a second father to me for the past 30 years and he has touched the lives of many, both at SMU and throughout the National Football League. I was lucky to have known Frank, and not only was he a wonderful person, but he was a father to everyone he has ever coached. He will live on with us. My team will miss him as a coach and mentor, but most of all, I will miss him as my best friend."
Considered perhaps the top special teams coach in the history of the NFL, Frank Gansz was starting his second season on the Hilltop. Gansz was a veteran of 38 seasons of coaching - 24 in the NFL and 14 in the collegiate ranks.
"While we were only blessed with Frank's presence here on the Hilltop for 14 months, SMU is a better place because of his time here," said SMU Director of Athletics Steve Orsini. "We will miss him."
Prior to coming to SMU in 2008, Gansz was with the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he was special teams coordinator in 2000 and 2001. Prior to his time with the Jags, he served as the special teams coach of the St. Louis Rams for three seasons, helping the team to its victory in Super Bowl XXXIV.
In 1986, Gansz's first year as the assistant head coach/special teams for Kansas City, the Chiefs blocked or deflected an NFL-record 10 kicks and scored five touchdowns. Because of his success with the special teams, Gansz was promoted to head coach of the Chiefs, a role he served from 1987 to 1988.
He left the Chiefs to become the special teams coach of the Detroit Lions from 1989 to 1993, a period in which Mel Gray developed into the NFL's all-time leader in combined kick return yardage. In 1989, Gansz was named NFL Special Teams Coach of the Year by his peers. Gansz then spent three years as the assistant head coach/special teams for the Atlanta Falcons from 1994 to 1996.
Gansz's NFL career began in 1978 as special teams coach for the San Francisco 49ers. He coached special teams and tight ends for Cincinnati (1979-80), Kansas City (1981-82) and Philadelphia (1983-85).
After serving as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force for nearly seven years, Gansz began his coaching career at the Air Force Academy (1964-66). He also had coaching stints at Colgate (1968), Navy (1969-72), Oklahoma State (1973, 1975), Army (1974) and UCLA (1976-77).
Born November 22, 1938, in Altoona, Pa., Gansz attended Taylor-Allerdice High in Pittsburgh, and was inducted into the Western Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. He played center and linebacker for the Naval Academy from 1957 to 1959 and graduated in 1960.
Funeral arrangements are pending.