Tom Frericks

By Logan Symons

Tom Frericks (1932-1992) was the athletic director at the University of Dayton from 1964-1991 and was an important figure in the NCAA at a time when their influence was increasing. Frericks played baseball and basketball at the University of Dayton from 1950-1953, and eventually returned to become Athletic Director in 1964. The University of Dayton basketball teams had great successes during the late 1960s, including multiple NCAA tournament runs. Frericks exploited this success to build the University of Dayton Arena. Frericks also served as Vice President of the university from 1972 to 1980, where he helped raise enrollment during a decline. In addition to serving the University of Dayton, Frericks also worked in executive positions in the NCAA in the 1980s and 1990s. His most successful accomplishment there was negotiating the first billion-dollar TV contract with CBS. In these various capacities, Frericks played a significant role in the rise of the modern business formula of college athletics. Frericks died of cancer in 1992 at the age of 60.

“Portrait of Tom Frericks”  University of Dayton Archives.

 Early Life

Tom Frericks was born on March 17, 1932 in Minster, Ohio.[1] His grandparents emigrated to Minster from Germany in the late 1800s.[2] Frericks was born at the outset of the Great Depression. The oldest of three children, Frericks delivered newspapers and worked summers at a local restaurant from a young age.[3] His father never finished high school, and became a bank cashier at Minster State Bank.[4] His father wanted Tom to attend college and join the bank.[5] Tom had other plans. A talented baseball and basketball player, he planned to go to school and play basketball at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. Ultimately, he decided against it, as his father wanted him to stay close to home.[6] Instead, he decided to attend the University of Dayton only about 50 miles from Minster.[7] He received a basketball scholarship from coach Tom Blackburn, the first full time coach at the University of Dayton, who had just begun to build the University of Dayton’s program into a national basketball program. He saw Frericks play when he came to Minster to recruit Bob Busse. Frerick’s decision to attend the University of Dayton would prove to be fundamental to his future career and legacy.

“Tom Frericks in Baseball Uniform” 1953 Daytonian. University of Dayton Archives.

 College and Participation in Dayton Sports

By the time Frericks entered college in 1949, America was changing. World War II had recently ended, leading to a surge in college admissions from the GI Bill. Additionally, a growing leisure and consumer culture emerged following the hard times of the Depression and the war. Tom Frericks began studying at the University of Dayton in the 1949-1950 academic year. He majored in physical education and minored in history, English, and science.[8] He played on the freshman basketball team, which amassed a 14-4 record for the season.[9] Frericks was the leading scorer for the team. The next year, Frericks became a member of the varsity basketball team, but lower back problems sidelined him for most of the season.[10] During this season, the Flyers had a 24-4 record that earned them a bid to the NIT tournament, a national basketball tournament held yearly in New York at the time.[11] The Flyers beat Lawrence Tech and LaSalle before losing in the finals to Brigham Young.[12] In the offseason, Frericks played baseball for the University team.[13] The team, coached by John Marshall, finished with a 7-11 record for the season. [14].

By the next season, Frericks’ back pain had become a chronic problem limiting his ability to play. Coach Tom Blackburn decided to make him a manager for the season. He traveled with the team and was still an integral part of its success. This 1951-52 team had another winning season, beating the previously 25-0 LaSalle in a regular season game before ultimately being bested by them in the NIT tournament.[15]

In his senior year, the 1952-53 season, Frericks’ back problems eased enough for him to play again. He was officially put back on the team’s roster and started a few games late in the season.[16] The Flyers ended the season with a disappointing 16-13 record and did not attend a post-season tournament.[17] Frericks also played baseball in the spring, under coach Andy Nadeau.[18] They ended the baseball season with a 9-9 record. Frericks graduated in 1953 with a degree in physical education

Right: Frerick in his first year as a Flyer. Frerick Family Collection. Immediately Below: page from an article on Frericks in the UD vs. Xavier game programme February 6, 1963, just before he was hired to be the Unviersities new AD. Below Bottom: picutre of Frerick and his wife on their wedding day. All from the Frerick Family Collection.

Chaminade Julienne and Early Post-College Career

Shortly after graduation, Frericks took a job as a timekeeper at Moraine Products and pitched for Moraine’s class A baseball team.[19] In June 1953, Frericks was hired at Chaminade Julienne high school to be their head basketball coach; he owed his new job to the recommendation of Tom Blackburn.[20] At Chaminade Julienne, Frericks also coached baseball and golf in addition to teaching five classes.[21] For all of this work, he earned $3,900 a year, about $36,500 a year in today’s money.[22]

Frerick’s basketball teams at Chaminade Julienne achieved great overall success. In his ten years of coaching he never had a losing season and his overall record was 166-54.[23] His later teams were the most accomplished. The 1958-59 team won the Dayton AA District Championships by beating the Roosevelt High of the School City League.[24] His last three teams all went to the Cincinnati Regional Final.[25] On August 19,1963, Tom Frericks resigned from Chaminade Julienne after ten years of teaching and coaching. [26] Frericks new family and low pay were among his reasons for resigning. Additionally, he cited his temper, which he could not control when he lost games. In a later interview Frericks said about his time coaching, “It was always difficult for me to handle losing. I verbally abused the players. I brought the losses home with me. I just kept thinking, ‘All of this for a game?’ It didn’t make sense.”[27] Frericks was dedicated, and sometimes this commitment made things difficult for him.After resigning, Frericks took a job as the general manager of the Lammer Barrel Corporation.[28]

Frericks had eight children, five of whom were boys.[29] As a busy man, he was not often home to spend time with his wife and kids, but he was always there when he was needed.[30] Frericks found ways to incorporate them into his work at Chaminade such as taking his kids to see football and basketball games.[31] Despite his lack of presence, Frericks did want to provide for his family, and insufficient pay was a major reason for the job resignation.

Beginning University of Dayton Career

On April 14, 1964, Frericks was offered a job at the University of Dayton, to replace Harry Baujan as the University’s Athletic Director.[32] Frerick’s connection with the University and a good reputation from his coaching days at Chaminade made him a favorite candidate for the job. The position was more stable and better paying than his previous job, which was a big part of the reason he chose to accept it. Frericks accepted the position and began later that year. He quickly earned a reputation as a hard worker.

Frericks already saw a need for a bigger basketball arena. The basketball program was increasingly growing and becoming recognized on a national level. It became difficult to get good teams to play at the Fieldhouse, as many were building bigger arenas.[33] While he knew he could not accomplish this goal right away, he devised a plan to move seats in the Fieldhouse, adding 80 extra seats.[34] During his first year as athletic director he began the major undertaking of building a basketball arena to replace the Fieldhouse.

Right: Frerick giving an address not long after become AD. Also shown in the image are Father Roescch and Coach Don Donoher.

Left: Photo of Frericks breaking ground on the arena. University of Dayton Archives.

In an interview, Frericks said about this plan,

I really started pursuing the arena idea after my first year as athletic director when I identified the ticket problem that existed. Students had to start lining up the night before if they wanted a ticket to a game. We had trouble getting some teams to play us in the Fieldhouse anymore. Then the success of our coach, Don Donoher, and his teams in the NCAA tournament-all this multiplied the problem that was there. We hoped to solve it in a positive way-get a new building so more people could see the games.[35]

The success of the 1966-67-basketball season gave Frericks the ultimate push he needed for the arena. The team, headed by coach Don Donoher, had a successful season that led to a spot in the NCAA tournament. The Flyers made it to the final round of the tournament where they lost to the number one seeded UCLA. This tournament gave the University of Dayton’s basketball program national attention, which allowed Frericks to push forward with his arena plan. The success of this team was instrumental in the ultimate approval of the arena plans by the university.

Frericks knew this would be a difficult task. His primary concern was funding, as private, religious schools did not receive state money.[36] Frericks first approached the mayor of Dayton, Dave Hall, who was interested in the plan but thought that the arena would need to wait.[37] There was also controversy with the city over the location of the arena. While the city wanted a multipurpose complex in the center of Dayton, Tom Frericks wanted a basketball arena.[38] Ultimately these differences forced Frericks to look for other avenues to build the arena.

Frericks began to devise his own ideas for raising the needed money. He conceived the Arena Associate plan, the first seat-licensing plan ever.[39] This plan allowed one to pay $1000 for two people, which gave access to season tickets for a specific set of seats in the arena, special parking, and a special lounge that would hold social events and meals before and after games. The seats would have name placards for each arena associate, marking it as their own.[40] This program generated about 1/5 of the money needed to build the arena, but more was needed.

Frerick giving an interview on the day the university broke ground on the arena. Frerick Family Collection.

Eventually, Frericks raised this money when Ohio Governor Rhodes passed a bill meant specifically to give funding to private schools.[41] Frericks had connections to Governor Rhodes via the Bogie Busters, a yearly golf tournament held in Dayton. Cy Lauder, a local industrialist and political supporter of the Republican Party, started the Bogie Busters. The golf tournament brought together the some of the days celebrities along with many notable Republican leaders. The tournament facilitated networking between prominent locals and national leaders. Through these connections, Frericks met Rhodes positioned the University of Dayton to receive second ever grant from the bill, which was used to build the arena.

The arena project was one of Frerick’s greatest accomplishments in athletics at the University of Dayton, and it cemented his reputation. As one coworker said,

He worked too long. For years, he never took a vacation. I mean, never. The first ten years I knew him, I don’t think he never missed a day at the University. When he gets going on a project, it’s awesome to watch.[42]

This attitude helped Frericks accomplish many other goals, both as athletic director at UD and in other areas such as the NCAA and the administrative side of the University.

Left: Frericks receiving the honorary red coat at the Bogie Busters. Frerick Family Collection.

The time consuming effort to build the arena posed a challenge for Frericks and his family. Frericks took family vacations during this time in which they visited different arenas.[43] He also became close family friends with the Donohers, the head basketball coach of the time.[44] Additionally, Frericks oldest son worked with Frericks at the arena for his first job.[45] By finding ways to combine work and family, Frericks was able to stay dedicated to his job while also providing for his children.

Images from feature story on Frericks in Dayton’s The Magazine, September 8, 1982. Frerick Family Collection.

Later Career at the University of Dayton

Although Frericks biggest accomplishment as Athletic director was building the University of Dayton Arena, he had many other great achievements in his 28-year tenure. One of these was orchestrating of the football team’s move from division I to division III in 1977.[46] After many years of great success in division I, the football team was in decline by the mid-1970s because of rising cost of maintaining. As a small college, it was logical to move down a division as bigger schools had more funding and better recruitment opportunities. Frericks decided to focus more efforts on the basketball team. The football team experienced great success in division III, making it to the national division III finals three times in the 1980s.[47]After the arena construction, the basketball teams continued to experience great success. They had several post-season runs throughout the late 1960s until the early 1990s when Frericks retired.

In 1972, Frericks began take on a wider role at the University of Dayton by serving as the executive director of the university.[49] This was a more business role, where he essentially served as the business director for the university and oversaw many different offices including: alumni relations, public affairs, information services, athletics, student aid, and admissions.[50] One reason Frericks may have been asked to take this position is because university enrollment was declining; the enrollment had fallen to 5,200 from 8,500 just a few years earlier.[51] Frericks skill and abilities in getting the arena built had convinced Fr. Roesch that he was the right man to solve the school’s enrollment problem. In order to combat this problem, Frericks successfully combined the offices of admissions and financial aid.[52] This stabilized university enrollment at around 6,500 students per year.[53] Years later, Frericks claimed that increasing university enrollment was his greatest accomplishment.[54] But this job had taken Frericks away from his primary area of interest, and in 1980, Frericks returned to his position as athletic director, where he served until 1990. According to his son, while Frericks did enjoy his role as University executive director, his heart was always in athletics.[55] Additionally, Frericks was sometimes at odds with the rest of the administration for his ambitious plans.[56] These were the reasons that he returned to his position as athletic director in 1980

“Tom Frericks, A Lesson in Perserverance.” University of Dayton Archives.

NCAA

Frericks career had begun to expand beyond his job at the University of Dayton. After 1970, Frericks played a growing role in the evolution of the NCAA. Tom Frericks affiliation with the NCAA began early, as Coach Don Donoher recalled going to watch NCAA tournament games with Frericks when he worked at Chaminade, before either of them even worked for the University.[57] The 1968 NCAA tournament run for the basketball team also played a big part in getting the arena built, forever cementing Frerick’s love for the NCAA. As the arena was being built, Frericks was working to secure NCAA games. Ultimately, this push for games paid off, as Dayton hosted its first NCAA tournament game in 1970 and has gone on to host the most NCAA tournament games of any site.

Frericks served on many NCAA committees throughout the 1980s. His first official position came between 1983 and 1985, when he served on the 22 member NCAA council.[58] From 1987 to 1988, Frericks served as the Secretary-Treasurer of the NCAA, one of only two executive positions in the organization.[59] His duties in this position included: being the president of the Final Four foundation, the president of the staff evaluation committee, chairman of the marketing committee, a member of the budget-sub committee, a member of the administrative committee, and a member of the executive committee of council.[60] In addition to these tasks, Frericks served on the nine-person NCAA basketball tournament committee.[61]

During this time, Frericks also completed what is perhaps his biggest contribution to the NCAA. For hosting games at the UD Arena, Frericks made a detailed guide of all the tasks that needed to be completed and who had to complete them.[62] Versions of this guide are still used today by tournament hosts across the country.[63] The creation of this guide helped Frericks gain stature in the NCAA community and helped him get the offer for a better position.

After serving a secretary-treasurer for two years, Frericks was set to become the president of the NCAA. However, he turned the position down for health reasons.[64] But, still remained involved in the NCAA’s activities. In 1990, Frericks completed what is perhaps his most important accomplishment with the NCAA. He was a part of the five man team that negotiated a $1 billion contract with CBS, the first sports contract to be valued that high.[65]    `                                    

Left top Image: Dayton Daily article of Frericks decision not to become head of the NCAA. Middle Image: Commemorative plaque of celebrating the nation’s first billion dollar sports deal giving CBS the right to air the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Bottom Image: Honerary keys and medals, two from the City of Dayton, given to Frericks. All from Frerick Family Collection.

After these accomplishments, Frericks served as the chairman of the NCAA committee for the 1991-1992 and the 1992-1993 seasons (his tenure for the second season was cut short by his death).[66] This is also why he chose to decline the NCAA presidency that was offered to him during this time.[67] His successes—most notably negotiating the billion-dollar TV contract—with the NCAA further add to his legacy.

Later Life, Death, and Legacy

Tom Frericks worked up until his death in 1992. His health began to decline in the late 1980s. On May 31, 1988, he underwent double coronary bypass surgery.[68] Less than two years later, in January 1990, Frericks underwent a biopsy on his prostate gland.[69] Ultimately, Frericks was diagnosed with advanced stage prostate cancer on January 16, 1990.[70] He knew it was serious, but he kept working as the University of Dayton’s athletic director until January 24, 1991.[71] Even after giving up this position, Frericks still served as the Vice President of Athletics and Facilities until his final days staying true to his stubborn, hard-working nature that got him the arena built all those years ago.[72] Frericks lost his battle with prostate cancer on January 31, 1992.[73]

Notice for memorial mass given by UD in the memory of Frerick. University of Dayton Special Collections.

Bibliography

Arena Associates Have Humble Abode. (1970, January 11). Dayton Leisure.

Athletics, “Athletics History Collection”, Box 6, Folder 6, 1990 Press Release, University of Dayton  Archives and Special Collections, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio.

Athletics, “Athletics History Collection”, Box 6, Folder 6, List of Frericks Accomplishments, University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio.

Athletics, “Athletics History Collection”, Box 6, Folder 6, Magazine Interview With Tom Frericks, University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio.

Athletics, “Athletics History Collection”, Box 6, Folder 6, Tom Frericks, A Lesson in Perseverance, University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio.

 Athletics, “Athletics History Collection”, Box 6, Folder 6, Tom Frericks, With Dignity and Dispatch, University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio.

 Centennial Daytonian. (1950). Dayton, OH: University of Dayton.

 Daytonian 1951. (1951). Dayton, OH: University of Dayton.

 Daytonian 1953. (1953). Dayton, OH: University of Dayton.

Interview with Don Donoher, October 18, 2018.

Interview with Tom Frericks Jr., September 27, 2018.

Scnweikart, L. Sports at the University of Dayton. In Voices of Dayton. Dayton, OH: University of Dayton. (2000).

Thomas J Frericks. (2011, April 25). Retrieved October 11, 2018, from https://www.findagrave.com/memorial68895320/thomas-j-frericks /

UD’s Tom Frericks Dies. (1992, February 1). Dayton Daily News.

Endnotes

[1] Thomas J Frericks. (2011, April 25). Retrieved October 11, 2018, from https://www.findagrave.com/memorial68895320/thomas-j-frericks /

2 Athletics, “Athletics History Collection”, Box 6, Folder 6, Magazine Interview With Tom Frericks, University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

8 Thomas J Frericks. (2011, April 25). Retrieved October 11, 2018, from https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/68895320/thomas-j-frericks

9 Centennial Daytonian. (1950). Dayton, OH: University of Dayton.

10 UD’s Tom Frericks Dies. (1992, February 1). Dayton Daily News.

11 Scnweikart, L. Sports at the University of Dayton. In Voices of Dayton.  Dayton, OH: University of Dayton. (2000).

12 Ibid.

13 Daytonian 1951. (1951). Dayton, OH: University of Dayton.

14 Ibid.

15 Scnweikart, Sports at the University of Dayton, 2000.

16 UD’s Tom Frericks Dies. (1992, February 1). Dayton Daily News.

17 Scnweikart, Sports at the University of Dayton, 2000.

18 Daytonian 1953. (1953). Dayton, OH: University of Dayton.

19 Thomas J Frericks. (2011, April 25). Retrieved October 11, 2018, from https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/68895320/thomas-j-frericks

20 UD’s Tom Frericks Dies. (1992, February 1). Dayton Daily News.

21 Athletics, “Athletics History Collection”, Box 6, Folder 6, Magazine Interview With Tom Frericks, University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio.

22 Ibid.

23 UD’s Tom Frericks Dies. (1992, February 1). Dayton Daily News.

24 Ibid.

25 Ibid.

26 Ibid.

27 Ibid.

28 Athletics, “Athletics History Collection”, Box 6, Folder 6, Magazine Interview With Tom Frericks, University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio.

29 Interview with Tom Frericks Jr., September 27, 2018.

30 Ibid.

31 Ibid.

32 UD’s Tom Frericks Dies. (1992, February 1). Dayton Daily News.

33 Ibid.

34 Athletics, “Athletics History Collection”, Box 6, Folder 6, Tom Frericks, A Lesson in Perseverance, University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio.

35 Ibid.

36 Ibid.

37 Interview with Don Donoher, October 18, 2018.

38 Interview with Tom Frericks Jr., September 27, 2018.

39 Arena Associates Have Humble Abode. (1970, January 11). Dayton Leisure.

40 Interview with Tom Frericks Jr., September 27, 2018.

41 Athletics, “Athletics History Collection”, Box 6, Folder 6, Tom Frericks, A Lesson in Perseverance, University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio.42 Magazine Interview With Tom Frericks.

43 Interview with Tom Frericks Jr., September 27, 2018.

44 Ibid.

45 Ibid.

46 Athletics, “Athletics History Collection”, Box 6, Folder 6, List of Frericks Accomplishments, University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio.

47 Ibid.

48 Ibid.

49 UD’s Tom Frericks Dies. (1992, February 1). Dayton Daily News.

50 Ibid.

51 Ibid.

52 Ibid.

53 Ibid.

54 Ibid.

55 Athletics, “Athletics History Collection”, Box 6, Folder 6, Tom Frericks, With Dignity and Dispatch, University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio.

56 UD’s Tom Frericks Dies. (1992, February 1). Dayton Daily News.

57 Athletics, “Athletics History Collection”, Box 6, Folder 6, Tom Frericks, A Lesson in Perseverance, University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio.58 Ibid.

59 Interview with Tom Frericks Jr., September 27, 2018.

60 Interview with Don Donoher

61 UD’s Tom Frericks Dies. (1992, February 1). Dayton Daily News.

62 Interview with Tom Frericks Jr., September 27, 2018.

63 Ibid.

64 UD’s Tom Frericks Dies. (1992, February 1). Dayton Daily News.

65 Ibid.

66 Ibid.

67 Athletics, “Athletics History Collection”, Box 6, Folder 6,1990 Press Release, University of Dayton  Archives and Special Collections, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio.

68 Ibid.

69 UD’s Tom Frericks Dies. (1992, February 1). Dayton Daily News.

70 Ibid.

71 Ibid.

72 Thomas J Frericks. (2011, April 25). Retrieved October 11, 2018, from https://www.findagrave.com/memorial68895320/thomas-j-frericks /

73 Athletics, “Athletics History Collection”, Box 6, Folder 6,1990 Press Release, University of Dayton  Archives and Special Collections, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio.

74 Ibid.

75 UD’s Tom Frericks Dies. (1992, February 1). Dayton Daily News.

76 Thomas J Frericks. (2011, April 25). Retrieved October 11, 2018, from https://www.findagrave.com/memorial68895320/thomas-j-frericks /

77 Ibid