Friday, June 19, 2009

Memorial provides perspective


The Bob Frederick memorial service created a package of guidelines that chancellor-elect Bernadette Gray-Little would do well to unwrap and study intensely. The occasion pointed out what Kansas University has been academically and athletically, where many think KU is right now, and what it can be, again.

It’s good there’s a comprehensive recording of the tribute at the Lied Center. It’s a textbook about the kind of class and dignity we so often desire but too seldom get.

Gray-Little has a golden chance to evaluate the kinder, gentler KU we knew during Freddy’s tenure. Perhaps, by building on the Frederick legacy, she can help restore more warmth and tender outreach than KU has displayed in recent years. The university needs a re-set on public relations.

Money, athletic victories, national attention, fancy buildings, football game shifts — all may have their place. Yet there’s far more to be said for what people like Freddy brought to the university and society.

Frederick, of course, was the former KU athletic director-athlete-coach-solid citizen who died after a bicycling tragedy. Gray-Little could generate immediate support with heavy emphasis on the kind of dignity, integrity, civility, humor, loyalty — oh, there are so many qualities — that Bob embodied. The Frederick-types and the innumerable values they display and perpetuate periodically may slip through the cracks into commercialism, greed and insensitivity. Yet class will re-emerge when people, like a chancellor, force it to do so.

Freddy was a solid-gold citizen even when nobody was looking. The outpouring of respect and affection in the aftermath of his death gives us examples of how soft, reasoned, respectful answers can turn away wrath and benefit us so positively. Not always; Freddy was eased out for being “too soft.”

Yet when you assemble admirers such as Roy Williams, former chancellor Gene Budig and the hundreds of other notable, accomplished people at the Lied Center, you realize there are ways to score victories without ferocity, aloofness and cash-craziness.

Frederick attracted dedicated staff members like Richard Konzem, Doug Vance and Janelle Martin, tremendous ambassadors. Who are all those highly paid but low-profile people up there now?

Freddy didn’t light up the big cigars the way hand-slapping Prof. Harold Hill or P.T. Barnum did, so KU opted for the hot-dog foolishness of Al Bohl. He bungled one thing after another and left an NCAA mess that bottom-liner Lew Perkins cleaned up.

Then the die was cast. KU was committed to an athletic program that pursued dollars and victories, sometimes at a serious cost to its reputation. The kinds of qualities that Frederick and his compadres epitomized got brushed aside from time to time. KU’s image eroded.

The affection, loyalty and appreciation KU once had among so many people, even those who never set foot on campus, has slumped. But all is not lost.

What used to be and what we’d like to get back was capsulized at the Bob Frederick service. The right things were in proper perspective; people gave them the needed focus.

The new chancellor can help re-generate such love and affection.


KEITHMILES05 10 years, 11 months ago

Be specific please and tell us what has been lost and what has slumped. I'm curious.

rccoleon 10 years, 11 months ago

KU's reputation has been hurt over the last few years? Please tell me how? Face it Bill, it isn't 1955 anymore, athletics in this country have been a business for a significant period of time now, and you know what, KU's reputation has flourished over the last six years under Lew Perkins.

If you are going to say the university's reputation has been hurt, please give examples, instead of providing your readers a column that says absolutely nothing.

Joel Hood 10 years, 11 months ago

" a serious cost to its reputation. The kinds of qualities that Frederick and his compadres epitomized got brushed aside from time to time. KU’s image eroded.

The affection, loyalty and appreciation KU once had among so many people, even those who never set foot on campus, has slumped. But all is not lost..."

Let me rephrase...

"Back in my day, we were glad to simply be competitive with K-State! We didn't care that national attention to our athletics actually helped raise money for endowment, academics, and research! And we liked it!!” - Grumpy Old Mayer

KU athletics has changed with the times. I met Dr. Frederick on a couple occasions over the past 20 years and all the tributes are well deserved, but I don’t believe it’s appropriate to use the occasion to takes swipes at Lew Perkins and the rest the AD staff.

KUAC runs without the aid of any state funds and provides direct and indirect support to the University as a whole. Not many other state universities can claim this. Lew has ruffled a lot feathers, but perhaps some of those old-establishment feathers needed to be ruffled.

nurseiv30 10 years, 11 months ago

Bill...After reading your article, I was struck with one very strong thought. Please retire! The Athletic Department at KU has more positive national prominence and attention that at any time in the School's existence. We, as Alums have never been more proud of our Athletes or the state of the program. We all loved Dr. Fredrick, but abusing your right as a "journalist" to attack the program through this story only makes you look like a very small, misguided, and out of touch individual.

super_jayhawk 10 years, 11 months ago

Hey guys...

Before you start throwing your usual rocks at Mayer, consider that he may be predominantly talking about Al "Crushed Like a Dove" Bohl of Fresno State fame. He did even say that Perkins was left cleaning up the mess, and didn't make any accusations against Lew in this article.

I think he was also providing a tribute to Bob Frederick's example and reminding us of the values that Frederick championed and that the new Chancellor, as well as any of the higher-ups on campus ,would be well served by never losing sight of this.

Some of you people read too much into what Bill says, and even what he doesn't say. This guy was covering KU sports when your daddy was in diapers, so put your rocks back down and read his articles more than once rather than just slamming him every time he gives an opinion, OK?

Joel Hood 10 years, 11 months ago


(BTW – you win the Coolest Avatar prize for this message board.)

Please watch a replay David Ambler’s tribute to Dr. Frederick. The last minute of his speech takes direct aim at the current AD at KUAC. It is not a shot at Al Bohl. If Mayer was referring to the ethics of Mr. Crush-Me-Like-A-Dove, he would have made that point quite clear.

Typically, I am the first to defend Mayer. He and Max are the grand historians of KU Sports. Their stories of events before the Larry Brown era are wonderful and help us appreciate the long legacy of KU Athletics. But, if Mayer is going to take shots at the ethics of the current AD, he should give specifics and not pine away with generalized accusations.

elroy99 10 years, 11 months ago

I respect your opinion and have for years, but think you are mistaken. Just because an athletic department is focused and goal-oriented does not make it unfriendly or cold. Recent articles and the memorial for Dr. Frederick accurately reflect the love and respect he enjoyed in Jayhawk country, but I for one do not want to return to the one winner only (men's basketball) of the Frederick era. Football is exciting and improving, women's basketball is improving, baseball is improving, etc. Let's not step backward.

Rock_Chalk_NYC 10 years, 11 months ago

I usually enjoy your articles Mr. Mayer but I think this one is totally off course. I understand the desire to look back to some very good times in KU history during Bob's leadership years but not to the extent to ever say that KU has lost its heading. Yes, Bohl stunk. No question. Even during those years however, KU as a whole was one of the great programs and still had no major violations. Enough said on this point. My condolences to the Frederick Family.

One small point, one I even question making... Did I correctly see Roy Boy wearing a Carolina tie? If not, I'll drop it here. If I did see it correctly, what a true jacka$$ move. Just like the douchbag Dean wearing his PALE blue stinky sportcoat at the KU game honoring the '52 championship team. For gosh sake, don't you have another tie????

Finally Rock Chalk Friends, I found myself down in NC last week... had to visit UNC and Duke campuses. UNC was very nice, but the Dean Dome made me giddy! What a sterile environment. Brutal. Duke is an awesome campus. Reminded me a lot of the beauty of Mt. Oread! Wore my KU addidas polo shirt with pride all around.

Rock Chalk... off to the US Open.

djgratt59 10 years, 11 months ago

I like to win. I want KU to Win. This NICE crap is over-rated. Bill - are you a MAN or an oxygen-thief??

lance1jhawk 10 years, 11 months ago

Bill Mayer is completely out of touch. The last five paragraphs of this article are a direct shot at Big Lew and his staff. It is time for this stubborn mule be put out to pasture, or maybe a glue factory. Mayers out-dated anicdotes and stories are great if you can relate to the current generation, however Bill still thinks its 1952 and KUAC is run on a shoe-sting state budget.

Bill... Its time to retire. You can move to Arizona and please please please take Andy Rooney with you.

Brandon Snook 10 years, 11 months ago

I don't think Bill still thinks it's 1952, because if that were the case, the state would have forced him to retire long ago.

I do not want to echo most of the negative sentiment toward Bill here, but I certainly agree that this article was vague, snarky, and has left me confused and uncomfortable. There is no specific mention of events or actions that come with a "serious cost to [KU's] reputation", unless making/spending money and increasing winning percentages is bad. Dr. Fredrick was a great human being, a fine AD, a true Jayhawk and will be missed terribly by everyone he touched...but I think Lew Perkins is a fine AD as well.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.