Archive for Friday, April 27, 2001

Friday Woodling column

April 27, 2001


Things change.

At the time I sat down with Frederick rumors had been floating around he would step down after 14 years in charge of KU's athletics department and take an administrative post in the chancellor's office.

That was a new one on him, Frederick said.

Now we know the position was not an administrative post in the chancellor's office. It was a job as a professor in the KU school of education.

Frederick isn't departing with the proverbial golden parachute, but he has certainly landed on a silver pillow.

Frederick is by no means ready to retire. He's 61 years old, is building a new house in the country and still has two sons who haven't been to college and, as everyone knows, universities don't offer discounts or rebates on tuition.

Still, surrendering a job that pays $166,303 a year can't be easy. I don't know what he'll be making as a KU professor, but surely it won't be even half that much.

What? Frederick worry?

"My financial adviser says I'll be all right," he said.

In case you're wondering, his financial adviser is NOT his wife, Margey, although it's no secret he has solicited her opinions on other matters.

For example, I don't know who had the biggest impact on his decision to retain Terry Allen as the Jayhawks' head football coach. Perhaps it was Frederick's decision and his alone. It was a gutsy one, too, because it only created a greater schism between his office and the people who contribute more than $4 million a year to the Williams Fund.

If Frederick had been more pragmatic, he would have pulled the rip cord on Allen. But Frederick believes good people will eventually do a good job if steered in the right direction. So Frederick told Allen to make some changes, mostly in his staff, and Allen complied. He told his football coach to run a tighter ship, and Allen saluted.

Alums, boosters and contributors couldn't believe it. Frederick countered that change wasn't the answer, noting Iowa State stuck with Dan McCarney and McCarney finally came through after five losing seasons.

I'm convinced there was another, stronger reason why Frederick didn't change football coaches. He couldn't afford to. Paying off an old staff and hiring a new staff was an expense the athletics department, committed to paying off the bonds on the renovation of Memorial Stadium, could not assume.

Those who thought Frederick should have dumped Allen considered Frederick's status-quo stance a sign of weakness. They complained he didn't want to fire a man he had hired. Those complainants based their grousing on the fact no KU football coach has ever been fired by the athletics director who hired him.

Call him weak if you want, but Frederick's commitment to women's athletics when women's athletics wasn't cool, and his demand that student-athletes be treated with dignity and respect will be his legacy.

Early on, Frederick hired some coaches who did not treat student-athletes with dignity and respect. Some he later fired. Others moved on. But when it came time to replace them, Frederick always hired coaches who were nice people first and winners second.

It's certainly no coincidence the NCAA committee Frederick chaired in his last season as Kansas AD was the Committee on Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct.

Who will replace Frederick? If I had to guess, I'd say it will be someone most people around here have never heard of. Plenty of in-house people are qualified -- John Hadl and Richard Konzem come to mind -- but Kansas University athletics may be in need of someone with a different perspective.

Kansas needs someone with Bob Frederick's values, but with more of a penchant for schmoozing the big cigars. Kansas needs someone who understands the Jayhawks absolutely, positively must put more emphasis on football.

The landscape is littered with former Kansas University athletics directors who tripped on football. In the final analysis, Frederick was no different.

Back in 1978, when Kansas AD Clyde Walker resigned rather than fire the football coach (Bud Moore) he had hired, Walker, when asked why he was returning to his native North Carolina, replied: "Because I might live longer this way."

When you get right down to it, Frederick's reason for leaving is basically the same.

-- Sports editor Chuck Woodling can be reached at 832-7147.

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