New Berlin - The coach who helped two decades of Eisenhower football players win on the field and off will be honored with a football field named after him.
The New Berlin Eisenhower Football Booster Club had asked the New Berlin School District to so honor the late Frank Granger, who led the Eisenhower football from 1969 to 1990 to a record of 84-33 and Eisenhower's first conference championship, in 1973.
Last week, the School Board concurred, declaring that Eisenhower's field near Sunnyslope Road be called Frank T. Granger Memorial Field.
During his coaching career at Eisenhower, he had 15 winning seasons, nine WIAA playoff appearances and two division two runner-up finishes. Under his leadership, Eisenhower won five consecutive conference titles from 1985 to 1989.
Everyone who knew Granger said that the key to his football success, besides knowing the game inside and out, was his positive approach on the field, his widow, Jean Granger, noted.
"There was no yelling at the kids, no berating. Everything was all positive," she said.
The 'right way'
But it wasn't wins that drove him or the appreciation of others - it was concern for every one of his kids. So say those who knew him.
"I played for him for three seasons," said Matt Pierce. "He always put the players before wins."
Even though there were 50 or 60 kids on the team, Granger created a connection with each one, Pierce said.
Matt's mother, Anne Pierce, whose three sons all played for Granger, agreed.
"He was there for every kid, not just the stars," she said, noting that Granger tutored players who needed extra help and made sure every kid felt valued.
Jean Granger remembered how her husband helped one player in particular who had trouble reading the playbook.
After the rest of the team hit the showers, Frank took the young man onto the field and walked him through every play, showing him exactly where he needed to go. Because of that extra care, the youngster either made all-conference or was a runner-up, she said.
"He loved to see the kids blossom and learn and turn into men," she said.
Granger helped them do that by emphasizing that you always play the right way and if you play your hardest and still get beat, you take the loss and move on, Matt Pierce said. Those lessons stayed with his young players.
"You do the right thing, play the right way, collaborate as a team and come together as a team - all those principles apply in the business world as well," Pierce said.
A touching honor
Jean Granger said she was touched by all the former players who came to tell her how much Frank Granger, who died at Thanksgiving last year at age 81, still meant to them.
One in particular said that he is the man he is today because of the coach, she said.
So many donations came into the school athletic fund in Granger's memory that it was thought appropriate to name the field after him.
"It's an absolute honor to remember him in this way," School Board President David Maxey said last week, when the board approved the field's renaming.
"I'm overwhelmed," said Jean Granger. "I feel he would be smiling. … Coaching was an absolute passion for him."
Granger has been recognized beyond the borders of New Berlin, as well, along the way.
He was named Alumni Coach of the Year in 1986 by the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Two years later, he was chosen as one of two head coaches in the Shrine All-Star football game, in the top players in the southern half of the state play the top players in the northern half in an annual challenge for charity.
In 2003, Granger was inducted into the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Because additional money is needed to create a "Frank T. Granger Memorial Field" sign, Matt Pierce is spearheading a fund drive. If there is enough left over, funds could also be used for a plaque with his picture or a bust of Granger to be displayed at the entrance, he said.
Pierce is setting up a website - frankgranger.com - to accept donations.
AT A GLANCE
WHAT: ceremony dedicating the Eisenhower football field to winning coach Frank Granger
WHEN: halftime of the Aug. 24 football game
WHERE: Eisenhower football field, 4333 S. Sunnyslope Road
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