Born: March 4, 1940 – St. Louis, MO
Died: June 12, 2009 – Kansas City, KS
Kirkwood H.S., 1958
University of Kansas, 1962
Kansas athletic director, 1987-2001
It would be hard-pressed to find a man who was more respected in college athletics than Bob Frederick, a quiet, unassuming man who treated others as equals despite his high-profile and powerful position.
Former University of Kansas basketball coach Roy Williams said it best in 2009 following the tragic death of Frederick from a cycling accident: "As fine a man as could possibly be, that was Bob Frederick.”
Frederick was both a player and a coach, but it was in the area of athletic administration where he made his mark. He was the athletic director at Kansas from 1987-2001 and oversaw 32 conference championships won by the Jayhawks, as well as 41 Academic All-American. He saw his teams win two Aloha Bowls in football, reach the Final Four three times in men’s basketball, including a national title in 1988, as well as appearances in the College World Series in both baseball and softball.
Frederick served on the NCAA basketball tournament’s selection committee from 1992-96, was the chairman of that powerful committee in 1995 and ’96, and helped form the Big 12 Conference in the mid-1990s.
But, it was Frederick’s controversial decision in 1988 – well, maybe not controversial to Frederick - that still makes headlines.
Frederick received heavy criticism for hiring Williams, an obscure assistant at North Carolina, as the Kansas basketball coach that year. The Jayhawks had just won the NCAA Tournament and Frederick was looking to replace Larry Brown. Williams, to say the least, was not the first choice of KU basketball fans, but he was Frederick’s.
Frederick got the right man. Kansas became the winningest program in the decade of the 1990s and Williams was on his way for induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
"I told him many times, 'Bob, that was the biggest gamble I can remember any athletic director ever taking,’ ” said Williams during a 2009 interview. "I wasn't even the consensus choice in my own household, probably, much less for the Kansas people.
"I know it changed my life. I don't know where I would be right now, but I know I would not have experienced the great things that I've experienced if it hadn't been for Bob Frederick and his resolve."
Frederick played basketball at KU in 1960-61 and served as the head basketball coach at Russell High School (1966-70); Coffeyville Junior College (1970-71) and Lawrence High School (1977-81) and was an assistant coach at Olympia Fields, Ill., (1964-66); Kansas (1971-72), Brigham Young (1972-75) and Stanford (1975-77). He was executive director of the Williams Educational Fund at KU from 1981-85.
After resigning as the KU athletic director in 2001, Frederick was an assistant professor and lecturer in sports management at KU.
How respected was Frederick nationally? The Senior Scholar Athlete Award at KU is named in his honor and the NCAA created the NCAA Bob Frederick Sportsmanship Award in 2010, which annually honors an NCAA administrator who shows the highest respect for intercollegiate athletics.