Bob Frederick, who has overseen some of the Jayhawks' highest highs and lowest lows for the past 14 years, on Thursday announced his resignation, effective June 30, as athletics director. Frederick will teach full time in KU's School of Education.
Under the direction of Frederick, 61, Kansas won 32 conference championships and a national title, and produced 41 academic All-Americans. But increased scrutiny from such sources as the Internet and talk radio and the athletics department's financial troubles -- which this year resulted in the elimination of two men's varsity sports -- convinced Frederick it was time to step down.
"There were a number of times when I'd come home and tell my wife, 'I don't know if I have the strength to continue,'" Frederick said. "But I always rallied the next day."
Frederick made his announcement at Hadl Auditorium, which was packed with media representatives, KU coaches and support staff.
Chancellor Robert Hemenway also attended and wanted to make it clear that it was Frederick's choice to move on.
"This wasn't a firing," Hemenway said. "This wasn't a buyout. This wasn't a request for resignation."
But Frederick and Hemenway both conceded that pressure on Frederick had intensified lately. Though he was instrumental in the hiring of basketball coach Roy Williams and the drive to keep Williams at KU last summer when Williams flirted with returning to North Carolina, Frederick has taken hits lately for the Jayhawks' continued football futility and financial straits.
Terry Allen, who was hired by Frederick in 1996, is the first KU football coach to have four losing seasons and be allowed to return for a fifth. Allen shouldered some of the responsibility for Frederick's decision.
"There are a lot of reasons we want to be successful, and one of them is that man right there," Allen said, pointing to Frederick. "It's disappointing. There's a lot of sadness. Bob Frederick is a great person and a great man. There are a lot of people who wish they could have done more to take the pressure off him."
Frederick dismissed such talk.
"This is a decision I made," he said. "I thought this was best for me at this time. I don't really think it's anybody's fault. " I just thought the timing was right for me to see this expanded role in teaching. "
"There wasn't a final straw. I just got worn down."
Frederick said college athletics' changing face hastened his departure. He said the national average for an AD's tenure was 4.3 years.
"(It used to be), you could go along and if you had good students and people representing the university well and coaches representing the university well, you could go along and maybe you didn't win championships," Frederick said. "Now, everybody wants instant gratification. Things have changed."
The financial landscape is primary among them. Rapidly escalating scholarship costs, the hurdles of complying with Title IX-mandated gender equity and the arms race for bigger and better facilities -- "craziness," Frederick calls it -- have athletics departments nationwide scrambling for answers.
With a $23 million annual budget, KU ranks solidly in the middle of the Big 12. Texas has the league's biggest budget at $45 million, while Baylor is the low end at $18 million.
Even big-budget schools like Nebraska have fallen on harder times. NU sliced men's swimming not long after Kansas did.
"I worry about the financial aspects of trying to do everything we want to do," Frederick said. "Everybody has to face up to it. " My guess is, sometime in the next five to eight years, the model of college athletics will have to change."
Frederick then was asked if he'd caution one of his four sons not to aspire to become an AD.
"It would depend on where he wanted to be," Frederick said. "If he wanted to be an athletics director at Dartmouth, for example, I'd say, 'Go for it.' If he wanted to be athletics director at any one of about 15 schools -- Tennessee, Texas, Ohio State -- where money isn't such an issue, I'd go for that.
"(Otherwise), he'd better be prepared to have a tough row to hoe."
For 14 years -- the second longest tenure of any Kansas AD behind F.C. "Phog" Allen's 19 years -- Frederick hoed that row.
In that span, Kansas was put on NCAA probation once -- for men's basketball recruiting violations in 1988.
Frederick oversaw more than $50 million in facilities upgrades in the past 10 years, including a $35 million renovation of Memorial Stadium and Allen Fieldhouse.
On Frederick's watch, KU won the 1988 NCAA men's basketball championship and, in 1992-93, became the first school ever to win a football bowl game, reach the men's basketball Final Four and advance to the baseball College World Series in the same school year.
"I personally think Bob has not gotten the credit he deserves," said Williams, who was hired by KU as a relatively unknown assistant at North Carolina. "I checked and came up with these figures: During his 14 years as AD, the winning percentage of the men's basketball team was the highest of all the ADs ever at KU. The winning percentage of the football team was the fifth best out of 12 athletic directors. If you combine the two major revenue-producing sports at KU, his winning percentage in those sports is the best of all the 12. Our department is losing a good man."
Since the '92-'93 pinnacle, however, KU has been to just one bowl game (in 1995), hasn't returned to the Final Four and has made just one NCAA baseball tournament appearance -- during which it went 1-2, falling well short of the CWS.
Off the field, however, the Jayhawks under Frederick can boast 41 academic All-Americans. Just five colleges in the country can claim more in the past 14 years.
"I'm very proud of what we've accomplished during the past 14 years, but I'm even prouder of the way we did it," Frederick said. "We operated our program honestly, with quality coaches who recruited academically capable student-athletes, with strong support from a competent and caring staff."
Hemenway said a search committee would be formed to find Frederick's replacement by July 1.
"The first criterion is to find someone that has the same values and integrity as Bob Frederick," Hemenway said. "The kind of person you look for is someone that does absolutely everything well and has a reputation for success."
Hemenway said no candidates had been contacted.
-- Associate sports editor Andrew Hartsock can be reached at 832-7216.