Bob Frederick began his sixth year as Kansas athletic director this week.
That's significant because the KU athletic department is probably in the best shape financially, academically and athletically as it's ever been, and because Frederick is 52 years old and this is the first time he's ever had the same job for longer than five years.
Bob Frederick has brought stability to the KU athletic department, and Kansas athletics has brought stability to Bob Frederick's life.
"Before I took this job," Frederick told me the other day, "there was a time in my life when I was thinking about what my next job would be. Now I don't think about that."
THAT GYPSY in Frederick's soul went with the territory when he chose basketball coaching as a career path. First, he was a high school head coach, then a junior college head coach and eventually a major college assistant coach.
"I was trying to become a major college head coach, and then I decided maybe that's not what I wanted to do," Frederick said.
Frederick saw handwriting on the wall, and the letters were crooked.
"I was concerned about cheating," he said. "I didn't want to be put in a position where I had to do that. . .You were recruiting against so many people who were."
In the late 70s, Frederick left his job as an assistant coach at Stanford, admittedly discouraged about college athletics but not willing to buy a ticket to another world.
"I became convinced I needed to try to change it, not run away from it," he explained.
SO FREDERICK returned to KU to work on a doctorate in educational administration. To put bread on the table Frederick and his wife Margey have four sons he taught chemistry and coached boys basketball at Lawrence High.
Later he became head of the KU athletic department's Williams Fund, then athletic director at Illinois State for two years before returning to Mount Oread in June of 1987.
Today, he says, his faith in college athletics has been restored.
"I think a lot of institutions are hiring people who are operating programs honestly," he says. "I think there's hope."
One faction didn't hold out much hope for KU athletics when Frederick was hired to head the program. At the time, Monte Johnson, Frederick's predecessor and former boss, second-guessed chancellor Gene Budig's choice, saying: "I want my friends to know I had no input into the decision made today."
SINCE THEN, Frederick has hired Glen Mason, who has slowly but surely shifted a wobbly football program onto solid ground, and Roy Williams, who has resurrected the men's basketball program from an insidious probation, and boldly pressed on with the costliest capital improvement project the $7.9 million Parrott expansion in KU athletic department history.
Today that early skepticism about Frederick has a hollow ring.
"I never really worried about that," he said. "It's like the first job I got at Russell High. Somebody told me I wasn't the first choice there, and I said all I wanted was an opportunity."
Frederick has had his share of opportunities over the years, and he'll surely have more. It would take an offer on a conference or national level to pique his interest, however.
"I have no interest in being athletic director at any other place," he said. "I want to be here as long as I can serve the university, and the university wants me."
MEANWHILE, FREDERICK is as entrenched as he's ever been in a job, he's active in community service and he even participates goodness knows why in triathlons.
Without a doubt, though, Frederick's favorite extra-curricular activity as a member of the NCAA Div. I basketball committee.
"That's a real honor and thrill for me," he said, "because only two men from Kansas had ever been on the committee before Phog Allen and Dutch Lonborg."
Look around the Big Eight. Kansas State and Oklahoma State are swimming in red ink, Nebraska is engaged in a bitter power struggle and Missouri is groping for Devine intervention.
While a tornado of ills has threatened college athletics, Frederick has never let Kansas lose sight of the storm shelter door.