Dawn Of A New Day For Grove City Football

By John D’Abruzzo

Grove City College’s football program has begun to think about its future.

Soon after receiving word that longtime head coach Chris Smith will retire following the upcoming 2015 season, the college quickly set up a game plan.

Former Grove City standout quarterback Andrew DiDonato has been named Smith’s successor. He will join the coaching staff in January and serve as the Smith’s offensive coordinator before taking over as head coach at the conclusion of next season.

“Since the day I graduated, I knew if I ever got the chance to return to Grove City College I would take it,” said DiDonato, who is a 2010 graduate of Grove City. “I feel very fortunate to return and work with a man I greatly respect.

“It will make for a nice transition to be able to learn from Coach Smith this upcoming year and then take over after next season.”


Andrew DiDonato will take over as head coach following 2015 season.

A native of Bridgeville, Pa., and 2006 graduate of South Fayette High School, DiDonato was a four-year starter at Grove City. He still holds all-time career passing records in yards (7,509), completions (750) and touchdowns (49).

DiDonato spent the past three years coaching at his high school alma mater. As Joe Rossi’s offensive coordinator, DiDonato helped guide the Lions to their second consecutive Pennsylvania state championship this past season. He also had a hand in developing quarterback Brett Brumbaugh into Pennsylvania’s all-time leading passer.

“I was blessed to work with and work around great people,” said DiDonato, who had coaching stints with the University of Buffalo and Peters Township High School before going to South Fayette. “Over the past two seasons I was fortunate enough to prepare for and coordinate in four championship games – two WPIAL finals and two state championship games.

“The experience of coaching in that type of environment will help me at the next level.”

Besides coaching football, DiDonato also will teach exercise science and physical education at Grove City.

“Having known Andrew DiDonato for many years as coach and colleague, he is an excellent choice to lead the next generation of Wolverine football and I’m delighted that he is joining our staff,” Smith said. “As I prepare to embark upon my final year as head coach, I’m excited about the prospects for the 2015 season and I am confident in Andrew’s experience and ability to lead our program for many years to come.”

Smith has guided the Grove City’s football program to 119 career wins during his 31 seasons. He helped the Wolverines capture Presidents’ Athletic Conference championships in 1997 and 1998.

“For more than three decades, coach Smith’s unwavering dedication to Wolverine football has been a blessing to Grove City College,” Grove City College President Paul J. McNulty said.  “Our program has been fortunate to have an excellent teacher and leader of young men in coach Smith.

“His mentorship helped to shape scholar athletes whose on-field success mirrored success in the classroom and later, in life.”


Coach Chris Smith will leave a legacy of success at Grove City.

A former Grove City player, Smith played for the Wolverines from 1968-71 and led the team in interceptions all four years. He also holds the program record with 22 career interceptions.

Smith began his coaching career at Grove City as an assistant football coach and track coach in 1979. He took over as head football coach in 1984 and also served as the college’s athletic director from 1996 to 2003. Smith was named the Division III Coach of the Year by the Metropolitan New York Football Writers Association in 1997.

“Coach Smith and I had a wonderful player-coach relationship during my time at Grove City College,” DiDonato said. “I consider it my responsibility to make him, all alumni and the Grove City community proud of the way this program grows during my tenure.”

This past season was a tough year for Smith and the Wolverines. They finished 0-10 overall after an 0-8 run in the PAC.

“During my playing days at Grove City, I experienced first hand how competitive every school is in this conference,” DiDonato said. “The schools that have joined the conference since I graduated have made the competition even stronger.

“I expect every game this upcoming season to be a challenge.”

DiDonato also believes the Wolverines will need to put in a lot of offseason work in order to field a competitive team next fall.

“A major factor for the amount of success we will experience this season will be preparation,” DiDonato said. “Developing in the weight room this winter, competing on the practice field this spring and ensuring there is no let down in either area over the summer.

“We must maximize our opportunities from now until camp starts in August.”