Legendary Quaker football coach dies at 84
July 28, 1994, 5:00 am·
Penn football lost one of its greatest treasures Thursday when former coach George Munger died of heart failure at the age of 84. Munger, the Red and Blue's all-time winningest coach, compiled an 82-42-10 record against national powerhouses like Army, Navy, Notre Dame, and Michigan in his 16 years at Penn's helm. After a storied high school football and track career at Episcopal Academy here in Philadelphia, Munger attended the University, where he played as a halfback and won the decathlon at the Penn Relays in his junior year. In 1938, at the tender age of 28, Munger returned to his alma mater to become the youngest gridiron coach in Quaker history. "I'm much too young to be the head coach at Pennsylvania," the always humble Munger said to then-University President Thomas Gates. Munger's youthful enthusiasm would serve the University and its athletes well. He led the Quakers to an undefeated season in 1947 (7-0-1) and three national top-10 finishes during his tenure. Throughout the Munger era, crowds approaching 75,000 packed into historic Franklin Field to see the 16 first-team all-Americans who performed for the Red and Blue. Included in this elite group were Hall of Famers Chuck Bednarik, George Savitsky, Tony Minisi and Reds Bagnell. Munger himself was elected to the National Football Hall of Fame on January 11, 1976. The success that Munger brought to the University helped the Quakers lead the nation in attendance between 1938 and 1942 with 1.78 million fans. The Munger era represented the heyday of Quaker football -- and his resignation signaled its demise. Munger announced his departure from Penn in 1952, after the University agreed to join the newly formed Ivy League. He knew the days of murderous schedules, national recognition and sellout crowds were numbered. However, Munger stayed on to coach one more season in 1953 until his replacement was named. That final campaign turned out to be his only losing one as a Quaker coach. Despite this unglorious end to a brilliant career, Munger remained involved with Penn athletics. He worked as the director of recreation for several years before being named to President John F. Kennedy's Council for Physical Fitness. Munger was an active alumnus and supporter of Quaker football until his death. His greatest legacy was probably left within the athletes that he coached. Many of Munger's players feel that their coach had a significant impact on their lives, even after they left Penn. "[Munger] taught me a secret -- the secret of how to approach life," Bednarik told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "He was a jovial man who would always laugh and act young. When I saw him a few years ago, it was like he had never changed, like he was in his '40s." In honor of the legendary coach, the George Munger Training Complex in Franklin Field was dedicated on September 28, 1985. In addition, the Munger Award is presented to the Quakers' most valuable player each season. Munger is survived by his wife Viola; daughter Carol Ober; his brother Peter; sisters Margaret Madsen and Katherine Steele, and four grandchildren. Funeral services for Munger, who was cremated, were held earlier this week. A memorial service will be held early in the fall. The family has requested that donations be made to the Greville L. Munger Scholarship Fund at Penn in lieu of flowers.