Big 12: Dean Smith

Frederick remembered as strong leader, gentleman

June, 15, 2009
6/15/09
2:15
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Memorial services for former Kansas athletic director Bob Frederick will be held Wednesday at the Lied Center on the campus that he loved.

Frederick died Friday from injuries that he sustained the previous day in a bicycle accident when he was riding through the streets of Lawrence.

Frederick was involved with Kansas athletics for the better part of 40 years. He played basketball there as a walk-on. He married his wife on a chapel on the campus. He worked as an assistant basketball coach and later was involved in administration there for much of his professional career.

To give you an idea of how special Lawrence was for Frederick and his family, he retreated from a fast-track career as an assistant basketball coach at places like BYU and Stanford to return home and begin work as head high school basketball coach at Lawrence High School.

That move eventually led to his return to Kansas. I could think of no place where he was happier.   

I still remember working with Frederick when he was the chairman of the men's basketball committee. It was back in the day when San Antonio was first trying to position itself as a national contender for  NCAA events. Obviously, this story was of huge interest in the city. I called Frederick a bunch of times, but he was always gracious and patient in his dealings with me.

Later, he was a finalist for the Big 12 commissioner when Steve Hatchell was hired as the conference's first commissioner. I wonder how the conference would have turned out if Frederick has earned the job.

I can recall his two most celebrated hires at Kansas. He went against the norm, using a strong recommendation from his mentor Dean Smith, to hire little-known Roy Williams as his basketball coach. His qualities as a gentleman away from coaching were what attracted Frederick to hiring him.

It turned out to be his most successful hire. 

Later, he used a similar strategy when he hired Terry Allen as his football coach. Allen was the winningest coach in the history of the Gateway Conference when he arrived at Kansas. But Frederick was attracted by his qualities as a gentleman away from coaching.

That hire turned out to be Frederick's most unpopular, a decision that helped lead to Frederick's undoing at Kansas after Allen struggled.

But through it all, Frederick never changed.

He was a moral man who once canceled a schedule with Notre Dame when he was Kansas' athletic director because the Fighting Irish had abandoned their deal with the rest of their college football brethren to strike their own television deal with NBC.

To those who knew Frederick best, that decision didn't surprise him. He was a man of his convictions.

The athletic landscape around the Big 12 changed a little when Frederick left his job in 2001.

His alma mater has developed into an emerging football power in the last several years with back-to-back bowl trips in the last two seasons.

They could be poised for even more in 2009.

But it won't be the same without him being around to revel in his alma mater's success.

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